The Ritz Hotel, 150 Piccadilly, St. James’s, London W1J 9BR. £54pp.
Back in 2014 I bought my family vouchers for afternoon tea at The Ritz Hotel, London. Described as a ‘glitzy hotel with iconic afternoon tea’, it seemed like an excellent gift and one we could all enjoy together. On the day we had some travel issues and couldn’t arrive in time, but the hotel were able to rebook us for the last sitting of the day.
Arriving at The Ritz felt very grand and luxurious, as anyone whose strolled outside it will know; bright lights draw you in and the red carpet into the opulent entrance is very welcoming.
As we handed our coats into the staff, a pianist was playing classical music on a grand piano and there was a tangible level of excitement in the air. Given the absolutely splendid decor, I think you can only respond by having your breath taken away, at least for a moment.
Seated by a waiter dressed in traditional coat tails, we had a prime, circular table nestled to the left of the staircase, cosily placed in the corner of The Palm Court. Our teas and coffees quickly arrived before our three tiers of afternoon tea.
At The Ritz, sittings often overlap but I distinctly remember it feeling like everyone’s treats arrived more or less at the same time, so it was quite a scene to behold. The sandwiches, cakes and pastries looked impeccable, if not eerily identical to one another!
Afternoon tea tiers
Tier one was a selection of fresh sandwiches which we enjoyed a refill of during our two hour visit. There were several varieties including salmon, ham, cucumber and egg and cress. I remember thinking they seemed a little dry as they didn’t have much sauce or butter inside.
Tier two was a very generous helping of plain and raisin scones, all presented identically on the plate, which meant there was no arguing about who got which scone. For these, we got a choice of jam and I choose strawberry, as well as having them with the traditional clotted cream. The scones were dense and fluffy and I have to say it, a bit difficult to eat as they were also quite dry!
Tier three featured an artistic and sinful array of cakes and pastries, including chocolate ganache, a berry tart and macaroons.
Service and overall experience
As we were seated and working our way through the tiers and refills, the waiters continued to serve us tea and water and also provided us with further slices of cakes: lemon drizzle cake and a cherry tart. The service, as you’d expect, was very attentive without being over the top. A balance that’s good to achieve in such a well-regarded establishment.
The venue of The Palm Court is equally impressive. It’s described by the hotel as ‘fanciful’ and there’s no better word to attribute to it. You enter via a grand staircase, to be greeted with tall walls, high ceilings and tables laid out with stunning china and cutlery. The pots of jam and cream seemed especially traditional when paired with the fine silverware.
For some (OK, for me) the experience all got a little too much; the sheer amount of food, sugar and caffeine made me feel rather unwell, so it was fortunate the bathrooms were worthy of spending some time in! Just as in the court above, they were immaculately decorated and even featured warm hand towels.
When reviewing afternoon tea at The Ritz, I have to take into account the splendid afternoon teas at The Grand Brighton Hotel and at the South Lodge Hotel. The service and venue as both extraordinary, but this doesn’t mean as much when the food itself doesn’t quite live up to hype. However, don’t get me wrong, it is a fantastic experience and one I can confirm makes a very well received gift.
Excited to have tried the afternoon tea at The Ritz, it was a great day out with family in the city. Of course, London has a huge range of afternoon teas to sample, so perhaps it’s simply best to try out the ones which appeal most and see how you’re catered to on the day. The Ritz is pricey, but you’re not just paying for food, venue and service, you’re paying for a priceless history and tradition which is wonderful company for an afternoon.
Green Park or Piccadilly Circus tube stations.
*Apologies for the quality and amount of photographs accompanying this review. My photos have been misplaced and I imagine lost during upload, so I’ve used a selection from my family and of my own taken on old smartphones.