I have been for afternoon tea before. I’ve slathered scones with jam and tipped tea into china cups. I’ve felt the excitement of tiers of treats being laid before you and playing a game of ‘guess the filling of the sandwich’. It’s an English tradition that, as a Scot, I have grown to absolutely adore over the years. So when I was asked if I would like to visit The Waldorf for afternoon tea along with my colleague Doug, I jumped at the chance. Literally, I put my hands in the air like I just didn’t care. However, as I turned the corner onto the Aldwych towards the hotel (after almost entering the staff only entrance), I could tell that none of my previous experiences had quite prepared me for this one…
The Waldorf Hilton is stunning. Grand and illuminated, it certainly makes you feel special right from the first glimpse. It’s no wonder that stars including Dame Judi Dench, Pierce Brosnan and even Pavarotti have rested here during their London visits. A kind gentleman opens the door as you enter, and the lobby, filled with marble, chandeliers and sophisticated seating areas, leaves you speechless. Places like this can normally leave me feeling a little intimidated (I’m currently questioning whether to throw my Primark jacket on the floor as if I don’t own it), but everyone who passes us is so friendly and welcoming that I can’t help but feel at ease.
It appears that I can’t stop smiling. As we are led through to the Homage Restaurant where our afternoon tea will be held, our jackets are taken to be hung up before we enter the room itself. A collection of stately pillars, accents of gold and a few dozen tables line the edge and cluster in the centre of the high ceilinged room. We get to choose our place, so we pick a round table in the centre of the room, right next to the harp. Yes, that’s right. A harp. And not just any harp. A harp that is blissfully playing Sam Smith, Adele, Ed Sheeran and Disney classics. It really is something special, and I cannot imagine a more perfect venue to enjoy a luxurious tea. A sweet sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of city living, with only the occasional gentle rumble of the underground below to remind you that you are in fact in the centre of London.
Our waiter, or more like a tea-bearing angel in human form, welcomes us. A glass of champagne each is poured, and as we take a look through the menu he carries over a box of small jars filled with tea leaves. From The Waldorf Tribute Blend to the Elderflower & Blossom infusion, we have a sniff until settling on our selections. I choose the Red Caramel Velvet (the waiter’s personal favourite), and Doug selects the Nutty Chocolate.
Upon special request we ask for all the food to be brought to the table at the same time – normally the champagne is enjoyed with a selection of finger sandwiches, then the tiers of scones and desserts are accompanied by the tea after. A deliciously delicate feast is set before us, and the waiter’s knowledge of the menu is impeccable; this is the ham and mustard on onion bread, the cheese and cucumber on carrot bread, the freshly baked scones with jam and clotted cream, a pistachio macaroon, lemon meringue, chocolate and orange cake, cherry and almond bake… the list goes on and really my description won’t do it any justice. Everything is sublime.
After many photos are taken by Doug, who looks like he is just seriously upping his Instagram game, we dive into the sandwiches first. Although dainty in size, they seriously pack a punch of flavour. The variety of dough means my taste buds are not bored, nor confused, since the menu describes what the contents of each one. Next is the scones, whose freshly baked scent has been enticing me ever since the plate was set down. Plenty of clotted cream and lashings of jam, accompanied by my Red Caramel Velvet tea (which has been brewed to perfection with the tea timer), and I’m quickly drifting off into scone heaven.
Now for the desserts. All miniature sized and calling out my name, it’s the chocolate and orange cake that is the first to go. I can confidently say it is one of best chocolate cakes I have ever eaten in my life. Surely nothing else can possibly live up to this? Oh no, wait, here comes the Irish cream sponge with white chocolate curl. Once again I feel like I’ve entered pudding paradise. Doug eats one of the pistachio macaroons, and I swear I didn’t even see it hit the sides…
The conclusion? My stomach is what can only be described as entirely content. My cheeks hurt from smiling so much. And I am absolutely positive that no afternoon tea will ever beat this. One very happy foodie, over and out.
Highlight: Dedicated song from the harpist, 500 Miles by The Proclaimers
Top treat: Yummy chocolate and orange cake
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