A little slice of Britain in the most Roman of places, Babington’s Rome creates an oasis of British culture in the Italian capital, bringing afternoon tea and a moment of calm to one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations.
In 1893, with entrepreneurial spirit and a splash of eccentricity, Anna Maria Babington and Isabel Cargill created something different in the Italian capital. At a time when women’s participation in society was extremely limited and when tea was only found in pharmacies, they created Babington’s Tea Rooms, welcoming artists, aristocrats, actors and anyone who sought a quiet haven from the hustle and bustle of Rome. With a passion in bringing flavours, cultures, and people together, today you can find Babington’s, a most English destination, in Piazza di Spagna, which was created by the French, in prime position in the centre of Rome. Outside you find relics of both French and Spanish occupation, amidst artefacts and architecture that are uniquely Roman, where inside you’re transported to a quiet tea room that could easily be located in Oxford or London.
High Tea at Babington’s is a simple affair where the star of the show is quite clearly the tea selection. With over 50 varieties of the finest all-natural teas served alongside simple sandwiches and scones, Babington’s offers a truly unique experience alongside the regular business of a trip to Rome.
Guests are greeted by a team of staff reminiscent of tea ladies of the past, in bright pink shirts and floral skirts and in a nod to decorum, the Babington’s doorman is suited and booted, the epitome of British charm. The dining room is separated into three cosy nooks, providing privacy and calm – much needed after a day spent exploring the sights of Ancient Rome. Dark wood tables, cushioned chairs, gilt-edged frames and adorned with palms, the space takes you back to the height of the British Empire when tea was served in the most luxurious of sitting rooms from Brighton to Bombay.
Tea is brewed in monogrammed glass tea pots, and served in Babington’s exclusive ‘Isabel’ porcelain bone china created to celebrate Babington’s 125th anniversary. A design that tells the Babington’s story it features the signature green that has been in use since the early 1900s, the richness of gold, elegant lines, Victorian decorations as little ‘madness’ that showcases the eccentricity that the founders, Isabel and Anna Maria were known for.
With over 50 options to choose from, Babington’s offers a wide selection of teas from classic black teas, to green teas, white teas, oolong teas, and herbal infusions, with no artificial flavourings or colourings. The menu is then divided into regional variations, with teas from India, China and Japan. Perhaps the most unique of the offerings are seven carefully brewed blends created in recognition of Babington’s surroundings, the ‘Seven teas of Rome’ celebrate such Roman monuments as the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Sistine Chapel and Piazza di Spagna itself. Each tea is served individually and instructions are given with regard to steeping time; for those who just cannot bear hot tea in hot water, iced teas are also available. On this occasion we chose “Arrivederci Roma”, a fresh citrusy blend of white tea served naturally with lemongrass, lemon zest, pineapple and lavender. This was light, invigorating and a perfect choice for a hot summer’s day.
Afternoon tea is served from noon, and begins with a selection of sandwiches. Current proprietors Chiara and Rory stay true to their roots, using recipes handed down from their great grandmother, all local ingredients and a specially formulated butter. The sandwich selection includes the usual suspects of cucumber, egg salad, salmon and cream cheese, and coronation chicken, each a classic in its own right, and a nice contrast to the heavier Roman fare of meat and pasta dishes one would likely be indulging in when visiting this part of the country. Sandwiches are followed by warm scones, both plain and with raisins, served with freshly whipped cream and a strawberry jam. We also opted to order a glass of the local Prosecco, which was served in true Italian ‘aperitivo’ format with paprika-spiced potato chips, spiced cashew nuts and some large, juicy olives. Classic in a different way, the playlist was distinctly 80s and 90s soft rock with a tendency towards British artists such as Queen and Sir Elton John which gave the space a little more of a festive atmosphere.
The Babington’s experience doesn’t end with high tea – the Tea Rooms offer a wide selection of teas and tea accessories for sale which follow their commitment to sustainable sourcing, preparation and delivery of their teas including biodegradable packaging and reusable tea caddies. They also offer a full menu of brunches, light meals and snacks and a very decadent array of cakes and pastries. Further upholding the values of their founders The Babington Foundation supports young boys and girls in Darjeeling, India, helping to empower and sustain their communities through education.
From the iconic moment of 1893’s Grand Tour and two daring young Englishwomen comes a unique experience that allows visitors to relax, recharge – and of course enjoy a cup of the finest, refreshing tea; a little slice of Britain surrounded by the grandeur and history of ancient Rome. Perfect for special occasions or simply something a little different, the experience is not entirely British, not precisely Italian, but truly Babingtons.