“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” Henry James
Despite not being an out and out sweet tooth I have always enjoyed a good afternoon tea. Wether with a friend in the comfort of your own kitchen or in a lovely grand hotel, it’s always been an event that makes me feel very much a lady.
The traditional English afternoon tea or High Tea truly is an art form in my eyes. Anyone can throw a bit of Victoria sponge cake on a plate and brew a cuppa tea but that doesn’t make it anything particularly worthy of getting a little dressed up, popping on the pearls and enjoying a few hours of scrumptuous yummy food and nothing less than the best tea, and absolutely no tea bags allowed, loose leaf only please.
Interestingly the art of High Tea isn’t such an “old” English tradition. In fact it wasnt until the mid 1800’s that The Duchess of Bedford finally decided that it might be a lovely idea to have something to eat between lunch and dinner, I guess all that wandering around her large mansion took it’s toll on her energy levels, and what better than to have some cake and tea. Soon it become very fashionable to ask all your well to do girlfriends to dress up and pop round for a few hours of tea, sandwiches, cake and of course gossip.
Tell me you don’t love the idea of dressing up with some friends and enjoying an array of savory and sweet treats along with some special tea? I do, but….I also like to add some champagne to my afternoon event.
I have recently been lucky enough to spend a very long afternoon at The Goring Hotel in London’s Belgravia, and experienced what I can only regard as a very fine 5 star High Tea. I knew it was bound to be impressive as the hotel itself is very traditional English and I suppose if it’s good enough for the Royal Family then it must be living up to the mark.
As you can see from the pictures above, the exterior as well as the interior are very grand. The Goring isn’t one of the largest five star Hotels in London but that certainly makes no difference to the impressive impact it has for its guests. In fact I tend to think it is just that little bit more special as it hs a slightly more intimate feel about it, more like a large home. The staff are very friendly and accommodating to all your needs from the moment they open the door for you, until they bid you farewell.
So, I suppose I should really share the many delights which were served in a manner which ensured I felt like the Queen of Sheba and not a girl from the farm.
We chose the Bollinger menu, of course, and started the afternoon with a lovely glass of the bubbly and a plate of strawberries and cream. Oh how lovely.
Next we were presented with a small prawn and lobster appetizer. It was served in a large shot glass and it was extremely nice, I’m sure there are not too many people who wouldn’t love a creamy, tangy prawn and lobster cocktail. But rest assured there was no resemblance to the 1970’s classic! this was all class darlings. The meat was very finely chopped, and incorporated into the sauce, and a thin layer of jelly sat on the top sealing it off perfectly.
As I required the gluten free menu, my sandwiches were a little different from the usual. Now, I have to say that I was a little nervous about a gluten free afternoon tea for 2 reasons. 1) Lets face it the UK do not do the gluten free thing very well, I admit the selection of gluten free options in supermarkets and restaurants is on the increase but in general it’s a little bleak. 2) Gluten free, usually means dry, crumbly, and rather unsatisfying regardless of where you are. I stress usually because I have been pleasantly surprised on occasion. So when my sandwich filling came out presented as a topping on several squares of lightly toasted gluten free bread, I was happy, and it wasn’t too bad indeed. There were 3 sandwich fillings/toppings, a seafood mayonnaise, smoked salmon, and guinea fowl and mushroom mayonnaise. They were so yummy that we all ordered an extra serve of the sandwiches.
The gluten free scones were a little chalky, but generally not too bad. Apparently the wheat version were quite lovely. Now, to be honest once we got through the scones the sight of the pretty little cakes on the top-tier of the serving stand were making me a little regretful of the second serving of sandwiches, But I managed to try the Panna cotta with rhubarb which was delightfully light and satisfying. From others oohs’ and ahhh’s it would seem that the selection of small cakes were not disappointing.
To finish it off we were served The Goring “Not quite a trifle”, unfortunately mine was without the sherry soaked sponge which I was a little disappointed about, surely they could have used a gluten free sponge finger. From all reports the sherry was a lovely addition to the trifle.
The tea, I chose a lovely black chinese Lapsang Souchong which was delightfully smoky and warming. Something a little special.
The whole affair was served in and on The Goring signature china, yellow and gold with the sillhoute of Mr Goring himself.
So there you go, I can highly recommend this afternoon tea to anybody wanting to avoid the crowds of tourists at the popular London Hotels. We spent just over 3 hours in all and could have kept topping up the champagne and tea cups as the general ambiance of the lounge was so relaxing. In my opinion they did very well with the gluten free options, apart from the scones and trifle sans sherry sponge, I was every bit satisfied.
I will be going again when I can next conjure up an excuse to completely spoil myself.