The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea at the InterContinental London Park Lane

Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane. Wellington Lounge.Musical note On the first day of Christmas Musical notemy true love gave to me Musical note a partridge in a pear tree ~ in the form of a partridge pie, washed down with a whiskey/pear/Champagne cocktail. Intrigued? I hope so, because I am about to tell you about a most fantastic Christmas Afternoon Tea in London.

In the past week alone, both Mr. Tea and I have been approached by people seeking a recommendation for Afternoon Tea in London. Without hesitation, we suggested (as we always do) the InterContinental London Park Lane. No surprise there, for readers of this blog already know how impressed I am with the service and tea food at the InterContinental, and I was very excited recently to be invited in to try their Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. And, once again, the experience was flawless.

The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea

The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea at the InterContinental London Park Lane is the perfect holiday indulgence. The only non-indulgent thing about it is the price.

Executive Chef Paul Bates is a master at creating and crafting a sophisticated themed Afternoon Tea (check out the Wellington Afternoon Tea) and his Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea, based on the English Christmas carol, is an absolute delight!

Eleven Pipers Piping
It is, after all, the season to be merry, so what better way to start a Christmas Afternoon Tea in London than with a tall, elegant flute filled with good cheer and topped with a sprig of decorative winter holly.

The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea begins with a festive cocktail of Champagne very subtly flavoured with Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or Highland Single Malt Scotch Whiskey and Xanta Pear Liqueur (a nod to the pear tree where that partridge is hiding).

You may be asking yourself, as Mr. Tea and I did, “Whiskey and Champagne?” Trust me, it works and it works fabulously well. Splendid!

P.S. I like to think of the effervescent Champers bubbles as Nine Ladies Dancing:

Festive Champagne Cocktail. The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane Wellington Lounge.

Partridge in a Pear Tree
Once all those pipers and dancing ladies have left the tea table, it is time for some of the rest of the pressies from your true love, and they arrive on a 3-tier server. The gift giving begins with a Mountbatten Estate partridge and morel mushroom pie. The melt-in-your mouth pastry was flaky and buttery, and the warm filling was rich and savory. A starter like this is perfect for a winter’s day Afternoon Tea:

Mountbatten Estate partridge and morel mushroom pie.The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane. Wellington Lounge.

Tea Sandwiches

The tea sandwiches in The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea have been cleverly devised.  To make the most of all those lovely flavours found in tea sandwiches, it is best to eat them in order from mildest to strongest, and it did not escape me that the tea sandwiches here were plated in just that order. It is precisely little things like this that set Afternoon Tea at the InterContinental London Park Lane apart:

Tea Sandwiches. The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane. Wellington Lounge.
Three French Hens
The sandwich course begins with a French hens egg mayonnaise and cucumber in wholemeal bread sandwich. The light, delicate egg mayonnaise was a nice contrast to the crunch of the thinly sliced (but not too thin) cucumber.
Two Turtle Doves
A squab and wood pigeon white bread sandwich is next. I had never eaten squab or wood pigeon before, and found it reminiscent of chicken – but with much more complexity and flavour. It was really, really good and now I wish I had ordered seconds! (Seconds are encouraged by the Intercontinental at teatime.)
Ten Lords a-Leaping
No Afternoon Tea is complete without a salmon sandwich, and The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea version is a Speyside Scottish salmon with ‘Lord of the Hundreds’ cheese in granary bread sandwich. The combination is lovely, the salmon being nicely lifted by the strong, almost Parmesan-tasting cheese. (The unusual name of this cheese, which is made in a village dairy in Sussex, refers to tax collectors who worked on behalf of the local Lords who, during Saxon times, would oversee a region consisting of 100 Shires.)

 

Desserts

Your true love has definitely saved the best gifts for last:

Desserts. The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane. Wellington Lounge.Twelve Drummers Drumming
Dark chocolate torte drum, rolled in crushed walnuts and complete with mini drumsticks:
Dark Chocolate Torte Drum. The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane. Wellington Lounge.Eight Maids a-Milking
A three-milk flan, cranberry and mandarin compote:
Three-Milk Cranberry and Mandarin Flan. The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane. Wellington Lounge.Seven Swans a-Swimming
Swan shaped choux bun filled with Strawberry Chantilly and sprinkled with air dried raspberry:
Strawberry-filled Swan-shaped Choux Buns with air-dried Raspberry. The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane. Wellington Lounge
Five Golden Rings
Treacle tart decorated with gold leaf and topped with a sugar-spun spiral of five rings:

Treacle Tart with Gold Leaf and Five Gold Rings.The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane. Wellington Lounge.

Tea and Scones

We did of course also have [numerous!] pots of tea, and scones.

The tea menu at InterContinental London Park Lane is extensive, but we opted for their Wellington Blend tea because we fell in love with it during our last visit and, well, there was just no question about not having it again. It’s a delicious blend of Assam, China Black, and Earl Grey tea, softened by English cornflowers and mallow blossoms.

The scones, warm and homemade, are served with Devonshire clotted cream and Chef Bates’ renowned Kentish strawberry jam. I am so glad that they continue to use this particular scone recipe. These scones are flawless, the best I have ever had. Anywhere. You can read why I think these are the best scones in London.

 

Service with a smile

As with the last time we visited, the service we received throughout the tea was impeccable. This time, it was the lovely Indre taking care of us. She was warm, friendly and super-efficient and not only explained the nuances of the food to us, but also kept us updated on what was coming up next. She kept us happy with fresh pots of tea, and provided clean plates between some of the courses. She knew the details of everything, from beverage to the food, and although she had other patrons to look after, managed to make us feel as if we were the only ones in the room. Thank you, Indre – it was lovely meeting and speaking with you!

Team leader Linesh also stopped by our table to say hello and check on us. He, too, was so nice and took time out to explain the creative process behind the crafting of this themed tea. It was very interesting. Pleasure to meet you, Linesh.

 

Conclusion

The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea at InterContinental London Park Lane is an exceptionally superior Christmas Afternoon Tea. Food presentation, taste and quality; service; value for money; atmosphere – it simply cannot be beat.

I highly recommend this tea during the holiday season, and urge you to make a reservation as soon as you can. (You could even make it an extra special holiday afternoon by walking over to the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park after you finish with tea, which is what we did.)

 

Booking details

The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea InterContinental London Park Lane is available 1pm to 5pm, seven days a week between 29th November 2013 to 6th January 2014. The price is £38 per person. It could be the best £38 you will spend this Christmas.

Denise LeCroy. The Tea in England blog. The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane. Wellington Lounge

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10 reasons why the Wellington Afternoon Tea could be London’s #1 Afternoon Tea

Wellington Afternoon Tea InterContinental Park Lane LondonThe tradition of Afternoon Tea began in England and the English certainly know how to do it and how to do it right. At every top London hotel that serves Afternoon Tea, the ambience, the tea and the tea food is excellent, a few perhaps marginally better than others.

If beautiful surroundings, excellent tea and delicious tea food form the baseline for Afternoon Tea at every top hotel in London, then what are the factors that would make one Afternoon Tea stand above all the others?

Red question mark

I found myself pondering that question after an Afternoon Tea I experienced last week-end. It was the Wellington Afternoon Tea at InterContinental Park Lane London. And it was the best Afternoon Tea I have yet ever had.  (You can read about it here.)

It was easy to identify the things that made it so special, so here is my list of 10 reasons why the Wellington Afternoon Tea in London stands out above the others:

 

Teacup image with the number 10 in itA take-away box Yes, it’s a simple gesture, but it’s one of those little things that make you feel  pampered. It’s like your own miniature tea hamper and it’s a lovely way to extend the tea experience once you’re back home. Here’s a picture of the Wellington Afternoon Tea take-away box that I brought home with me.

 

 

 

 

Teacup image with the number 9 in itOffering tea for purchase There’s nothing worse for a tea enthusiast than discovering a fabulous tea, then not being able to source it. The Wellington Blend is one of two special teas created exclusively for the Wellington Lounge by London’s Tea Palace. You won’t be able to buy it at the Tea Palace – but you can buy it at the hotel shop.

 

 

 

Teacup image with the number 8 in itHonouring Afternoon Tea The InterContinental Park Lane London is mainly a business hotel, and has offered Afternoon Tea for a while. Two years ago some changes took place and they set out to turn their existing Afternoon Tea into something exceptional. They have succeeded, and to me this shows that they honour and value the tradition of Afternoon Tea.

 

 

 

Teacup image with the number 7 in itThe well-researched theme If you read my review of this tea you will know that I love a themed Afternoon Tea, but many of them go no further than coming up with clever names for the food. There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s fun – but the Wellington Afternoon Tea had real substance behind its theme. Chef Paul Bates must also be a history major to have masterminded a tea sandwich using Spanish Monroyo ham and Monte Enebro cheese – ingredients that are a nod to the Duke of Wellington’s 6-year campaign in Spain. It’s served on potato bread, too – a cheeky reminder that England’s beloved military hero was actually born in Dublin. And that’s just one example of the level of thought that went into the creation of this tea menu.

 

 

Teacup image with the number 6 in it Presentation In a quest to be different, I suppose, I have noticed a growing number of variances in the way that Afternoon Tea is literally being served at table. The last time I had tea at a certain world-renowned London location, an empty plate remained on the tea stand until later replaced with a plate of warm scones . That just didn’t look right, and it just didn’t feel right. At the Wellington Afternoon Tea, I loved the fact that the 3-tiered tea stand arrived at the table filled with food, and that the tea guest chooses when to have the warm scones brought to table. I also really liked that they offer a signature sandwich, and a signature dessert. This allows  those two items in particular to periodically change so as to take advantage of seasonal foods and holidays.

 

 

Teacup image with the number 5 in itTea knowledge The level of understanding and knowledge that our waiter Mohammed had about Afternoon Tea and the tea beverage was incredible. It wasn’t a scripted, rote familiarity but a genuine grasp of what tea is all about. For a tea enthusiast like me, it was a real treat. But for someone who may be new to Afternoon Tea, this kind of guidance and expertise would be priceless.

 

 

 

Teacup image with the number 4 in itValue When I think back to tea last week-end and re-live it through my blog post and pictures, I remain amazed that the cost is only £28. The food alone is worth that price, but add in the level of service and all the other amenities that make up this tea experience and it simply has to be the best Afternoon Tea value in London. Try it for yourself and see if you don’t agree.

 

 

 

Teacup image with the number 3 in itTiming Several minutes after each fresh pot of tea was delivered to our table, Mohammed would return to subtly remove the small infuser basket from the pot. His timing was spot on and the first time he did it, he explained why it was being done. Seasoned tea drinkers know it’s so the brew doesn’t become too strong, but persons new to tea drinking will find the procedure fascinating and perhaps not even realise that they have just been given a very important lesson in the art of making tea. Proof again that Afternoon Tea at Wellington Lounge is about so much more than just eating tea sandwiches and drinking tea. It is about honouring and respecting a tradition that is such an important part of the fabric of English life.

 

 

Teacup image with the number 2 in itTraining  By now it should be apparent to you that Afternoon Tea at Wellington Lounge is taken very seriously by those in charge. They live and breathe it and one of the ways they do that is through a unique training programme that, among other things, allows staff members to go out and experience Afternoon Tea for themselves at different venues in London. What better way for them to see firsthand what works and what doesn’t work at tea, and what a great opportunity to observe the good and not so good tea services currently practiced in and around London. I applaud this kind of diligence, and am very impressed with the results as the entire team at Wellington Lounge personify professionalism at its best.

 

 

Teacup image with the number 1 in it Customer service I have given you nine reasons why the Afternoon Tea at Wellington Lounge stands out among the others in London, but here’s one more and it’s the number one reason: our waiter, Mohammed. From beginning to end, he was friendly, knowledgeable, efficient, professional (yet relaxed) and his timing (on everything from tea brewing to knowing just when to check in with us) was impeccable. He was easy to talk to and very adept at being able to anticipate our needs. I’m sure that the entire team are trained to this high standard, but if you ever have Afternoon Tea at Wellington Lounge, Intercontinental Park Lane London, be sure you ask for Mohammed.  He will treat you like royalty, and you will leave feeling very special indeed. And to Mohammed: Thank you!

 

 

 

 

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The Wellington Afternoon Tea – Flawless and Fit for a Duke

Wellington Afternoon Tea at the Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

As a tea enthusiast who has over the years enjoyed many an Afternoon Tea, I have by now developed a keen awareness of what I love in an Afternoon Tea – and one thing I love is a themed tea. Whilst there are indeed a few elemental things that every Afternoon Tea should contain, the ‘art’ of Afternoon Tea crys out for personalisation and creativity, and nowhere can this be better personified than in a themed Afternoon Tea.

Today I want to tell you about a themed tea that has surpassed all others I have ever had. It is the Wellington Afternoon Tea at Wellington Lounge, InterContinental London Park Lane. And it is in one word, flawless.

 

Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Readers of this blog learned in my post about Apsley House that British military hero and twice Prime Minister Arthur Wellesley, a/k/a the 1st Duke of Wellington, was quite the tea drinker. He travelled extensively through India and Europe on his campaigns, drinking tea and enjoying exotic food. With a taste of his exploration subtly woven throughout, the Wellington Afternoon Tea honours the Duke by using the best of British ingredients infused with influences from his international destinations.

Talk about the art of tea!

 

The Wellington Afternoon Tea

 

Surroundings

With just the right balance of light and space, the ambience in Wellington Lounge is magnificent – sophisticated elegance, yet comfortably informal.

Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane LondonAfternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

I love the view out the window across to Wellington Arch:

Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Table Setting

The exotic green Anthuriums on the tea tables in Wellington Lounge are quite handsome and immediately evoke a sense of the Duke’s worldly wanderings.

The Wellington Lounge tea ware is striking. Its silver geometric design is a fresh change from what you normally see used at tea.

Wellington Afternoon Tea Wellington Lounge InterContinental London Park Lane

Tea Beverage

The extensive Wellington Lounge tea menu offers tried and true favourites, unusual teas, and a few exclusive house blends created through a collaboration between Executive Chef Paul Bates and the London emporium Tea Palace.

For our tea, we opted for their bespoke Wellington Blend, ‘a blend that embraces the spirit of a wonderful English tea. A balance of Assam, China Black tea, Earl Grey and softened by English cornflowers and mallow blossoms.’   It was outstanding – bright and full-flavoured with a gorgeous aroma.  Mr. Tea declared it the best tea he ever had! This from an Englishman. Need I say more? (We even brought a tin home with us. It can be purchased at the hotel shop.)

 

The Wellington Tea Blend Tea at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Tea Service

The Wellington Afternoon Tea is served in the traditional style – with a bit of a twist. The tea stand is brought to the table and displays tea sandwiches on the bottom tier, sweets on the middle tier, and a crowning glory signature dessert on the top tier. The ‘twist’ is a distinctive, independently presented tea sandwich served at the start of the tea.

 

Wellington Afternoon Tea, Wellington Lounge at Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

The Twist

Do you remember my saying how a themed tea crys out for personalisation and creativity? The unique, stand-alone tea sandwich served at the start of the Wellington Afternoon Tea is a perfect illustration of what I mean. Made with Spanish Monroyo ham and Monte Enebro cheese, the ingredients are a nod to the Duke of Wellington’s 6-year campaign in Spain. And it’s served on potato bread – a cheeky reminder that England’s beloved military hero was actually born in Dublin. Well done, Chef!

Spanish Monroyo Ham, Fig, and Monte Enebro Cheese on Potato Bread:

Spanish Monroyo Ham, Fig, and Monte Enebro Cheese on Potato Bread Tea Sandwich at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Tea Sandwiches

The Wellington theme continues with the Duke’s local association reflected in a Chilled Sirloin of Gloucestershire Beef with horseradish sandwich, served alongside an anything-but-boring Hen and Duck Egg mayonnaise sandwich with celery cress on brown bread. And thanks to the Portuguese Sardine with sherry vinegar and honey dressing sandwich, we’ll never forget Wellington’s protection of Portugal from the French army.  Who says history can’t be fun? (And delicious.)

Additional sandwiches are offered, should you desire. The sardine sandwich was so good, I asked for another. Up until then, I had never eaten a sardine in my life and wasn’t particularly worried about it either, but this sandwich was luscious.

 

8 Tea Sandwiches at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Scones

I appreciated that at the beginning of the tea service, our waiter Mohammed (more about him on Friday – a fabulous individual) gave us the option of choosing when to have warm scones brought to the table. This little nugget of information ensures that the customer is served fresh, warm scones precisely when they want them, and that is exactly what happened when the plate of homemade Sultana scones and Buttermilk scones arrived as requested. Generous scoops of clotted cream and strawberry preserve rounded out the interlude, one that is paramount to every proper English Afternoon Tea experience.

The scones were just the way I like them: light and soft on the inside, with a hint of delicate crunch on the outside. It’s my opinion that the hallmarks of a perfect scone (besides taste and appearance) are a good rise; a substantial yet light density; and the presence of a natural break line in the middle allowing it to be gently pulled apart in half.  These scones ticked all the boxes.

 

11 Sultana and Buttermilk Scones with Devon Clotted Cream and Strawberry Preserve at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Sweets

You’re full already, aren’t you? I know! But who can resist cakes at tea time?

In his duties as a military and political leader, the Duke of Wellington spent time in the Netherlands, India, Spain, Portugal, France, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, England and Ireland. The final course of the Wellington Afternoon Tea salutes his global travels with exquisite sweets of Blackberry and Vanilla sponge Bavarois, Coconut tart with Pistachio confetti, Gateau ‘Basque’ with comfiture of black cherries, and Raspberry Meringue with vanilla cream.

Do not let the 2-bite size of these little gems fool you – each one packs a flavour punch that will literally curl your lips with satisfaction.

My favourite was the meringue, whilst Mr. Tea preferred the coconut tart with its shards of fresh, sweet coconut.

 

9 Sweets, Cakes and Pastries at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Waterloo

It all began when the Duke of Wellington was taking care of business in Vienna and Napoleon decided to take care of unfinished business in France by escaping from Elba – so what Wellington themed Afternoon Tea would be complete without a worldly cake offering of the Sachertorte, Austria’s famous chocolate torte. This was my first Sachertorte. The chocoholic in me is saying that it won’t be my last. Read here about the interesting history of the Sachertorte.

Sachertorte:

10 Sachertorte at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Remains of the Day

Even after all these years of Afternoon Tea-ing, it still surprises me how filling tea food can be. The experts at Wellington Lounge know this, and will be happy to box up any leftovers so you can continue the experience later on at home with your own cup of tea.

12 Takeaway Box of Extras at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Conclusion and Recommendation

The Wellington Afternoon Tea at Wellington Lounge InterContinental London Park Lane is from all perspectives the best Afternoon Tea I have ever experienced. There are a number of reasons for this and I’ll be telling you about them on Friday, but in the meantime I strongly encourage you to book in and see for yourself.  You will be treated to beautiful surroundings, delicious food, impeccable service, and unparalleled value. An adventure the Duke of Wellington himself would have enjoyed.

Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane LondonHow to Book the Wellington Afternoon Tea

 

Served Monday to Saturday from 1pm to 5pm, the Wellington Afternoon Tea at Wellington Lounge is priced from £28

Bookings are essential and can be made by ringing +44(0)207.409.3131

InterContinental London Park Lane – One Hamilton Place – Park Lane – London – W1J 7QY

 

 

 

 

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Tea at 78 Derngate may be the best Afternoon Tea value in England

78 Derngate decorated for Christmas

Charles Rennie Mackintosh was a Scottish architect and designer of both the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau movements.  My interest in Mackintosh began many years ago when I learned about the furniture and interiors that he and his wife Margaret Macdonald created for The Willow Tearooms in Glasgow.  I haven’t made it up to Glasgow (yet) to see The Willow Tearooms, but I was fortunate enough recently to have been invited to see 78 Derngate in Northampton – the site of Mackintosh’s only domestic commission in England.

The modest house at 78 Derngate was a wedding gift in 1917 to Northampton businessman W. J. Bassett-Lowke from his father.  Not entirely to his liking, Bassett-Lowke hired Mackintosh to help with a renovation. The end result took portions of the house from modest to remarkable – a hybrid mix of geometric Mackintosh (the hall/lounge) and cosy Mackintosh (the dining room, below) – which is the Mackintosh style I favour.

 

78 Derngate decorated for Christmas

The Dining Room, 78 Derngate

 

I highly recommend a visit to 78 Derngate in Northampton. The staff are very friendly and accommodating, and the house tours are led by knowledgeable guides. Exhibits, special events,  and educational activities are held there, and you will also find a gift shop. More importantly, I am happy to say, is that there is also a place for Afternoon Tea.

 

 The Bassett-Lowkes at tea, 78 Derngate

Tea in the Dining Room, 78 Derngate, the Bassett-Lowkes

 

A balcony tea at 78 Derngate

Tea on the balcony, 78 Derngate

 

 

Afternoon Tea at The Dining Room tea room 78 Derngate, Northampton

Tea in The Dining Room restaurant, 78 Derngate

 

The Dining Room restaurant at 78 Derngate provides home cooked fresh food for breakfast, lunch, dinner – and Afternoon Tea.  The space is very welcoming: lots of windows with a simple but classy ambiance.

But the real attraction of The Dining Room is the food. I have had many an Afternoon Tea – and the tea food here ranks tops.

 

Afternoon Tea savouries from The Dining Room at 78 Derngate, Northampton     Afternoon Tea at The Dining Room, 78 Derngate, Northampton     Afternoon Tea scones and sweets, The Dining Room, 78 Derngate, Northampton
 

The full Afternoon Tea at The Dining Room is served on two – yes, two! – separate cake stands. The first arrives with savouries. On the day Mr. Tea and I visited, the first stand had sandwiches of egg; ham; and cucumber on the bottom tier; warm tarts and cheese scones on the middle tier; and coronation chicken filo cups on the top tier. All savouries – one of each per person – were freshly made and contained plenty of flavour and plenty of filling. We consumed it all, and it was superb!

At this point, we didn’t think we could eat another morsel, but when the second cake stand arrived – laden with warm scones; cakes (including a cupcake topped with mini-marshmallows which had been lightly toasted – scrumptious!); tarts; macarons; and truffles – we couldn’t resist giving it our best shot. Perfection on a plate is the only way I can describe it all.  There truly is more food here than two people can eat, but fear not – a takeaway box will gladly be provided.

At £16.50 per person, which includes unlimited tea or coffee, Afternoon Tea at The Dining Room has to be one of the best – if not the best – Afternoon Tea values in England.

The designs by Charles Rennie Mackintosh at 78 Derngate aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but tea at The Dining Room, 78 Derngate is certainly mine.

 

 

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Succumb to the Crumb [Afternoon Tea Party Box]

Crumb Tea Party in a Box

Crumb, a “cake experience” company in Leeds founded just over a year ago by two young mums, make afternoon tea parties that can be delivered not only to your door, but through your letterbox. Alice down a rabbit hole? Sure. A tea party delivered through my letterbox? I was skeptical, but Crumb have convinced me that they are no Mad Hatter.

 

Crumb Tea Party in a Box

The parcel did indeed fit through the letterbox,
but once opened, what did I find?

 

Five varieties of freshly baked goodies, Crumb Tea Party in a Box

Inside were 20 slices (4 each) of exquisite home baked goodies:
Yogurt Topped Cranberry Tiffin
Chocolate Rocky Road
Nut Granola with Belgian Chocolate
Caramel Shortbread
Strawberry Sandwich Shortbread

 

12 individual sachets of tea, doilies, little flags, and napkins, Crumb Tea Party in a Box

Also included were 12 individually wrapped sachets of fine Taylors of Harrogate Tea, and decorative cake topper flags, plate doilies, and napkins.

 

It's so easy to set up Crumb's Tea Party in a Box

Denise’s Tea-for-Two party, courtesy of Crumb

 

After opening the Afternoon Tea Party Box by Crumb, I set up the little Tea-for-Two pictured above in about 10 minutes – with enough leftover food, tea, and extras to host a second tea party. (There’s plenty of time to plan; the baked goods have a 3-week expiration date.) The sheer convenience of it all makes entertaining effortless!

We work closely with one of the finest bakeries in the region who hand make all of our products to the highest possible standard. ~ Crumb

The slices were fresh, very tasty, and of noteworthy size. I was worried that the generously topped Nut Granola would be too crunchy for me, but it wasn’t – it was very easy to eat. My favourite was the Yogurt Topped Cranberry Tiffin. Superb! (Note: All food ingredients are listed in full detail on the back of the box.)

The Taylors of Harrogate tea selection in Crumb’s Afternoon Tea Party Box is spot on – there is something for everyone: Earl Grey, Yorkshire Gold, Afternoon Darjeeling, Delicate Green Tea, Blackberry & Elderflower (caffeine free), and Orange & Lemon.

 

Detail, Crumb's Tea Party in a Box

Eat me!

 

What would a tea party be without a bit of merriment, and the cute cake topper flags with sayings like Exquisite! Absolutely Scrumptious! Delectable! and Take One!  add just that.  (Can be saved to use on your own treats.)

If there is one thing I think Crumb has neglected in their Afternoon Tea Party Box it is this: their name. Everyone who leaves a tea party fashioned by Crumb will want to remember where it came from so they can order one of their own. A subtle, stylish tone-on-tone rendering of the word Crumb on the little white napkins that come in the box might be lovely.

Not long ago I wrote about another fabulous Afternoon Tea Party Box that can be delivered to your home, but the Crumb Afternoon Tea Party Box is an excellent alternative as – and this is my favourite thing about it – it can be delivered through a standard letterbox.

An Afternoon Tea Party Box by Crumb delivered through their letterbox would be a great way to surprise your mum, your nan, your sister, or your bestie.  Delivered through your own letterbox, it’s a simple way to host an engagement celebration, book club meeting, or chick flick get-together.  And as far as mad tea parties go, the convenience of an Afternoon Tea Party Box by Crumb eliminates all the madness, leaving you and your guests to enjoy teatime in wonderland.

 

 It’s easy to order and pay online from the Crumb websiteCrumb currently have 15 different food boxes (including a Christmas range) varying in price from £15.00-£32.00.  Delivery is free via Royal Mail, first class.

 

I am curious if there are any companies in the United States that offer a quality Afternoon Tea home delivery service?

 

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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.

Afternoon tea on the village green with Royal Albert

The Royal Albert London Tea Tour at Kew Green

It’s not often that a person has the opportunity to be served Afternoon Tea on Royal Albert china on a sunny afternoon on a lovely village green – for free. But thanks to an invitation from Royal Albert (and a very thoughtful husband who doesn’t mind my dragging him by his gorgeous fifty-shades-of-grey hair all over the country for tea), it happened to me.

There’s nothing quite like Afternoon Tea served on beautiful china, and Royal Albert have been dishing up this type of English tea experience for over a hundred years. They started manufacturing china in 1896, and they continue to produce hundreds of beautiful patterns today – their most iconic being “Old Country Roses“.  This year, 2012, Royal Albert have updated several designs in their floral range to give them a fresh look and one that, I might add, screams out to be mixed-and-matched together. They are enchanting.

To celebrate the launch of the new patterns, Royal Albert tucked an adorable little van full of tea, cakes, and their beautiful new wares, and embarked on a Royal Albert London Tea tour, providing a “pop-up” afternoon tea experience for those of us who enjoy English style afternoon tea.  Lucky for me, one of these events was not too far away, so Mr. Tea and I toddled over to Kew Green on a crisp autumn Saturday morning for a late breakfast of tea and cake. (Don’t judge me.)

 

The Royal Albert London Tea Tour sign at Kew Green

It was a lovely day in Kew.
Several of these’Join us for Tea, Cake, Fun & Frivolity’ signs were strategically placed around Kew Green.

 

 

The Royal Albert London Tea Tour at Kew Green

A charming tea tent was set up with tables and chairs and …..

 

 

Bunting. Photo courtesy of Victoria's Vintage www.victorias-vintage.co.uk/

….. bunting!

 

 

The Royal Albert London Tea Tour van at Kew Green

Royal Albert’s friendly Tea Lady
You can see some of the beautiful new china patterns.

 

 

The Royal Albert London Tea Tour at Kew Green

Each table was set with a sugar bowl, milk jug, and 3-tier server of sweets using china from the new range. The fabric on the table cover and chair pads matched the china!

 

 

The Royal Albert London Tea Tour at Kew Green

“Coffee, tea or me?”
Server’s in smart waistcoats delivered cups of hot tea.

 

 

The Royal Albert London Tea Tour at Kew Green

Cupcakes and macarons for breakfast, anyone?

 

 

The Royal Albert London Tea Tour at Kew Green

Top: NEW COUNTRY ROSES (pink) pattern
Middle: ROSE CONFETTI pattern
Bottom: NEW COUNTRY ROSES (white) pattern

 

 

Royal Albert wallet. Photo courtesy of Victoria's Vintage www.victorias-vintage.co.uk/

Also on each table were really cute Royal Albert travel card cases, pretty postcards, and a booklet with photographs of the new china range.

 

 

Denise toasts The Royal Albert London Tea Tour at Kew Green

Cheers, Royal Albert!
Teacup: POLKA ROSE pattern

 

We were one of the first to arrive at Kew on that day, and it was fun to listen to the gasps of disbelief as people (like the family of 5 seated next to us who just happened to be on the green that morning) realised that there was no cost involved in this. Hopefully, it encouraged folks to think more about Afternoon Tea, and about the enjoyment that comes from making your own teatime just a little bit more special by using pretty dishes.

I think it’s outstanding that Royal Albert are willing to put all their beautiful china into the hands of the public (well, we did have to give it back). The pieces truly are lovely and the type of thing every tea lover should have in their china cabinet.

Thank you, Royal Albert, for a lovely Afternoon Tea on Kew Green!

Visit the Tea in England Facebook page for additional photos of the tea.

 

(Thanks to Victoria’s Vintage for letting me use her image of the bunting and travel card since I had forgotten to take pictures of those two things!)

Afternoon Tea at Sea

Afternoon Tea aboard Queen Mary 2

Afternoon Tea is, without a doubt, the consummate English experience –  and Afternoon Tea at sea, aboard the historic British ocean liner Queen Mary 2, should be at the top of every tea lover’s to-do list.

Mr. Tea and I recently returned from a 10-day cruise to Spain and Portugal aboard Queen Mary 2. This was our first trip to the Iberian Peninsula, and our second cruise with Cunard, having previously sailed from America to the UK on their transatlantic voyage. We fell in love with Spain and Portugal (I’ll be blogging about Lisbon’s English tea connection later), but first I thought you might enjoy seeing the the Afternoon Tea experience on Queen Mary 2.

 

Portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Queen's Room aboard Queen Mary 2

 

Bust of Queen Mary, Queen's Room aboard Queen Mary 2

 

Portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Queen's Room aboard Queen Mary 2

A bit of history: The Cunard Line was founded in 1839 by Samuel Cunard. The first Cunard ships carried transatlantic mail. In the dark days of war, troops were transported around the world on Cunard, and for a very special moment in time, immigrants rode the waves with Cunard on their way to a better life. (In 1914, my grandfather emigrated to America from Austria aboard a Cunard ship.) Cunard eventually became the name in prestige transatlantic passenger travel – Queen of the ocean liners.

Getting there is half the fun. – Cunard’s motto

I’m not sure how long Cunard have been serving Afternoon Tea aboard their passenger ships, but they certainly know how it’s done. And although they are now British-American owned, Cunard believes that retaining the Afternoon Tea tradition reinforces their British heritage.

 

Waiter pouring tea, Afternoon Tea in the Queen's Room aboard Queen Mary 2

Afternoon Tea is served at 3.30 every afternoon on Queen Mary 2, with the exception of embarkation day, and there are three location options: 1) Kings Court: a casual, buffet style tea; 2) Queen’s Grill Lounge: for passengers traveling in the suites; and 3) the Queen’s Room – which is where we enjoyed our teatimes.

The Queen’s Room is the largest ballroom at sea and can hold 562 people. It is formal, but comfortable and relaxing.

 

The Queen's Room where Afternoon Tea is served aboard Queen Mary 2

The Queen's Room where Afternoon Tea is served aboard Queen Mary 2

The Queen's Room where Afternoon Tea is served aboard Queen Mary 2

The Queen's Room where Afternoon Tea is served aboard Queen Mary 2

 

When everyone is seated, white gloved waiters emerge carrying pots of tea and silver platters with sandwiches, scones, and cakes.  Bottomless cups of tea? Endless sandwiches, scones, and cakes? Bliss!

 

White gloved waiters preparing to serve Afternoon Tea in the Queen's Room aboard Queen Mary 2

 

Afternoon Tea sandwiches being served by a white-gloved waiter in the Queen's Room aboard Queen Mary 2

 

Afternoon Tea scones (and clotted cream) being served by a white-gloved waiter in the Queen's Room aboard Queen Mary 2

 

Wedgwood china on the table and Twinings tea in your cup further emphasize Cunard’s strong British ties. Speaking of Wedgwood, my mother-in-law purchased a Cunard teapot (below) for me as a surprise birthday present. (Yep, you can buy them onboard.) What a lovely memento of our trip and time together!

 

Denise's birthday pressie: Cunard teapot by Wedgwood

 

We had a wonderful holiday sailing with Cunard on Queen Mary 2, even if we did overdo it a bit with daily Afternoon Tea.  But I suppose indulgence is what a holiday is all about – and what could be more indulgent than Tea with the Queen?

 

Queen Mary 2

 

(See the Tea in England Facebook fan page for more Queen Mary 2 Afternoon Tea pictures)

 

This Chocolate Teapot is a wise choice

The Chocolate Teapot Tearoom, Esher

In England, there is a phrase we use to define something that is useless. For example, if my husband Mr. Tea gave me a book written in Mandarin, I would say to him first, that he was brainless, and second, that the book was “as useful as a chocolate teapot.”  The logic behind this idiom is that a chocolate teapot would melt as soon as you poured boiling water in it, so it is used as a comparison to anything useless or badly conceived. (Next time darling, just check my Amazon Wish List, okay?)

I had a chocolate teapot experience of a different kind on Saturday, one that warmed my heart into a big gooey puddle of English tearoom bliss.

 

The Chocolate Teapot Tearoom, Front window

 

The Chocolate Teapot in Esher is anything but a proverbial chocolate teapot. As tearooms go, it certainly ticked all the right boxes for me: ambiance, cleanliness, friendly staff, and good food and tea.

 

The Chocolate Teapot Tearoom, Front door

 

The best tearooms are ones that reflect the personality of their owners. This variety of style is what makes visiting them so much fun. My favourite tearoom style is traditional: lace curtains; pretty, mismatched china; real flowers; wooden chairs; and – above all – a cosy, comfortable atmosphere.  The Chocolate Teapot in Esher did not disappoint!

 

The Chocolate Teapot Tearoom, Interior

 

Mr. Tea and I arrived midday and the crowd had already come and gone, so we had the tearoom all to ourselves (although there was a small special event taking place in the courtyard outside).  Combined with perfect weather and glorious sunshine, could Afternoon Tea get any better?

 

The Chocolate Teapot Tearoom, Table set for tea

 

The wait staff at The Chocolate Teapot are very friendly, knowledgeable, and efficient, and we were also lucky enough to meet the owner, Jane, who was charming.

 

The Chocolate Teapot Tearoom Afternoon Tea for Two

 

The menu at The Chocolate Teapot is just right: a good selection of snacks, meals, and of course, teas. We ordered the full Afternoon Tea which included our choice of sandwich and homemade cake, accompanied by a pot of tea, scones with jam and cream and – appropriately – a tiny chocolate teapot brownie. (I love that little extra touch!) The food was excellent.

 

Denise helping The Chocolate Teapot, Esher celebrate its Second Anniversary

 

On the tearoom’s first anniversary last year, they set off balloons with coupons inside for a free slice of cake. One of the balloons – believe it or not – ended up in Germany, and the nice man who found it contacted the tearoom and the story was written up in his local German paper.  Saturday happened to be the tearoom’s second anniversary, so Jane asked if I would do the honours of releasing this year’s balloons. It was my privilege, so here I am.

If you ever find yourself in the Surrey area (inside London’s M25 corridor), I suggest you visit The Chocolate Teapot in Esher. You will receive a friendly welcome, delicious food, cosy surroundings – and the only chocolate teapot that melts will be that bite-sized brownie in your mouth.

Cassandra’s Cup, Chawton, Hampshire

Cassandra's Cup Tea Room Chawton England

This is a picture of the ceiling at Cassandra’s Cup in Chawton, Hampshire, England. I haven’t been there (yet!) but their website says they are a “small tradional tearooms situated in the beautiful village of Chawton, opposite Jane Austen’s house”.

There are so many lovely Jane Austen tea connections – but they shall have to wait for another day, another post.

I would love to do this hanging teacups thing in my kitchen.  Which would necessitate the start of a new collection of teacups.

Oh. Drat.

 

Image used with permission by Adrian Heller.