Even though being in London on my birthday was the best birthday treat ever, I still wanted to do something extra special on the actual day. And what could be more special than partaking in afternoon tea at one of high society’s most well-known establishments? The beautiful Ritz London paired best with the timeless elegance of high tea, and certainly produced the most memorable birthday ever.
Afternoon tea is served in the truly stunning Palm Court which is surrounded by high walls of opulent mirrors, birdcage chandeliers and a massive floral arrangement in the center room whose cost I couldn’t begin to fathom. Walking through the hotel to approach the Palm Court, the decor and design was definitely understated and subdued. But then you arrive at the Palm Court and you’re hit with a massive voila! Needless to say I knew I was in the right spot as soon as I saw this space that looked straight out of the Titanic (and most likely some passengers from the Titanic probably did have afternoon tea here before making their way to Southampton more than 100 years ago).
As for the teas, there’s a staggering 18 types to choose from, everything from oolong to rooibos to Earl Grey to Darjeeling and more. I ended up selecting the Dragon Pearls, whose description states that it’s “silver needle tea from Fujian, rolled, and scented with jasmine flowers.” I love anything with jasmine so this was a good choice for me. My friend went for the Darjeeling First Flush which was “the champagne of teas from the Himalayan foothills.” It was met with great approval. A slight regret is that I didn’t try a second tea. I know this would have been permitted as I saw other diners ordering a second choice. I never spoke up as I kept getting refills or a new pot altogether. Probably the Ritz Chai would have been my second choice.
The food is more than you could probably ingest in one sitting. There were a total of six sandwich selections, five of the finger-style selection (i.e. crusts cut off) and then an egg salad sandwich on a brioche roll. The five other sandwiches were as follows-
Ham with Grain Mustard Mayonnaise on Brioche Bread
Cheddar Cheese with Chutney on Tomato Bread
Cucumber with Cream Cheese, Dill and Chives on Granary Bread
Breast of Chicken with Tarragon Creamed Mayonnaise
Scottish Smoked Salmon with Lemon Butter on Sourdough Bread
My two favorites were probably the cheddar cheese with chutney on tomato bread (this bread was fabulous) and the Scottish smoked salmon (that was the second time I had eaten smoked salmon; I’ve dug it ever since my cruise to Alaska two years ago).
As it was traditional afternoon tea, there were of course scones, a raisin and a plain one. These were accompanied by Cornish clotted cream and strawberry preserves. Normally I love scones but I did find these a bit lacking in taste, even the raisin. It’s not that they were bad, but just inferior in flavor to the other incredible food selections served.
There also was a variety of traditional tea pastries-a white chocolate and strawberry tart, hazelnut and orange mousse, and a rhubard and ginger mousse (possibly my favorite). Later, a waiter came around with a cart and offered two cake selections (rum baba and lemon drizzle; I preferred the latter as the former just was way too heavy on the rum taste).
Considering it was my birthday and I hardly do afternoon tea at the Ritz all the time, I also ordered a celebration cake. This I had to do in advance (I requested it on the online reservation and then gave specific details via email). I had it boxed up to go and it proved to be the perfect dessert later that evening. As it was made with ganache, it held up fabulously during my walk through Notting Hill afterwards.
As one would expect, service at the Ritz London was impeccable. There was an impressive number of wait staff (even though the room wasn’t THAT big), but you were never left waiting or wanting for anything. And in an institution as storied and famous as the Ritz London, well, that’s what one would expect.
Afternoon tea at the Ritz London definitely ranks as one of my favorite travel experiences ever. And there was no better way to ring in my 34th birthday then indulging in one of my favorite past times. It was one of the many memorable things I crossed off from my London itinerary.
The specifics for afternoon tea at the Ritz London
-Afternoon tea costs 58 pounds per person (so roughly $73 USD), with a glass of Ritz champagne it’s 77 pounds per person. Including the celebration cake, the cost came to 69 pounds per person (well worth it, and that’s also my birthday-June (sixth month of the year) 9.
-There is a strict dress code (even for afternoon tea)-men are required to wear a jacket AND tie, women a dress or pants suit
-Afternoon tea is available for the following sittings-11:30AM, 1:30PM, 3:30PM, 5:30PM. and 7:30PM. I opted for the first sitting since then I still had almost all of the day at my disposal.
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