Aternoon Tea at The Ritz
An average August Sunday afternoon in London Town. Honking horns blare with top notes of police sirens, pavements are equally as busy as ambling tourists take their selfies and absorb the capital’s sights.
Amidst this madding crowd are a group of well-dressed women sashaying down Piccadilly. Afternoon Tea at The Ritz is calling and one simply mustn’t be late.
We are greeted by the elegant doorman as if we had been dispatched from a gleaming Bentley rather than the somewhat sweaty street. The revolving door transports us back to a more opulent, courteous age, 21st century noise and smells are absorbed by the thick pile carpet, gorgeous floral arrangements and the subtle gold-leaf decor. Atmospheric? Hell yes.
It is magic.
We are led to our table, in the former ballroom as opposed to the traditional Palm Court. The Ritz, our waiter informs us, is undergoing a programme of refurbishment which will see a further seven restaurants opening. A harpist is plucking out gentle easy listening tunes. So far, so blissful.
Once we are seated an all engrossing decision awaits; which tea to plump for? We settle on the Ritz Royal English (delightful, mellow, refreshing) and the Earl Grey, which I’m assured, was equally delicious. I resisted the urge to read the tealeaves from the silver service. That is not The Ritz way.
And to the sandwich slivers. Picking out a favourite is difficult. The egg mayonnaise on brioche perhaps – so wonderfully ‘eggy’ as if a Ritz hen in a gold plated coop laid to order. Then, there is the melt-in-the-mouth cheddar cheese or the proper cucumber (no soggy bottom in sight). Glorious.
The sandwiches appear dainty and insubstantial – but don’t be fooled. Nobody leaves hungry. The first tier disappeared in a flash. Our waiter brought out replenishments. One small note of discord, we asked for an extra egg which didn’t arrive, perhaps the hens were indisposed…
Onto the pastries so perfect they looked fake, nestling on the top tier in their Faberge Egg splendour, tempting you with their perfection. They ooze their delicious chocolatey cream, chocolate and strawberry. It felt like Charlie Bucket winning his golden ticket to enter Willy Wonka’s world.
Jam before cream, we all know its the only way. The scones are the piece de resistance. Fluffy, light and raisin packed as you would expect. We couldn’t finish our second, nor could we slip in the extra cake from the trolley that we were offered.
The opulence called for fizz and the Ritz Cuvee Rose was the perfect dry accompaniment to the sweetness.
There are not many establishments worth busting the low-carb diet for. The Ritz is one. The greatest afternoon tea venue of them all. It is the little touches and exceptional service. The class and the timelessness. A glorious setting for a celebration or just simply because you can.
And where better to escape the careworn 21st century and imagine you are a bright young thing from the last one.
The Ritz, 150 Piccadilly, St James, W1J. Afternoon tea is priced at £67 or adults and £45 for children.