Would Carson approve of Downton’s “Upstairs, Downstairs” Afternoon Tea at Grosvenor House?

Tea Table, Downton's 'Upstairs, Downstairs' Afternoon Tea, Grosvenor House, London

Downton Abbey mania has swept the world and I for one am not ashamed to count myself a fan. As a tea enthusiast, some of my favourite scenes are those when tea is either served or mentioned – and those scenes are plentiful. I make no apologies for fantasizing about what it would have been like to live the Downton lifestyle. “Tea is served, m’lady.”   Sigh.

Perhaps one of the reasons I love going for Afternoon Tea is because it gives me a sense of ‘another time, another place’.  Whatever the reason, love it I do and on Saturday I had an opportunity to dine like the Crawley’s and the Grantham’s at a Downton Abbey inspired Afternoon Tea at Grosvenor House, London.

 

Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London

 

To create a special Downton variation on our award winning Tea was easy for me as I am a huge fan of the series! – Nigel Boschetti, Executive Chef

Downton’s ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ Afternoon Tea was designed to celebrate the launch of series 3 of Downton Abbey, which takes place during the 1920’s – when Grosvenor House itself first started serving Afternoon Tea.  Nigel Boschetti, Executive Chef at Grosvenor House, created the special menu after researching cuisine from the 1920s. He has done an excellent job of fusing decadent ‘upstairs’ delights that the Crawley’s and Grantham’s might have indulged in, such as Smoked Salmon Pin Wheels, with ‘downstairs’ fare, like Bread Pudding, that would have fueled Carson and his team of servants.

 

Tea Table in Window, Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London

 

Upon arrival for our 4 o’clock reservation, we were escorted to The Park Room which is where Afternoon Tea is served at Grosvenor House.  I really, really liked this space – it was wide and open and tables weren’t jammed close together as often is the case in hotel tea venues.  Sunlight was streaming into the room, adding a beautiful golden glow to the already opulent surroundings. A pianist was playing a piano in the corner of the room.

I didn’t take any photographs of the room in order to preserve the privacy of other diners, but afterwards I popped out and snapped the above picture to show you the table where we were seated. Window tables are smaller than most of the other tables in The Park Room; nevertheless, we very much enjoyed looking out over Park Lane and Hyde Park, and never felt awkward even with a fairly steady stream of outside passers by.

 

Table set for Downton's 'Upstairs, Downstairs' Afternoon Tea, Grosvenor House, London           Twinings Tea being poured, Downton's 'Upstairs, Downstairs' Afternoon Tea, Grosvenor House, London
 

The tea tables in The Park Room at Grosvenor House are lovely and welcoming. Instead of white table-covers, theirs are a warm shade of what I would call ‘tea green’, and nicely match the green-and-gold edged design on the pretty white china. There was a small flower on the table to add colour. Altogether, the appearance was one of understated elegance.

After reviewing the extensive tea menu, we decided on Lady Grey, and English Breakfast. The tea was Twinings loose-leaf and it was perfectly brewed. As an ardent tea drinker, I can honestly say that this was a superior pot of tea. In fact, when we did our weekly food shop the following day, we made a point of purchasing a box of loose-leaf Twinings – it was that good. As we finished our respective pots of tea – and with precision timing – our waiter returned with hot water for a second infusion, which turned out to be just as tasty.

I will take a moment here to mention the excellent service we received. Our waiter was super-efficient, very friendly, and obviously trained to a high standard. He was able to answer every question I had about the tea and food, and he truly did seem to enjoy what he was doing.

 

Fruit Salad, Downton's 'Upstairs, Downstairs' Afternoon Tea, Grosvenor House, London

Fruit Salad

 

Before the tea food arrived, we were served a mouthwatering fruit salad of mango, pineapple, and melon – a lovely, unexpected surprise. The fruits – diced into little bitty pieces – were in just the right amount of juice. After a long day of traipsing about London, it was the perfect appetizer. Very refreshing!

 

Downton's 'Upstairs, Downstairs' Afternoon Tea, Grosvenor House, London

Downton’s ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ Afternoon Tea
Grosvenor House, London

 

Tea sandwiches, Downton's 'Upstairs, Downstairs' Afternoon Tea, Grosvenor House, London

Matthew Crawley’s Loch Fyne Smoked Salmon Pin Wheels
Free Range Chicken with Tarragon
Clarence Court Free Range Egg with Watercress
Cucumber with Mint Butter
Honey Roast Ham with English Mustard
Roast Beef with Horseradish
Prawn Mayonnaise

 

The sandwiches, a nice selection of  ‘above stairs’ and ‘below stairs’, were fair.  We felt that the cucumber could have been sliced a bit thicker and that, generally, all the sandwiches could have used more filling.  But overall, they were tasty, and extra sandwiches were provided when we asked. (The bread seemed to taste a bit fresher with the second round.)

 

Baked Bread Buns, Scones, Downton's 'Upstairs, Downstairs' Afternoon Tea, Grosvenor House, London

Mr. Bates’ Baked Bread Buns
Freshly Baked Scones

 

I was looking forward to the Baked Bread Buns, and they did not disappoint.  Although rather un-dainty to split open (I had to use my fingers; too dense to cut with a luncheon knife), once spread with butter and jam, they were quite enjoyable – true comfort food. I could just imagine a scrubbed pine table below stairs bearing a plate of these freshly baked bread buns, a sturdy Brown Betty on stand-by ready to serve up enough tea to wash them all down.

The scones, on the other hand, did disappoint. As soon as I saw them I knew something had gone wrong in the kitchen. They clearly had not risen and just didn’t look right (this from a woman who has baked many a scone in her day). I wanted to at least try to eat the plain scone, but it crumbled everywhere when I gently eased it open. I had better luck with the fruit scone, but the taste was mediocre at best. I realise that these things happen, but scones are at the very heart of an Afternoon Tea; I question the decision behind putting them on the plate to begin with.

 

Butter, Lemon Curd, Jam, Clotted Cream, Downton's 'Upstairs, Downstairs' Afternoon Tea, Grosvenor House, London

Butter, Clotted Cream, Jam, and Mrs. Patmore’s Lemon Curd
Worth noting are the generous portions

 

Pastries, Downton's 'Upstairs, Downstairs' Afternoon Tea, Grosvenor House, London

Chocolate Dipped Eclair
Victoria Sponge
Raspberry Tartlet
Vanilla Cream slice
Lady Mary’s Madeleine
Carson’s Bread Pudding
Lemon Chiffon

 

The dessert tier was sheer perfection. Every pastry and cake was fresh and full-flavoured. Mr. Tea pronounced Carson’s Bread Pudding to be exceptionally satisfying, and I found the Lemon Chiffon to be an excellent finale to Downton’s ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ Afternoon Tea at Grosvenor House.

 

Overview

Mr. Tea and I have had Afternoon Tea at a number of London venues. Following today’s tea at Grosvenor House, we discussed whether or not Downton’s ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ Afternoon Tea was good value for money (£34.50 each).  We talked about what makes an Afternoon Tea – for us –  GOOD.  We determined that if we were in pleasing, comfortable surroundings; were served good food of a fair portion, and tea that was properly brewed; were waited on by staff who were friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable; and at the end of it all, felt full and satisfied, then  – regardless of the cost – we had experienced good value and a satisfying Afternoon Tea.

Downton’s ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ Afternoon Tea at Grosvenor House in London ticked all those boxes mentioned above, and earned our approval. With some minor adjustments to the tea sandwiches and scones, we think Carson would approve, as well.

 

Grosvenor House’s very own 1920’s Afternoon Tea price (1920 is the year in which Downton Abbey series 3 is set) of £2.25p for Downton’s ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ Afternoon Tea, is available to the first two telephone bookings received (for two people only) on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday until November 11th.

Downton’s ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ Afternoon Tea is £34.50 per person at all other times and will be served in The Park Room at Grosvenor House, A JW Marriott Hotel, overlooking Hyde Park, 2pm – 6pm daily from Sunday 16 September until Sunday 11 November. To be in with a chance of securing a 1920’s priced Tea, call reservations from 11am on +44 (0) 207 399 8452 and quote Downton’s ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ Afternoon Tea.

 

 Disclosure: I was provided with complimentary services for review purposes, which has not influenced this report.



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Comments

  1. A lovely review! It did sound like a delightful experience. Love the idea of the soft green table linens also.

    • Green is my favourite colour, Marilyn, and truly, the coloured tablecloths really added a lot, I thought. Just beautiful. Thank you for the compliment. x

  2. Fascinating – I did enjoy this. You’re right that somewhere like the Grosvenor should be able to get their scones perfect. The cucumber and mint sounded like an innovative combination and the inclusion of lemon curd strikes me as a little different, too.
    If you ever get the chance to try the tea at Dukes, I would love to read your impressions of that. It’s a small boutique hotel, tea is served in the drawing room so you’ll be in an armchair or sofa rather than at a table… and there may be fewer than half a dozen other guests. I believe their tea is currently £24. I went there when I was in London in August and it was charming.

    • Thank you Pauline and yes, the lemon curd was something I don’t see very often here at tea. Thank you for the mention of Dukes; I am not familiar with them but then of course, how many hundreds of hotels are there in London. I will look into it. Just popped onto their website and The Drawing Room looks lovely.

      Some of the best Afternoon Tea experiences I ever had in London were at another small boutique hotel in London called The Basil, sadly no longer open. It was located around the corner from Harrods. Tea was served upstairs in a small drawing room that, truly, appeared to be from another era. Just lovely. The hotel even had a club for women (called the Parrot Club).

  3. Your blog makes me want to get on a plane and pop on over!

  4. I love it – I love it! It really is so wonderful Denise that you received this VIP Afternoon Tea and the food looks amazing. I especially love the trivia of the names for things…..let’s face it – we love Downton Abbey and this gives one “ideas” for how we could incorporate this ourselves too!

    • Hi Bernideen, I thought the names were clever too and by all means, if it sparks your imagination, go for it! As far as Downton Abbey goes, I don’t want it to ever end!

  5. The Baroness says:

    I do so appreciate an honest review, so freshing!
    The accompaniments for the scones were definetly in abundance!
    If I were to be in town, I would certainly reserve a place at that very table…tea and people watching, a lovely way to spend an afternoon!

    • Yes, it was so nice not having to fight over the clotted cream! LOL We did enjoy our view, for sure. And that sunlight on the tea table gave me a real advantage in taking some nice pictures.

  6. I agree with Marilyn…lovely review! The pictures that you took are absolutely stunning. Perfect lighting. Now I’m a bit hungry! :)

    I would be interested to know how one discerns a superior pot of tea from one that is just adequate? I have so much to learn on my journey to becoming a tea expert! I learn so much from you, dear Denise! Fun!!

    • Karen, discerning a superior pot of tea is strictly a judgment of the mouth! What I call a superior pot of tea (i.e., one that tastes perfect to me) and what you might call a superior pot of tea could very well be two different things. Of course, there are basic criteria for a properly brewed pot of tea (a brew that’s not dull, watery, lukewarm, etc.) but at the end of the day, if it’s right for you, then it’s a superior pot of tea. At least, that’s my take on it. Others may wish to share their thoughts, and I hope they do!

  7. enjoyed this review, I too, think the colored tablecloths are a nice change.

  8. Thanks for the great review. But what I really want to know is….. what is YOUR scone recipe! Scones sound easy to make but they are devilishly difficult to get perfect!

    • Hi Debs, I have only ever used one scone recipe in my life (I take that back; one time I used a Martha Stewart recipe for Maple Oatmeal scones and they were lovely) and it never, ever, ever produced a bad or even mediocre scone! The recipe came from my friend Pat (Germantown, Maryland) and it is a Scottish family recipe (or ‘receipt’ as we would say in South Carolina). I have not made scones, however, since returning to the UK. I will send you the recipe when I retrieve it off the other computer.

  9. Living in England vicariously through you! Keep up the good work with the posts. It is my escape as I sit at my desk writing my manuscript and can’t get out!!! I am going to celebrate when I turn it in and go have tea all afternoon somewhere special. However, it won’t be in London-at least not yet!

  10. Mary Jane says:

    Oh, Denise, this Afternoon Tea was just lovely. How nice for you and Mr. Tea to enjoy the lovely table by the window. Your photos are just beautiful and the light gives the tea table an inviting glow.
    I am a big fan of Twinings Lady Grey. It is my tea of choice most mornings and I ususally use it for my iced tea.
    I was wondering if your waiter commented on the scones since they were a disappointment. LIke you, the scone for me is the quintessential tea time offering and I would have been looking for them the be just right. Every thing else looked just heavenly!
    Thank you for continuting to share your tea adventures. Do you think that Mr. Tea will ever be a guest blogger and give us the Man View of Afternoon Tea?

    Have a happy day, Dear Tea Friend,

    Mary Jane

    • Hello Mary Jane,

      Lovely to see you here and thank you for your message!

      No, our waiter did not comment on the scones – and I did not say anything to him although I probably should have. Mr. Tea and I were just having such a nice time that I neglected to say anything. You bring up a good point, though, and that is that it’s okay to question and if need be, ask for a replacement of any item that is not satisfactory.

      I would love Mr. Tea to be a guest blogger and, actually, never though of it! Hmmmm, perhaps I’ll mention it to him tonight. :-)

      Fondly,

      D. x

  11. A good scone is so easy to make yet sooooo hard to find! It is key to a proper afternoon tea, and any tea venue should be able to produce a good one. My own recipe always gets raves. But this sounds, overall, like a good experience!

    • Agree with you there, Jean. I’m going to be posting my scone recipe soon. Is yours on the blog? I’ll have to pop over there and take a look. Yes, overall it was a lovely experience and we would definitely return as well as recommend Afternoon Tea at Grosvenor House.

  12. I thought you would find the following link of interest:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/william-hanson/downton-etiquette-explain_1_b_1927956.html
    William Hanson dissects every episode of Downton Abbey for etiquette mistakes. Most amusing, and educational. Stir your tea not in circles but up-down-up from the top to the bottom of the cup. The size of napkins matters! all sorts of interesting details.

    • Hi Adrianne, Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to share that link. I quickly checked it out, but will go back right after I post this reply. Looks like a really good read, especially since I am now in withdrawal as no Downton now until Christmas Day!! Cheers, Denise P.S. I am obviously a Philistine in the way I stir my tea!!

  13. I just discovered this…was fun to read. Thank you for sharing…As a tearoom owner, I found it enlightening from a guest’s point of view. Freaky scone mishap….sounds like the leavening agent was left out. Miss our talks…know you are a busy school girl! Have a great week!

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