London Walking Tours    with Joanna Moncrieff

Afternoon Tea – Take Two

I recently blogged about my Top 3 Afternoon Teas. As a result of that blog post I was invited to two more! This Friday just gone I was lucky enough to be invited to tea at the Royal Automobile Club on Pall Mall by a fellow Westminster Guide who is a member and Sunday just gone I was invited to tea at the Athenaeum Hotel on Piccadilly which this year won Best London Afternoon Tea from the Tea Guild (the Oscars of the tea world!).

Going to a St James’s club on Friday and a hotel which shares its name with another St James’s club on Sunday did make me wonder which came first and whether anyone turns up at the Hotel thinking it is the Club; a friend N has since told me that he once did this and I’m sure he can’t be alone. This prompted me to do some research which became quite interesting and will appear as a separate blog post – I may have to include it on a walk now.

The Athenaeum Hotel’s afternoon tea was served in the Garden Room which is behind an amazing 8 storey high living wall, the highest in the UK. It was created in 2009 by Patrick Blanc and includes over 12000 plants in 260 varieties.

Photo courtesy of The Athenaeum Hotel

I took my Mum with me to the hotel mainly as she had missed out on my birthday tea back in June as had had a small fall and wasn’t feeling up to going into town.

Now that I have been to a number of afternoon teas I’m beginning to discover they are not all the same. There is also an etiquette attached that differs from hotel to hotel so it’s sometimes not easy to do the right thing or know what to expect but I’m gradually getting the hang of it! At the Savoy the silver teapots were all on a stand next to the table; the waiter noticing when we needed topping up and somehow knowing which tea was which; we were a party of 6 and all had different teas. Actually it was quite obvious that the tea was to be poured by them as it was slightly out of reach for us. At other hotels (including the Athenaeum) the teapots are on the table so I assume you help yourself. I suppose it’s a bit like when you’re in a posh restaurant and the waiter pours your wine for you; not that I go to many of those.

We did pour our own tea but were asked if we wanted a change when they came to refresh the pots; I took them up on their offer. I had started with lapsang souchong which I usually like but this one was a little bit strong for me. I changed to Earl Grey which was good; sometimes I find Earl Grey lacking in the essential bergamot taste.  The hotel’s teas come from a Canadian company – The Metropolitan Tea Company.

The service of the tea can be different too. At some hotels the tea (sandwiches, scones and cakes) all appear at the same time on a tiered cake stand and it isn’t always obvious that you will be offered more. However at the Savoy and also at The Athenaeum Hotel you are served it in courses which I prefer and are asked after each course is served whether you want any more so there is no danger in going away hungry. In fact I had a little accident at the RAC Club in that the chocolate cake sitting on the bottom of the cake stand had melted so as I picked it up it fell apart onto the table; thankfully not the floor.

I prefer the courses as it’s easier to take in what they are telling you about the descriptions of all the sandwiches, scones and cakes and you tend to take your time more. The Athenaeum was different again from previous teas I have had in that along with the scones we were served hot buttered crumpets. I’m blaming the crumpets; I think I overdid it a bit (I did have 2 scones in addition to the crumpet) as wasn’t able to finish my choice of cakes from the trolley – the third and final course. My Mum was much more sensible having one scone and one crumpet followed by Victoria Sandwich and no little cakes.

Photo courtesy of The Athenaeum Hotel

After two teas in 3 days I think I had better eat salad for the rest of the week!

However after reading the above and you fancy coming on my Afternoon Tea themed tour around Mayfair I am leading it this Saturday 3rd November at 2pm.

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is a qualified City of Westminster Tour Guide who specialises in food and drink themed walks in the West End. 
Details of all her bookable private walks are listed here and upcoming public walks are here.

One Response to Afternoon Tea – Take Two

  • Great post thanks for sharing. Here at Queens Hotel Portsmouth we have two beautiful bars – ideal venues from which to enjoy Afternoon Tea or a light meal or drink. We love to welcome all our guests and wish you and your readers every happiness.