One of my New Year’s resolution goals was to experience afternoon tea in one of the world’s most iconic locations – the Ritz London. Not bad when it’s “part of the job,” right! In this blog entry I want to highlight the essentials of what I would consider ‘a must’ for a luxury tea experience (anywhere in the world), some must-know ‘faux-pas,’ and my overall impressions should you ever wish to add this location to your own bucket-list!
Most great restaurants, the crème de la crème, have you waiting for the strike of midnight to make reservations three months ahead of time. That is not the Ritz in London. Reservations here (especially for the holidays), need to be made 8-10 months prior, especially if you are hoping for a seating that isn’t late in the evening. Be forewarned. That being said – IT.IS.SO.WORTH.IT. If you like Hallmark Christmas movies, then you’ll love living one out in this grandest of all events!
From the moment you walk into the hotel, a five-star haven on Piccadilly, you are entranced by the hotel’s historic elegance, impeccable service and mesmerizing décor. When The Ritz first opened its doors in 1906, it was considered one of the greatest hotels in the world. Conceived by the famous hotelier César Ritz with the aim of becoming the ultimate destination for guests looking to stay at the most luxurious hotel in the land, no expense was spared on its opulent interiors and lavish furnishings.
As you make your way through the front doors of the Ritz, the magic of the holidays immediately sets in. Tree, upon tree, upon tree, all lit up and decorated to the nines. Forget afternoon tea, I’d be quite content sipping a glass of water in the magic of this all. Rich reds and gold and glitter follow you to the lower level where the height of grandeur awaits your arrival.
What a perfect afternoon tea should offer (which it did):
Ambiance. One of my top criteria when deciding where to have tea. A warm, welcoming and beautiful environment is a must. A beautiful room, a beautiful table, sets the tone for what’s to come. Visualization is everything followed by what you hear, what you smell and what you feel.
A lovely grand piano and singers took to the stage at our afternoon tea and delighted us with Christmas carols and elegant background music. Like I said, a Hallmark movie come to life.
Fine China Tableware: Elegant teacups, teapots and serving pieces are a must. If you’ve ever used a teapot that doesn’t pour properly, you’ll know exactly what I mean. Nothing ruins an afternoon more than drippings on the table and your clothing. Fine tableware must be both functional and beautiful. The Ritz spared nothing in polishing off their finest silver pots and serving pieces.
Food and Drink: Quite similar to the above, wonderful tea sandwiches, scones and pastries beautifully presented make the entire event that much more special. Afterall, it is the reason you came. A great afternoon tea knows to serve scones served hot and to offer extra servings (especially for the higher priced venues) if so desired. A fine tea service should include a wide variety of teas and allow guests to alter their choices between courses (yes, this is allowed!). With 18 different types of loose-leaf tea to choose from, we certainly had our pickings. The only critique I would offer here, is that they didn’t change our plates for the petit fours and pudding course. No one wants to eat their cakes on the same plate that you had smoked salmon, egg and tuna.
Signature Champagne: I love anything unexpected! So, when we were offered a signature Ritz champagne on our arrival, the stage was set early on for a wonderful evening. Leave it to me to notice all the small details. Cheers!
And what about the faux-pas? Here are my top tips to set yourself apart and fit right in:
Not “High Tea” – Unless enjoyed late in the evening, and with protein dishes, it’s always called afternoon tea. My “afternoon tea” coupled with a glass of champagne would be considered a “royal tea” – how posh!
Pinky’s Down: You can ask me about this another time but it’s never pinky’s out. Tuck those in!
Fascinators and White Gloves: Leave those at home or for a costume party. In Britain, unless you’re a tourist, fascinators and white gloves are not done at an afternoon tea.
With so many wonderful places in London for afternoon tea, there is something quite special about the Ritz (and yes, it is extremely commercialized but, in my opinion, still done so well!). An opulent, once in a lifetime opportunity that is certainly worth the wait. Best described as elegance and indulgence in every mouthful, the Ritz truly delivers the most charming English Afternoon Tea in Mayfair (and possibly the world!).
Stay tuned for 2023 Afternoon Tea dates in Toronto, coming soon!