Who says classic English style has to be served with a large helping of stuffiness?
The room where you have afternoon tea at the Royal Horseguards Hotel looks traditional, with wingback chairs and drapes held back with heavy, luxurious rope. The waitress who served my BritMums cofounder Susanna and me called us “ma’am”. They even brought out small round tables — covered with white cloths of course — to put beside our table for two on which our teapots could rest. One must not be crowded while one takes tea.
That’s the context that gives afternoon tea here flair and a satisfying atmosphere of Englishness. But any starchiness is softened by the overall experience — the pleasant sounds of eating and talking, the relaxed clientele, the comfort of the room itself. While we had tea, a group of businesspeople seated on sofas talked shop over sandwiches and soft drinks. A family of 8 enjoyed tea with Champagne around a large square table. Not wanting to be left out, we ordered a glass of Taittinger as well.
I’ll get right to it: One of the things I liked best about afternoon tea here was the entirely appropriate sizes of the sandwiches, scones, pastries and cakes. Too often hotels and restaurants mistake large portions for bounty. But a too-big scone can be a chore. I want to try the regular and the currant versions, plus all the sandwiches plus pastries, but I hate leaving a plate littered with half-eaten items.
Here, the scones are the perfect two-bite size. The finger sandwiches — including a crayfish on a crouton with Marie Rose sauce, chicken and mayo (sounds simple, tastes brilliant), smoked salmon and dill creme fraiche — were cut thin and manageable. I didn’t know it was possible to enjoy a classic egg mayo and cress this much – fresh and flavourful. You could eat the scones in 3 bites. And the cakes and pastries were small and just adorable.
For tea, Susanna and I both went herbal (traditionalists, forgive us!): I had the Darjeeling Persian Pomegranate and she, the Egyptian Mint.
We spent a bit of time debating the Cornish v. Devon way to eat scones — do you put the jam on first, then the Cornish clotted cream or the other way round? I’m a Devon girl myself (cream then jam) and can’t imagine it any other way.
You could hardly ask for a more central location than the Royal Horseguards Hotel, just minutes away from Embankment Station and the Thames, Trafalgar Square and its museums. Which not only makes it a great place to take tea, but also to stay with children. I had a look at the hotel a few years ago and was impressed by how friendly and welcoming its philosophy was to families, even within the plush-carpeted halls and walls hung with military-themed art.
It’s a style — traditional, five-star setting with laid-back atmosphere — that proliferates through The Lounge for afternoon tea.
The look: Plush, with a blend of modern and traditional styles
Tasty highlight: The chicken and mayo was my favourite sandwich, the lemon drizzle my favourite cake, and the rich chocolate torte had a shine so mirrored you could practically check your makeup in it
Perfect for: Tea-takers who want old-school style in a less starchy environment
Child-friendly? Yes, although the atmosphere is best for children old enough to sit still at the table rather than needing to wander. The Royal Horseguards Hotel is great for central London family stays too
Dress code: Smart casual.
Price: The Royal Horseguards Afternoon Tea, £39 per person. For £10 add a glass of Taittinger Champagne
Reservations suggested, especially if you have a large party or need room to park a pushchair.
+44 207 235 5250 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to see other great places for London afternoon tea? Check out my other reviews:
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