Monday, 4 January 2010

Tea at The Ritz

Is there anywhere more iconic than The Ritz Hotel in Park Lane, London? Since its construction in 1905, The Ritz has played host to everyone from Winston Churchill and President Eisenhower to Charlie Chaplin and Ana Pavlova. This is the place where Tallulah Bankhead famously sipped champagne from her slipper during a press conference. Whether you come from New York, Chicago, Toronto, Hong Kong, Sydney or anywhere in between, tea at The Ritz is something you should definitely include on any visit to London.

My family and I love having afternoon tea at The Ritz. It is such a beautiful place, harking back to an almost lost age of elegance, with its gorgeous surroundings, elegant atmosphere and delicious food. Tea is served in the beautiful Palm Court Restaurant, just as it has been for years and years. There is a strictly enforced dress code, and gentlemen must wear jackets and ties. For ladies, things are a bit more relaxed than they used to be in days gone by, but you are expected to dress elegantly. Most ladies wear anything from smart trouser suits to very formal tea dresses. The service at The Ritz is impeccable, and everything is done to be sure you enjoy yourself. Yes, it is expensive, but not eye-wateringly so. And for us, The Ritz has something really special that makes us come back time and time again. Our visit today was in honour of our son's seventeenth birthday and as usual, we had a wonderful time.

You cannot help but be impressed as you walk through the lobby and through to The Palm Court Restaurant.

Gold and cream decor contrasts beautifully with the green of the palm plants dotted throughout, and gold framed mirrors are dotted around the walls. Don't forget to look up; the spectacular ceiling is not to be missed.

Once you are comfortably seated, the first step is to peruse the menu of loose leaf teas - over twenty-five to choose from. My favourite is the strong yet mellow Ritz Royal Blend, while my husband prefers Assam, and our son Earl Grey with its distinctive Bergamot aroma. They offer fruit and herb teas as well. Everyone gets their own silver tea pot, and you also have your own silver tea strainer to ensure no tea leaves find their way into your bone china cup!

The first course of afternoon tea is always tea sandwiches - tiny brioche rolls filled with egg mayonnaise, and a variety of crustless breads enveloping fillings like smoked salmon, ham, cucumber, poached chicken breast and ham. Next come the warmed scones, served with strawberry jam and clotted cream. And finally, there are the cakes.

Delicate macaroons, flaky millefeuille, rich chocolate gateau, fruit tartlets and a white chocolate filled blackcurrant mousse flecked with edible gold leaf were all on offer today. When we somehow managed to finish them all, the plate was generously refilled - although that time we only managed to eat one or two!

Throughout the meal, a pianist played a beautiful white grand piano. Suddenly, we heard him start ‘Happy Birthday’, and what should appear but a gorgeous little cake for my son, and another one for a lady at a table nearby.

We were too full to eat it though, so a pretty box was produced to allow us to take it home easily.

We all had a lovely afternoon and it made for a really special celebration. Tea at The Ritz starts at £38 per person and can be easily booked online at Afternoon tea is very popular, so do book well in advance.