Do you remember my tale of afternoon tea woe? The story of a girl who used to raise many a teacup, pinky lifted and had enjoyed more cakes than she should care to admit? I told you how it had been a while between scones and how I wished that would change…
Well it seems someone was listening, my very own (The May)fairy godmother you might call her, though she’s much younger and funnier than Cinderella’s, was going to make my wish come true as she kindly invited me to join her for afternoon tea. Then in the coming weeks I started to wonder if perhaps she was actually a genie as my wish was granted twice more and so begins my new tale of three teas, all in one week!
Hotel Cafe Royal, High Society Afternoon Tea
Step through the threshold into the Oscar Wilde room and what strikes you instantly is the gold and mirrors; opulence or garishness depending on your side of the fence but undeniably striking. I could think of worst places to catch up with Frankie, in fact we got so comfortable we stayed for four hours… tea, sandwiches, cakes and blogging are clearly some serious agenda items! And as she has already mentioned, we both know how to spin a yarn and talk some tales.
Our afternoon started with a glass of champagne, the tea choosing exercise and a savoury muffin amuse bouche with a rather amusing pipet of apple juice to inject into it. Then between the stories and the photography pauses we made our way through the food. The savouries were more interesting than your usual finger sandwiches and not stone cold as they often can be; I was quite partial to the Mary Rose prawn cocktail and the Cafe Royal “Wilde” salmon.
As usual the scones were next and as usual I find these a necessary evil; I’ve never been particularly fond of the scone but feel it’s not an afternoon tea without them so on go the clotted cream and jam so we can move onto my main event- the pastries. The seasonal flowerpot aside, these were delightful; the macaron wasn’t too chewy, the strange lemon nipple looking thing was more delicious than it looked, but my favourite was the raspberry and praline opera cake. Too full for more cake after this we yapped on until they politely shooed us out… sometimes even high society needs a hurry along!
Sofitel St James, Chelsea Flower Show Afternoon Tea
A few days later it was time for tea again; I joined Kelly, Shikha and a whole room of bloggers in the very appropriate Rose Lounge for the launch of Sofitel St James’ floral inspired afternoon tea. We were warmly welcomed by the staff, their service throughout the afternoon was impeccable, before the lesson in tea from France’s oldest and largest teahouse, Dammann Freres.
From their large selection, I chose the Passion de Fleurs, a delicate white tea with hints of rose, apricot and passion fruit- an ideal pairing for the floral infused pastries. The food itself started a little haphazardly with finger sandwiches which were a little too cold and dry for my liking, the situation improved somewhat with the scones, and finally showed some finesse at the main event. All the pastries had a floral flavour element- rose macaron, mimosa cream sponge, hibiscus jelly, poppy cream sponge, and were presented beautifully though perhaps a bit bigger than I’d expect. I was pleasantly surprised that none of the floral flavours were too overpowering, we’ve all seen cooking show contestants be led astray by the lavender cream, and my only disappointment was having to share that soft, creamy macaron.
Once the dining was done we took tours of the hotels rooms and restaurants, and had our fortunes told and deep dark secrets exposed by our tea leaves… oddly she didn’t seem to know there was another afternoon of tea sipping in my not so distant future!
St James’ Court, Royal Afternoon Tea
And here we are at tea number three; was I sick of the sweets and savouries by now? I’m quite partial to carbs so honestly, I was still enthusiastic and besides, the company was worth stomaching yet another finger sandwich for. Alexandra from a certain well known website had invited me to be her date, so how could I refuse? We talked all things wining, dining and elephant ride misadventures while navigating each of the tiers.
The sandwiches were pleasant enough, particularly the scarily pink roll filled with a far from scary cucumber, mint and cream cheese. I probably would have preferred the scones warm as by the time we got to them they were a little firm and dry, though the liberal spread of clotted cream went some way to fixing that. The pastries were definitely an improvement on the scones and the chefs should be commended on their commitment to the theme. The white chocolate crowns, Battenberg cake and Victoria sponge were a nod to royalty while the Bakewell tart and jaffa cake represented all that is quintessentially English… where the elderflower and strawberry jelly comes in I have no idea but it was one of my favourite treats of the day!
Another afternoon well spent, the time just flew by and before I knew I was inevitably running late for my dinner date at Ember Yard- yes, because I hadn’t already eaten enough.
So Is It Time for Tea?
- Hotel Cafe Royal, 68 Regent Street, London W1B 4D, £55/pp with champagne – book here.
- Sofitel St James’, 6 Waterloo Place, London SW1Y 4AN, £30/pp – book here.
- St James’ Court Taj Hotel, 53 Buckingham Gate, London SW1E, £27.50/pp – book here.
Thank you to Frankie, Alexandra and Sofitel St James for inviting me to Afternoon Tea and ensuring I get my year’s dose of sandwiches and cakes in one week, but as always, all opinions are my own.