I was very lucky recently to be treated to afternoon tea at Claridge’s as a pre-wedding family get-together: along with the Ritz, perhaps the most quintessential London hotel afternoon tea.
It was a surprise organised by my future mother-in-law: I knew we were going for afternoon tea, but not where. My parents were staying over the Easter weekend so my mum came while my fiancé entertained my dad; my sister came up by train for the day and we were also joined by my fiance’s aunt, cousin and sister-in-law (and briefly by his brother at the end as he was meeting his wife there for drinks!).
As we pulled up in the car just outside Claridges I was thrilled – I’d never been there before but always wanted to. We were a little early so sat in the bar enjoying a non-alcoholic cocktail – I was a bit shocked at the price of the alcoholic cocktails around the £20 mark and decided it wasn’t worth it!
Afternoon tea is held in the art deco foyer (though by foyer I would normally understand lobby, this was a room just off the lobby), Claridge’s china is a distinctive striped pale green and white so it’s not chintzy at all. The service was of course impeccable – I wouldn’t have expected any less.
We had a specially themed Easter afternoon tea – Claridge’s holds a few of these throughout the year, around events like Wimbledon and the Chelsea Flower Show. They don’t go for tacky themes but instead classic English events. What really surprised me though was the price: classic afternoon tea is £58, which is quite steep compared to other hotels (even more than the Ritz), or with a glass of champagne it’s £68. The special seasonal afternoon tea is £82 per person (with a 12.5% service charge added to your bill). That really has to be a one-off treat!
We started by selecting our teas; I’m not that adventurous and figured that if Claridge’s had a specially selected blend, they had put enough thought into it and I should trust their selection. I was also too busy talking to people and taking photos to read the extensive tea menu properly!
The traditional sandwiches arrived first with a mixture of fillings, including chicken and truffle mayonnaise, smoked salmon, ham and mustard, egg and watercress and cucumber (apparently with buttermilk and chamomile, but I didn't try this one). There was an additional treat nestling next to the sandwiches, which looked like a small biscuit -a Parmesan sable with cheddar, apple and walnut. The chicken sandwiches were probably my favourite, and we were offered a refill but I was already worried I wouldn’t be able to manage everything else!
As well as scones with jam and cream we had small hot cross buns. I'm not normally a fan of hot cross buns but these were very good and my mum was very impressed. I realised afterwards though that this was pretty much the only concession to Easter in the whole afternoon tea - Claridge's is too classy to do gimmicky desserts but it would have been nice to have something a bit Easter themed among the sweets and pastries!
For dessert we had four small morsels each, and of course I did try them all. The 'temptation', with chocolate sponge and dark chocolate ganache was rich but delicious, and the rhubarb and custard surprisingly good as I don't like rhubarb. It consisted of a layer of ginger and pistachio jaconde, a layer of vanilla custard and a layer of rhubarb jelly.
The Dulcey chocolate choux had a coffee sable and Maldon sea salt caramel- I was in heaven.
Finally the macaron, not in flavours I'm normally that keen on - blood orange and grapefruit marmalade - but it was excellent.
At the end, we were given a small simnel cake in a Claridge's box to take home, which luckily lasts a couple of months as I haven't actually tried mine yet!
What surprised me and I suppose slightly disappointed me was that the traditional afternoon tea is £58, or £68 with a glass of champagne, and the Easter themed tea with champagne is £82. As far as I can tell, the food is the same other than the hot cross buns and the simnel cake to take home, meaning you pay an extra £14 for those two things, which seems quite a lot. I'd be interested to see what they do for the other themed afternoon teas, such as Wimbledon (perhaps just an extra course of strawberries and cream) and the Chelsea Flower Show - edible flowers perhaps?
Overall afternoon tea at Claridge's is an amazing experience, and since it was also my 'hen do', one that I won't forget.