Afternoon Tea at the Ritz is an experience that people often say you should try at least once in your life, and it’s certainly an experience. I was given a voucher for afternoon tea for two as a birthday gift back in March and the first available tea time date was early September. A six month wait, I was very eager to see if it was worth it…
The much celebrated Palm Court is very lavish indeed, with gilt on pretty much everything, lots of floral textiles and of course big palms providing greenery. There was a pianist too, his name was even mentioned on the menus, though sadly he only knew about four songs. Once the tea gets going the small room gets a little loud, with lots of waiters swishing around the place in a very military fashion, not as relaxed as other afternoon teas I’ve had. The quick turnaround between sittings means they have to run it like a military operation.
The service is excellent although they are very quick to deliver everything so you don’t go over your allotted time slot of 2 hours. Just a couple of minutes after we sat down we were offered Champagne and our tea order taken, both delivered within minutes. The food then arrives within 5 minutes and our waiter told us scones come later, so they are warm when we eat them. Later a cake trolley goes around, swiftly going between the tables with lemon drizzle cake and bakewell tart. It was all very quick, but at the same time the staff were great and apart from struggling to flag a waiter down at the end to pay for our Champagne, it was very efficient.
Food & Tea
The food is a bit of a mixed bag here, which is a shame. The Ritz is very much about experiencing something totally British and very traditional, and a lot goes into providing this, so I am afraid the food tends to suffer.
Being as they do 5 sittings a day they must produce a massive amount of food, which needs to keep and also, I assume, needs to be stored on the tea tiers ready to be doled out to each table in super quick time.
The tea was excellent, I had the Ritz Royal Blend which was a classic black tea, very good. Mr had the darjeeling which again, was excellent, light and refreshing. Both are served in ornate silver teapots. They also provided hot water, which is something that is often forgotten. We were also offered fresh tea or different tea half way through.
The sandwiches were super traditional as expected – ham with grain mustard, smoked salmon and lemon butter, cucumber with cream cheese, chicken and horseradish and egg mayonnaise. They were good and the meats, fish and salmon of good quality – the lemon butter in the salmon was particularly good and the egg mayonnaise was creamy and not powdery.
The patisserie was the disappointment. As you can see the top tier offering was quite artificial looking, as they were mainly full of sugar and colouring. The Orange and Coconut macarons didn’t have any hint of either flavour and were soft not crisp – one was high (as it should be) but the other flat as a pancake. The chocolate cake was good but again, overly sweet. The fruit tart was good. The strange pink confection was yogurt mousse strawberry ‘dome’ which may as well have been made of plastic. The most frustrating, and give the suspicion that they were bought in, was they were all glued to a gold cardboard disc with syrup, which left a bit of a sad looking macaron…
Continuing, the scones were excellent and quite different in appearance to others I’ve had. They were extremely fluffy with a nice glaze and were just the right size, not too big. They did however commit a cardinal sin against clotted cream! The clotted cream seemed to have been whipped, meaning you lose the thick, rich naughtiness of it – maybe this is a cost saving exercise?
We were feeling very full by the time the cake trolley arrived, but we persevered. A slice of lemon drizzle was hacked off a loaf for me, and a bakewell tart sliced more delicately for the Mr. The lemon drizzle was good but most homebakers would be able to do better – mini lemon drizzle loaves would have been more delicate in this situation. The bakewell tart was good with a generous filling and a topping of cream too.
All in all we enjoyed the scones and the sandwiches but the sweets were a disappointment. Usually this is what makes an afternoon tea special, and where most high end establishments make an effort to wow their customers. I feel they became a victim of the mass-production that goes on to meet the demand The Ritz afternoon tea has.
The Ritz Afternoon Tea is £47 per person or £59 with champagne. theritzlondon.com