This Friday, it was slightly overcast. This was pretty perfect for me, as it happens. You see, for my birthday, dear lovely Carl booked us in to have afternoon tea at the Ritz! And Friday was the appointed day. I have been looking forward to it for ages, which really just made it more enjoyable.
I usually feel pretty overwhelmed, country girl in the city when I go to London. But today was just fine. Perhaps because we just went straight to the Ritz, had a short wander down the road, and then home again, and I didn’t have time to get exhausted like I usually do?
From the moment we walked up the steps and into the revolving door, we knew we were going to have a scrumptious afternoon. As we emerged from the revolving door, there was a huge urn of the most spectacular roses, white in the centre, blushing to pink on the outer petals. We were directed through a heavy glass door and along a corridor to reach the Palm Court for afternoon tea. We were slightly early, and I wanted a chance to take it all in, so I went down the stairs to the Powder Room. Even the toilet is spectacular! The softest paper, and, each sink had Floris hand wash and Floris hand cream to use! And individual soft white little towels (almost like face flannels) to dry your hands on, and then throw into a wicker laundry hamper. There was a sofa, and a table with magazines and the Daily Telegraph which you could sit at. But why sit down there when you could be in the Palm Court taking tea?!
The Palm Court was smaller than I had imagined, but in a really good way. More intimate and special, and I didn’t feel like they had maximised the use of the space to fit as many in as possible. We gave our names to a waiter who was wearing a fresh red rose in his buttonhole, and he led us up the steps, and to our table. I was seated facing the wall, and Carl outwards. But, bliss, the whole of the back wall is a huge mirror, so I could take in all the delights of the room! The first thing you notice is the pink and the gold that is everywhere. Somehow it creates the most gorgeous (and flattering!) light. Then, the potted palms. And then another enormous display of flowers, right in the middle of the room. Masses of stargazer lilies, to take your breath away. Turning my attention to our table- oh, bliss. A heavy white tablecloth and matching napkins that were placed in our laps by our waiter. Teacups awaiting pots of our choice of tea (Afternoon blend for me, Earl Grey for Carl), a sugar bowl with tongs, and lidded silver pots of jam and clotted cream. Best of all, a three-tiered cake stand, with finger sandwiches on the bottom, and empty middle plate, and the top adorned with a mass of tiny work-of-art-fancy-cakes.
I should warn you now that I fully intend recounting nearly every bite and sip, so I think now would be a good time to slip away for your own fresh pot of tea. And perhaps a scone or a little cake, as you cannot be expected to read about such food and not feel hungry!
The tea was delivered in heavy silver teapots, with a matching jug of milk. I was fascinated to pour the tea through the heavy silver tea-strainer, and watch it bubble almost like a fountain, such a rich golden brown into the cup. Then, setting the strainer in its little dish, I poured in the milk, and watched the colours dance and change. Then a stir, and a sip- and oh, such refreshing tea! I must confess that I stopped counting after my fifth cup, and also that I was pleased in an odd way that my teapot was afflicted by a slight dribble!
The sandwiches first- such soft bread! Slightly larger than I imagined they would be, but that is no complaint! My favourites were the cucumber, which was done with cream cheese, and mint leaves, which were a delicious addition. Something I will do at home, I believe. Oh yes, and the chicken- the bread and the meat were both so soft! As we ate them and sipped our tea, a waiter came round and refreshed our plate. I was enjoying them so much that I quite forgot I should think about leaving some room, until another waiter appeared, took away our empty middle plate, and replaced it with one filled with apple and raisin scones, and two wafer thin slices of fruit cake. I had the fruit cake first, and it was so rich that it was positively bursting with flavours, and was well complemented by the tea that I washed it down with. Then, on to the scones. They bought us four, which I thought we would never manage, but somehow two slipped down before I knew it!
Finally, the little cakes. They were quite amazing, works of art really. My first was a circle of what I thought was pastry, but was really melt-in-the-mouth shortbread, topped with a ring of raspberries surrounding a blob of cream, topped with another wafer thin shortbread circle, and dusted with icing sugar. Each mouthful transports you off into raptures! The buttery richness of the shortbread, the raspberries so ripe and delicious, almost like wine! And then another cake, a rich chocolate mousse on a thin layer of sponge base. So rich that each mouthful made you sigh with pleasure and fullness!
I wish we could have managed more of the little cakes, but I came to the realization that I was utterly full, and that we had been taking tea for nearly two hours! It was so delightful to hear the chink of teaspoons against cups, the gentle hum of chatter, the pianist in the background (he played The Wonder of You, one of my favourites) the whole ambiance.
If you ever get a chance to go, do, do! And when you have paid your bill and left, your head quite full of tea and bliss, your eyes still bathed in the pink-and-gold light, do what we did, and walk hand-in-hand to Patisserie Valerie, and buy yet another cake to take home on the train for your tea!