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Afternoon Tea [London]

  • slp007 Sep 12, 2013 01:20 PM

I will be in London for a week in October and have made a number of restaurant choices based on recommendations I have seen here (F&C, grocery, etc) but am torn between places for afternoon tea.
If you were going to tea, would you choose The Goring, Brown's Hotel, or St. Ermin's Hotel?
And, as an aside, does every tea include ham sandwiches or do you choose your sandwiches?

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  1. I've been to quite a few afternoon teas in London and never encountered a ham sandwich. Maybe that was just chance. Brown's does a lovely tea.. a bit formal. I've been recommending the tea at the Montcalm Hotel. The food was wonderful as was the service. One has their choice of how much you want to indulge in.. check out their website.

    6 Replies
    1. re: zuriga1

      Sorry to be contrary, but last week I had afternoon tea in the Lanesborough, and they definitely had ham sandwiches!

      1. re: deansa

        You're allowed to be contrary, Dean. I guess I've just never encountered ham sandwiches, but it might just be my memory at fault. Maybe I ate them so quickly, I don't remember. :-)

        So how was the Lanesborough tea?

      2. re: zuriga1

        I'd like an Afternoon Tea where the tea itself is the star, not a support act for the cakes, sandwiches, champagne etc. The old tea room downstairs at Liberty's was great, with a fine selection of black teas, but it's now closed. Any one have any recommendations?

        1. re: Lord Brazing

          Orange Pekoe in Barnes sounds like the thing. It's primarily a shop selling teas, which also does very good cream teas.

          1. re: Lord Brazing

            Limster has written many threads about good tea places in London. I hope he sees your question and can join in the discussion.

            1. re: Lord Brazing

              There were five or six Chinese teas at the St James and the same number of Indian. My friend had Darjeeling and I had vintage puerh which was delicious.

          2. If money isn't much of an object I'd choose the Langham, which is pretty spectacular.

            You get a range of sandwiches (salmon, egg, crab, ham IIRC) and extra helpings of your preferred ones.

            1. I will also be in London and after looking through site after site I booked Montcalm with a 2-for-1 deal at afternoonteaonline.com/

              9 Replies
              1. re: Teep

                Wow - didn't know about that website.. thanks! You will certainly get your money's worth at the Montcalm.

                1. re: zuriga1

                  Did enjoy the tea at Montcalm, although if I had paid full price it would have been a bit disappointing. For example the scones were not even warm, the macarons were poor (too sweet and chewy, no flavour) but service was very good.

                  1. re: Teep

                    I'm sorry to hear you had some downers. To be honest, I can't remember ever having warm scones all that often. It doesn't detract from my enjoyment if they're cool.

                    1. re: zuriga1

                      When I had afternoon tea at the Intercontinental, the scones were made to order. A number of places do make them to order, but not everyone.

                      Had tea at the Ampersand in South Kensington recently, and most of the stuff was fairly average. However, the scones were good --- crumbling crisply on the surface, and fairly soft but not cakey on the inside. They had also had an interesting "tea" -- made with manuka leaves and flowers grown in Cornwall -- light and floral, somewhat Chamomile-like.

                      1. re: limster

                        I think I tend to rate an afternoon tea more for the sandwiches than for the scones. That must say something about me. :-) I do like the sound of that manuka tea you had.

                    2. re: Teep

                      Should scones be served warm? Very fresh yes, but if they were warm either the butter or the cream would melt and ruin the crumb texture of the scone. For me a freshly baked and well cooled scone, with very cold high quality butter or clotted cream with good jam is the way to go.

                      1. re: PhilD

                        Traditionally scones are served warm, jam is spread firstly on the scone then topped with cream, the jam creates a barrier preventing the cream from melting.

                        1. re: davidne1

                          I can't recall ever being served with a warm scone.

                          davidne1 is correct that, in Cornwall, jam is spread first before topping with cream. Allegedly. However, in Devon it's the other way round. Allegedly. And, of course, scones are traditionally served everywhere so there's probably all sorts of local differences. And that's wthout getting into the question of do you bother with butter as well.

                          I always go with no butter, jam first and cream on top. I'm a Cestrian but have no idea if that's common in our county.

                          1. re: davidne1

                            I disagree - maybe it's a recent innovation (and I have been eating them for more than half a century) but scones are better cooled. Plain scones are are sometimes served with jam and cream, cheese scones or fruit scones with some good butter. Obviously if hot the butter melts and they go soggy. Warm scones and cream surely results in doggy milky scones? Far better cool with cold butter.

                  2. I have booked the St. Ermin's Hotel Library for my tea experience. I am keeping my fingers crossed for a lovely afternoon!

                    1. I have enjoyed tea at The Browns, The Ritz, The Dorchester to name a few. I found The Browns to be the absolute best.

                      1. I'm a fan of the Dorchester for tea; its very traditional, grand, and very comfortable. It typifies the British vibe, and is the perfect tourist spot.

                        My wife used to work at the Berkley Hotel as a pastry chef and made deserts for the Pret-a-Portea. Whilst very good, it (to my poor memory) didnt have sandwiches and was more little bites of (good) food, and all of the cakes are fashion themed. Perhaps most suited to a particular age and type of person.

                        I found the Goring a bit of a bumout -- a very old crowd of Royalist types. My affinity for the champagne element of the tea means that my recollection of the pastry/sandwiches is extremely murky.

                        Harvey Nichols has a reasonably good tea as well, albeit very informal. Their scones are freshly baked (or at least, heated) and the sandwiches are good. Doesn't really require reservations, though the room is slightly more cafe than grand hotel lobby.

                        1. I had my annual afternoon tea yesterday (birthday treat for a friend). We went to the St James. Particularly excellent scones and strawberry jam but the sandwiches were dull and the cakes although very good were not fabulous. The atmosphere was subdued, as perhaps it should be. All in all I didn't enjoy it quite as much as last year's similarly-priced tea at the Wolseley, where the sandwiches and cakes were just that much better and the surroundings more fun.

                          And although there was a 12.5% service charge on the bill, I was offered the 'opportunity' to add more on my credit card!

                          1. Now being as how I don't have a dog in this fight and I am not sure how a scone is different from an American biscuit (besides the raisins and shape mostly), in the south we eat our biscuits hot from the oven with butter that melts into them, or with sausage gravy. I can't really think of an instance where we would eat a biscuit cold. Now I am intrigued as to which type of scone I will be served, warm or cold, but I am looking forward to it all! And I have reservation at the Brown Hotel for tea, too, strictly for research purposes!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: slp007

                              Very similar in texture to an American biscuit. I enjoy these when visiting the States but, having once tried sausage gravy, I have no need to seek to repeat the experience.

                            2. Anyone keen on cake themes should check out the patisseries for tea at Cannizarro House (Wimbledon). That may be my venue for next year!
                              And we could walk it off in the pretty park afterwards.