London: Afternoon Tea at the Ritz
Afternoon Tea at the Ritz was by far one of the most etherial experiences I’ve ever had. The first time I came to London, I was enthralled by the idea of afternoon tea, but my at the time 19 year old brother gave a hard veto. My second trip around, I made sure tea was on my agenda.
I first learned of the Ritz from the book “!,000 Places to See Before you Die,” who has Afternoon Tea at this posh hotel on the list. After doing some of my own research, it seemed obvious that the other tea houses paled in comparison to the luxury and classic elegance that the Ritz provides.
The Palm Court, which is the room that tea is served in, is possibly one of the most iconic rooms in the hotel. It has remained nearly the same since its 1906 opening, and has been visited by celebrities, royalty, and commoners alike in the last century. The room has a very soft, elegant vibe, filled with creme and apricot colored walls, a large bouquet of live flowers as the centerpiece, and a lavish fountain. It’s quintessentially high society.
One thing that makes The Ritz special, although it does add a bit of an inconvenience, is the dress code. Gentleman are required to wear a jacket and tie, and ladies are to dress “smartly.” No jeans, sneakers, or other casual wear are allowed. While this does mean packing an outfit specifically for this event (unless you enjoy wearing heels or a tie on your day tours???), it really adds something special to the atmosphere to see everyone nicely dressed. The dress code helps preserve the spirit of afternoon tea, and of the Palm Court, encouraging the patrons to display the same elegance and refinement as the room does.
I had afternoon tea at Harrods at the prompting of my cousin Julia, who is obsessed with Harrods. Obsessed as in she spends $35 in shipping alone to buy the Harrods annual bear every year. It was like eating at McDonald’s after having tea at the Ritz. (Sorry Julia.) The photo of the tea above is from The Ritz. The tea at Harrods wasn’t even worthy of a photo. (Sorry again Julia…)
I didn’t expect afternoon tea to be very filling, honestly. I knew the meal would consist of tea (obviously), tea sandwiches, and pastries and scones, and I expected it to be a light meal. I was WRONG. I nearly needed to be rolled out of there. The photo of the car shows one tray of pastries, and one tray of finger sandwiches, but they brought a second half sized tray of sandwiches, a second pastry plate, and a scone plate. The finger sandwiches probably made up about two regular sized sandwiches (my favorites were the egg salad and cucumber), plus clotted cream smothered scones that were somehow both dense and light, coconut macarons, apple tarts, and lots of other treats.
One of the things that I really appreciated were all of the small details. The lion from the iconic Ritz armor adorned the top of each tea pot, the silverware was beautifully embossed, and we were able to keep a menu as a souvenir.
When I wasn’t surveying the elegant details of the room, enjoying my tea, or
judging other people people watching, I was staring at the beautiful bouquet of flowers that were on display in the center of the room. It reminded me a bit of the bouquet they have at The Grand Californian . It served as a beautiful centerpiece, and provided a bit of privacy from the hallway outside of the Palm Court.
The entire experience was absolutely exquisite, the photos really don’t do it justice. While editing the pictures, I wanted to keep them soft and yellow toned to reflect how things were in the somewhat dimly lit room. (And also flash photography or other obvious/distracting photography is prohibited.) I am excited to try afternoon tea at other places, both in the U.K. and elsewhere (I’m coming for you, NYC Palm Court copy cat at the Plaza Hotel), but I can’t imagine any experience will be as perfect as mine was at The Ritz.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to make a cup of tea, which will also be ruined in comparison to the tea from The Ritz. Byeeeee.
(Afterthought: should this be a dine with me? I’m thinking no, since it’s so much more than just a meal, it’s a full experience. Back to drinking my disappointing tea now.)