I have a proper sweet tooth, and my husband is fascinated by the quite unFrench concept of afternoon tea (which is just about starting to arrive here, albeit in a bastardised form). This means we’re constantly on the quest for the next one to try – and having seen their delectable-looking sandwiches being prepared on TV one day, we were keen to try the afternoon tea being offered at the Intercontinental Hotel on Park Lane in London.
After a rainy dash there on a typically English July afternoon, we were very pleased to arrive in the hotel’s calm and luxurious lobby. We had tried in vain to reserve in advance, but the hotel website had not been terribly forthcoming in this regard, so we had in the end just turned up to try our luck. However, we need not have worried: we were greeted at the height of English politesse, which combines formality and friendliness in exactly the right balance, making you almost feel like the staff were expecting you.
The Wellington Lounge, where you take tea, is decorated in cream and replete with cream upholstery, but it is so light and airy with it that this feels modern, not like you’re at your grandmother’s house. It is instantly relaxing, and with that, you are ready to order your tea (of which you have a choice of three or four types, with increasing quantities of food involved, plus optional champagne). We plumped for the Wellington Tea, whose menu is (mostly) shown above and which costs £28 per person. To begin with you have four types of sandwiches, which come in refined yet innovative combinations: salmon and caviar, and lobster and shrimp, are just two of them. And not an egg to be seen! (Well, except in the mayonnaise. But that’s not a bad thing.)
Next comes a dazzling array of desserts served on a silver cake stand. Just a few of the cakes involved here are mango tranche with blackberry cream, and chocolate torte. These are served separately to the traditional scones, strawberry jam and clotted cream, which make you think initially that you must have been mistaken when you saw them on the menu. However, these arrive after the cakes, on their own separate plate, and make a wonderful traditional end to the tea after the stunning displays of creativity that have gone before.
As for the tea itself, the hotel provides an extensive list, of which regrettably I have no reproduction here. My husband plumped for traditional English teas, while the hotel’s own blend, the Wellington Tea itself, was relished by me for its own unique character. As the hotel is accredited by the Official Tea Guild, connoisseurs will not be disappointed.
Staff are utterly discreet and attentive while you enjoy your tea, without hounding you in the least. You feel in no hurry at all or like anybody is waiting for you to leave. Free refills of tea – even of a different variety – are also legion, with no questions asked.
At £56 this is not cheap, but is in line with other luxury hotels of this calibre. For the service, tranquillity, and high-quality food and drink, we would definitely return.
1 Hamilton Place, Park Lane, London W1J 7QY
T: 020 7318 8649