“When I die, I don’t want to go to heaven, I want to go to Claridge’s.”
– Spencer Tracy
Consistently making it onto lists that round-up London’s best afternoon teas, Claridge’s has spent 150 years perfecting the experience.
Jorge and I were invited to indulge in an elegant afternoon of tea, finger sandwiches, scones and decadent deserts as part of Malibu’s Best Summer Ever campaign. (It is, of course, long past the summer, but it took us five months to book a table.)
After a stroll down Bond Street for some window shopping and people watching and a quick stop in my favourite French shop, Claudie Pierlot, on South Molton Street, it was time for tea.
Having recently watched the BBC’s fascinating documentary called “Inside Claridge’s” not long ago, we were thrilled to recognise the friendly faces of the doormen who have been welcoming people into the hotel for many years.
Inside the revolving doors, the first thing that hit me was the scent of timelessness. I can’t explain it exactly. When I googled it, I found out that Claridge’s had their own scent designed which they use in the lobby and public spaces.
Next thing I noticed was the brilliant art deco decor with the shiny black and white checked floor and signature jade touches. There’s also an amazing silver Dale Chihuly piece hanging from the ceiling in the middle of the tea room.
After settling in with our menus and admiring the striped mugs and silver, we decided to try the Single Estate Afternoon Tea with our sandwiches.
It’s grown on a family estate in the mountains of Malawi and sweet with a hint of caramel. Turned out to be an excellent choice.
Jorge sipped on this black tea throughout the afternoon.
A tray of sandwiches arrived in a nice variety. Claridge’s doesn’t use the traditional 3-tier afternoon tea stand, which I was a bit disappointed about at first. Then I decided it’s actually better the way they serve it on plates because there’s more space on the table, you can actually see the person across from you and you don’t see all of the sweet stuff while you’re eating the savoury.
One of my favourite treats the whole afternoon was that little round one on the far right. It’s actually not even listed on the menu so I can’t tell you exactly what it was but it’s a tasty cheese scone with some sort of delight for the tastebuds on top.
The rest were excellent as well. We had: Daylesford organic chicken, lemon & tarragon on granary bread; Dorrington ham, celeriac rémoulade & tomato chutney on onion bread; Severn & Wye smoked salmon, brown shrimp butter & rock samphire on rye bread; Burford brown egg mayonnaise & watercress on white bread; and Cucumber, crème fraîche & rocket on white bread.
After the sandwiches, I switched to a lighter drink that didn’t take sugar or milk – a white tea called White Silver Tip.
Apparently, this delicate tea is “The most prized of all white teas and the personal favourite of Claridge’s esteemed tea connoisseur.” It comes from the mountains of Eastern China. I read that it has an aroma of freshly cut grass which, with a bit of imagination, could be true.
Next, the scones were served by our lovely waitress who came by often for tea re-fills. This is usually my favourite bit of an afternoon tea and this time was no exception. They were so delicious, so light and fluffy – the perfect texture. They tasted like they were just pulled out of the oven. The Cornish clotted cream was thick and buttery – Jorge’s favourite part. They were served with a bergamot-vanilla falvoured Marco Polo gelée (which was so good I almost bought a jar on my way out).
At this point, it was already an effort to eat anything else, so rather than go home on a sugar high, we decided to each choose only one of the creatively decorated cakes that arrived next. We would take the rest of them home!
Our choices? I think what we ate matches the menu they currently have online which is Chocolate gâteau, Mariages frères crème brûlée; Blackcurrant tart; Pear & walnut éclair, vanilla cream; and Apricot & caraway cake. But whatever they were, they were all very pretty and all very scrumptious.
Along with our boxed treats, we went home with some classic rhubarb and custard sweets which I ate on the plane to Boston on Monday!
On our way to pick up our coats, we came across a beautiful twisting staircase and an amazing zebra, of all things, which I absolutely loved.
At the end of the hall, we popped into McQueens, the flower company who supply the hotel.
And then, it was time to walk back out into the wintery streets of London to catch the bus back to our ordinary lives, leaving this lovely glamourous world till we meet again.