The Executive Chefs at Claridge’s, the establishment dating back to 1812 in London’s busy, upscale district of Mayfair, have been serving Afternoon Tea in a faithful fashion for over a century.
Long favoured for Royal stays and by members of the aristocracy, the hotel is sung about in the hit musical Oliver! in the song ‘I’m reviewing the situation’. Fagin (originally played by Ron Moody) deliberates over whether to proceed in a life of crime and singles out Claridge’s as the dreamy polar opposite of his depraved occupation cultivating pick-pockets. The hotel remained popular throughout the twentieth century, chosen for visits by the likes of Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, and was even used by Winston Churchill as a temporary home after his general election defeat in 1945. It was selected recently as the location for the Barbie movie sleepover, organised by Director Greta Gerwig.
I was therefore excited to walk through its doors and feel the energy of a place steeped in history. As we sat down, we were welcomed with a glass of Laurent Perrier Rosé. From the moment we arrived, the service was attentive to a degree I have not previously experienced during a spot of Afternoon Tea.
As part of being welcomed to the affair, which starts from £85 per person, we were informed that: the menus change regularly, yet remain always faithful to the tradition; are consistent in their focus on British ingredients, that you can learn extensive details about what you are eating and whence it came (producers and all) in the menu; that guests can re-order sandwiches, at no extra charge, to their satisfaction during the course of their experience (this impressed us) and also that there are at the moment twenty-six teas on offer.
The savouries arrived first: perfectly presented sandwiches, and two quiches. At Claridge’s, the filling of the sandwich is made to always be the same depth as the sliced bread. Each mouthful was as gratifying as the last and reminded me of why I fell in love with Afternoon Tea to begin with. I adored the English cucumber with minted crème fraîche on white bread and Honey glazed ham with orange and mustard mayonnaise on onion bread. The winner was the coronation chicken sandwich (middle) as the flavours were superb.
I would say the most interesting aspect of Afternoon Tea at Claridge’s was tasting their selection of teas. I was blown away by the ‘Moriuchi Koucha’, hand-crafted in Shizuoka, which delivered on its description in the menu: ‘smooth, soft, buttery mouthfuls with flavours of walnuts and enoki mushrooms. A rare contrast of sweetness and umami’. This was a divine accompaniment to the savouries, with a unique set of flavours; I highly recommend ordering this tea and taking it as I did, without milk, because it was an adventure in one’s mouth.
Afterward I enjoyed the ‘Long Jing’ green tea: ‘picked in the early spring before the first rains, it has a fresh sweetness with rich green vegetal flavours and a subtle note of hazelnuts’. This green tea was pleasant and also tasted unique, although it was not as memorable as the Moriuchi Koucha, which ranks among the most delicious and satisfying teas I’ve ever had.
We then enjoyed both raisin and plain scones, served with clotted cream and Claridge’s afternoon tea jam. Both types of scones were cooked to perfection. Each of the sweets made an impression consistent with the delicious savouries. I liked the banana, peanut and chocolate tart the most. (Not to worry, we were sent away with even more desserts as a gift, in a beautiful Claridge’s box.)
The details of the table setting were beautiful, the service was impeccable, and the food was delicious. Where this experience lost half a star for me was in the Afternoon Tea setting, which did not delight the eye in comparison with other parts of the hotel. (Also, in comparison to similarly priced Afternoon Tea settings in London). The eye naturally rests on the bustle of tea being served (and even on a Monday, the room was busy) on account of there being no windows to look out of. Overall, I kept thinking that while the furnishings are nice, they do not have the beauty of those which you’ll find in other luxury hotels. For the price, the space is a little lacking in charm. (It gives me no pleasure to criticise an aspect of the experience which can’t be easily helped, however as Ron Moody famously sang: I’m reviewing the situation.)
The decadent experience of using the ladies washroom in the foyer epitomised luxury. Each lavatory is cleaned prior to each person’s use, the sparkling clean tap is turned on for you to wash your hands, and the soap pumped. Remember to bring a pound for the person’s trouble.
It was generally delightful to experience a hotel with so much history, with so many original features, and enjoy a delicious spot of Afternoon Tea there.
Sample Afternoon Tea Menu:
A selection of traditional sandwiches:
- Smoked salmon and dill crème fraîche on rye bread
- Roasted chicken, baby gem lettuce and tarragon on granary bread
- Honey glazed ham with orange and mustard mayonnaise on onion bread
- Truffle egg mayonnaise and watercress on white bread English cucumber with minted crème fraîche on white bread
Raisin Scones & Plain Scones:
Freshly baked every day in Claridge’s kitchens served with Cornish clotted cream and Claridge’s afternoon tea jam.
Selection of Hand Made Pastries:
Crafted under the guidance of Thibault Hauchard made daily by our team of Pastry Chefs.
- Banana, peanut and chocolate tart
- Exotic passion fruit baba
- Caffee saint honoré caramelized puff
- Rhubarb, crème fraîche mousse
Afternoon Tea London – find more experiences
in our High Tea Venue Directory
Reviews for this venue:
- 14 October 2014: Afternoon Tea at Claridge’s London