As Great Britons, we have a genetic predisposition for indulging in tea and cake. Tea is in our veins. It’s one of the pillars of this great nation. It may even be a legal requirement to drink tea; we’re not sure. What we do know however is that afternoon tea is about much more than just scones and clotted cream. When done right, it’s an event. On whatever scale, it should always be a relaxed and leisurely affair with good quality tea and an abundance of treats.
The quiet gentility of the English tea ceremony is seen as a reflection of the reserved national character. – Debrett’s
Now as we all know, in Britain there are usually rules governing social interactions. Debrett’s, our national voice of authority on etiquette, provides some guidance for afternoon tea on their website. We’ve also heard of other rules: you must always eat your scones before your cakes and you should always finish with chocolate. Of course, one of the great things about Britain though is that we treasure our eccentrics and bohemians. So go wild and pour the milk before your tea if the fancy takes you!
You’ll find the home of the traditional afternoon tea at the magnificent Langham London hotel, on Regent Street. Opened by the Prince of Wales back in 1865, Europe’s first “Grand Hotel” has a very long tradition of looking after discerning guests including royalty and icons such as Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward. For some time we have wanted to visit and finally, last weekend, we were able to indulge ourselves in what turned out to be a truly incredible experience.
Afternoon tea is served in the magnificent Palm Court, an impressively elegant room, with a high ceiling and gorgeously luxurious decor. A pianist was gently playing covers of contemporary music, which helped to create a relaxing atmosphere; in no way did it feel stiff or stuffy. The front of house team, all smartly dressed, were welcoming and down-to-earth. Needless to say, the service was impeccable.
We were made to feel like kings as we were poured a glass of Champagne to sip while we perused the menu, which contains over two dozen teas and infusions. We went for Darjeeling First Flush, described as “the Champagne of teas”, later switching to the refreshing Langham Blend. We were really impressed by how attentive, yet unobtrusive, the staff were. Our cups were never empty.
Having whet our appetites with an amuse-bouche of the smoothest, creamiest lemon posset we have ever tasted, we commenced the main event with a fantastic array of sandwiches. We very quickly realised how this afternoon tea has come to get the excellent reputation it has. Who would have thought that a cucumber sandwich could taste so incredible?
Once we had finished with the sandwiches, after just the right amount of time, we were brought a selection of plain and fruit scones to enjoy with the cream and jam already on the table. What ensued was nothing short of heavenly. Never before have we tried scones so light. It’s a wonder they didn’t float away. The cream, too, was unctuous yet light as a cloud. This was verging on a spiritual experience.
And then the pièce de résistance: the most amazing display of dainty cakes and biscuits. It seemed a shame to dismantle them but, quite frankly, nothing was going to stop us from indulging in these treats. You can see from our photos just the level of expertise that has gone into crafting these pastries, from the perfectly miniature Victoria Sponge to the velvet Kuglof. This is an afternoon tea inspired by Wedgwood Collections, yet its daintiness yields to the flavour explosions once you start to enjoy the cakes. There’s powerful citrus and passion fruit alongside subtle rose and delicate lychee, rich chocolate and warm spice. This plate of delights has it all. And, yes, we consumed it all too.
When we finally finished, or so we thought, we had one final treat brought to us. But we shan’t give everything away…
From beginning to end our afternoon tea at the Langham was literally delightful. All the troubles and stresses of everyday life just slipped away as we busied ourselves for around two hours doing nothing but indulge our senses in those most elegant fashion. What a fantastic way to escape, albeit briefly, and enjoy a slice of luxury… with a nice cup of tea.
We had the absolute pleasure to meet Executive Pastry Chef, Cherish Finden, during our visit to Langham. Despite her enormous talent and world-class reputation, she was very down-to-earth and was keen to let us know about her great team, which is responsible for delivering not only afternoon tea in Palm Court but all the pastries and baked goods for this huge hotel. Follow Cherish on twitter for regular tweets of her inspirational pastry creations.
Afternoon Tea is served at Langham London at set times. For more information and to book, click through to their website.go back