I was invited to review afternoon tea at Hotel Café Royal and our food and drink was complimentary. I was not paid to attend and was not under contractual obligation to write this blog post or create content on any platform.
Regular readers will remember my visit to Hotel Café Royal last summer when I tried out the luxury hotel’s brand new restaurant, Laurent. An enduring icon of London, the hotel has sat in the perfect location on Regent Street for the past 150 years but is looking bang up to date after a restoration and reopening in 2012 with new decor, gorgeous new restaurants and a beautiful spa.
Last time I visited, I poked my nose through the door of the Oscar Wilde lounge and I have to say, it totally took my breath away. This gorgeous gilt-edged room definitely competes for being one of the most beautiful dining rooms in London – it even has a special history being the very room where Oscar Wilde fell in love with Lord Alfred Douglas. Originally the Grill Room, the space was renamed in honour of that famous guest allowing his memory to live on. He’s not the only celebrity that graced that room, it’s also where David Bowie retired Ziggy Stardust and Mick Jagger, the Beatles and Elizabeth Taylor partied all night!
Quite possibly the perfect spot for a much overdue reunion for Laura, Katie and I! And today we were celebrating a different figure from history.
It was the Victorian’s who popularised afternoon tea, creating the meal between lunch and dinner to curb any unwanted hunger…Hotel Cafe Royal itself became a sought after place to enjoy the ‘meal between meals’. Afternoon tea fans will know that it was the Duchess of Bedford that invented afternoon tea, but did you know she was one of the Ladies of the Bedchamber and a lifelong friend of Queen Victoria? She introduced the idea to the Queen and it soon gained in popularity and became a very fashionable thing to do – just as it still is today!
2019 is the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria so it seems fitting that the Hotel Cafe Royal introduced ‘The Queen of Afternoon Teas’ paying homage to our great monarch who had such a great influence in establishing this tradition.
A beautifully printed and sealed menu is the perfect take home souvenir from the tea and the occasion started with a flourish as our waiter elaborately pours glasses of Veuve Cliquot champagne.
Next a tea stand each arrived, I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen such dainty presentation at afternoon tea as each finger sandwich was delicately placed on gilt-edged plates. Two savouries sat at the top and included a Cheshire cheese and asparagus tart and Ham hock galantine with pistachios and truffles. I think Queen Victoria would approve with sticking with tradition and the sandwiches were very much a classic selection including English cucumber and pink peppercorn, H. Foreman’s smoked salmon and dill crème fraîche, rare roast Angus beef and Albert sauce and curried corn-fed chicken and raisins.
Sadly the sandwiches were a let down for me, they were lacking in filling and in flavour, a real disappointment for me as honestly it’s the part of afternoon tea that I look forward to the most.
And orange jelly palate cleanser was served in the most gorgeously delicate glass. It was full of flavour and we remarked how amazing it was to get so much flavour into a jelly.
The cakes were very much an improvement on the sandwiches and the scones (raisins and plain) were soft and fluffy and served with clotted cream, strawberry jam, lemon curd. I wonder if Queen Victoria was a cream or jam first person?
Though petite, Queen Victoria was known for having a hearty appetite and being a lover of cake and pastry and the cakes are inspired by here own personal favourites. There’s also a menu of over 25 teas served at the Oscar Wilde Lounge and I enjoyed a pot of lemon and ginger with my desserts. Chocolate profiterole with salted caramel cream cakes wore a little crown as a nod our great Queen – who was the longest serving monarch before she was superseded by the current Queen in 2016. Let’s hear it for the girls!
Also beautifully presented and elegant were the vanilla blancmange with apricot glaze on a Brussel biscuit and rose and lychee mousse with raspberry jam topped with a petal. And this tea would absolutely not be complete without a classic Victoria sponge said to be the Queen’s favourite. She was well known to enjoy a slice of the eponymous sponge as part of her tea-taking ritual.
Service in the Oscar Wilde lounge was truly excellent and each morsel came with a little story, enthusiastically told by our waiter.
Slight sandwich disappointment aside, Katie, Laura and I had a really spectacular afternoon at the Oscar Wilde Lounge at Hotel Café Royal, a huge thank you to them for hosting us!
The Queen of Afternoon Teas is served daily and priced at £55, £65 with a glass of champagne.
Hotel Café Royal
68 Regent Street
W1B 4DY UK