Afternoon Tea at The Ritz has become something of an institution be it the inarguable epitome of daytime indulgence. With an illustrious reputation for fine dining, a 'sitting' at the hotel's prestigious Palm Court ensures a positively first rate experience which although also warrants a rather sizeable price tag, is perfect for a special occasion...
Date and Time: Wednesday 11th July 2012, 11:30
Name of Establishment: The Ritz*
Location: 150 Piccadilly, London
Reason for Visit: An extra-special birthday treat for an extra-special auntie
Upon ascending from the hustle and bustle of Green Park tube station, it becomes instantly clear that The Ritz really does equals glitz; its name, brandished in lights above the window displays of fine jewellery, accentuating its presence amidst the other high-profile landmarks that embellish this part of the city. Dating back to 1905, this is a space which screams sophistication; with stunning art-deco handiwork, high ceilings, rich colours and plush furnishings tastefully reflecting the anticipated etiquette of an establishment of this calibre. Here, service is impeccable; the sincerity of the welcome extended to each and every guest setting a precedent for the duration of one's visit. I really liked that such a high level of service (whereby I became 'madame' for the day and my napkin had been placed across my lap before I'd even had time to unfold it) did not constitute an air of pretension; quite the contrary in fact as the waiters (all six of them) that addressed our table were not only courteous and efficient but cheerful and chatty; something which took the formality from what could have otherwise proved a rather stuffy affair. Furthermore, I noted how well-attended the space had become and, despite having to take afternoon tea well before noon (seriously, I suggest that you book early), a back-drop of contented chatter muddled with a little musical input courtesy of The Ritz' resident pianist, Ian Gomes, really made for a relaxed ambiance.
|Tea-cups for coffee|
First up, a drink or two and despite the seventeen types of loose-leaf tea on offer (which includes the likes of; Rose Congou, Rooibos Red and the ever-so aptly-named Ritz Royal English), my auntie and I opted for coffee which, served into dainty bone-china tea cups from solid silver jugs, certainly looked the part. In addition to this, it would have been rude not to toast to the birthday girl with a little fizz – The Ritz offer champagne at £19 a glass, or you can opt for the package that includes it...OK OK, I know what you're really waiting for, a round up of the grub which began with a round of six varieties of daintily portioned crust-less sandwiches; my favourite of which constituted the cheddar cheese and chutney ensemble which, layered between slices of fresh onion bread, ensued a deliciously punchy after-taste. We were also treated to chicken breast and horseradish cream on white and Scottish smoked salmon on rye; the latter accented with the citrus zing of lemon butter, yum! My auntie particularly enjoyed the traditional cucumber sandwich which, arguably an institution in itself, had, in this case, been combined with cream cheese and dill. Flecked with caraway seeds, the wholemeal batch utilised for this undersized sarnie offered a decidedly fragrant twist to the tried and tested recipe!
Next up came a duo of perfectly-formed and freshly-baked scones; the latter evident on account of their oven-warmed disposition. Slathering both fruit and plain varieties with strawberry preserve and Devonshire clotted cream, I can report that these were beautifully textured and tasty; though, I have to be honest, not the best I've ever tasted due to the genius of the buttermilk and lemon curd scones that I am somewhat partial to stock-pile upon each and every visit to Bristol's Lahloo Pantry! Nevertheless, It has to be said that The Ritz excelled in the confectionery department; the petit fours on the top tier of the initial arrangement causing that sharp intake of breath as they were just.that.beautiful! The rosewater macaron for instance was especially imaginative; its pastel-pink appeal and careful composition proving almost as decadent as its exquisite aroma given that even the pod of subtly-sweet Panna Cotta had been finished with a coin of white chocolate that sported the distinctive 'R' emblem. To accompany this, fruit tarts piled with plump raspberries, an intricately constructed chocolate ganache (which was essentially a chocoholics dream) and a bite-sized mille-feuille which delicately balanced a lightly whipped vanilla cream with flaky pastry - heaven! After being plated another helping of sandwiches, plus two additional macarons (at my request), a trolley of additional cake-type creations began to do the rounds. This comprised an impressive-looking carrot cake, complete with prettily piped peaks of crème fraîche as well as a strawberry and pistachio franzipan which I have on good authority, was absolutely divine! By this point however, we simply had to decline any further replenishment given that we were well and truly ready to rest our (very full) stomachs; opting instead to sit awhile, people-watch and recover from what had unsurprisingly accelerated to a sugar-rush of epic proportions!
|All together now...oooooh!|
|Snap them up or they'll be scone!?|
In conclusion, it's fair to say that afternoon tea at The Ritz altogether lived up to my expectations. Not only was the fare fantastic, the service was faultless and the surroundings recherché – not to mention the attention to detail proving second to none. Incidentally (or not if you're into shameless name-dropping) my auntie and I were also impressed to note the presence of The Ritz' more famous clientèle; the pomp and ceremony attracting even the likes of an ex-American president! And quite frankly, if it's good enough for the A-list, it's good enough for us...as it was, without doubt, the fanciest foodie foray of the year thus far...
|The franzipan we were allowed to take home in a doggy bag...yes really!|
|So much sugar, we were seeing double!|
And now for the second opinion...
The Birthday Girl herself gave The Ritz a phenomenal 10/10 and in three words, described the experience as ' truly truly scrumptious!'
NB. There are five sittings every day at: 11.30am, 1.30pm, 3.30pm, 5.30pm and 7.30pm and prices are as follows:
Traditional Afternoon Tea - £42
Champagne Afternoon Tea - £54