S. Worthen (owlfish) wrote,
S. Worthen

Afternoon Tea at the Goring and at the Langham

Back in Toronto, I tried all the afternoon teas the city had to offer. There were only seven or eight to choose from, so it was possible to be comprehensive in a way that will never be achievable for London. Periodically, friends ask me for afternoon tea recommendations for London, and I have very little to tell them, having been to so few. This summer is shaping up to remedy my inexperience here.

The Goring
Location: Beeston Place, Grosvenor Gardens, London, near Victoria Station

The highlighted location for afternoon tea is the terrace, but we've opted for indoors, out of the breeze and heat. We gain an extra table for the tea pots, conveniently out of the way, and begin with a light seafood amuse-bouche. Our three tiers of tea are substantial, but not particularly memorable. It was just what it ought to be, with delicate crustless sandwiches (four kinds apiece), cozy scones (with jam pre-potted), and a selection of pastries to negotiate over. There was a further pudding for a finale too. Classy and competent, it offered good service and pleasant enough ambiance, but unmemorable - if correctly done - nibbles.

Palm Court at the Langham
Location: 1c Portland Place, at the top of Regent Street, near Oxford Circus

What a lovely space the Palm Court is in the Langham, fresh from a multi-million pound renovation! The high ceiling, the sparkle of golden decorations, the vases full of orchids, the substantial, comfortable chairs, and how well-spaced the seat groups are from each other! Our group of seven was comfortably ensconced between columns, the table pre-equipped with plateless tiers.

Our waiter sensibly suggested ordering a few set of tea treats to share between the group. (Becoming full too soon is a frequent hazard in planning an afternoon meal.) The food arrived in courses, which would further complicate appetite-planning, had we ordered much more. We began with an amuse-bouche of lemon posset, more closely related to lemon curd than any other I have had, but all the better for that tart sweetness. The highlight of the sandwiches I had was the egg-and-watercress, with its more substantial bread. (Five sandwich types apiece, had we ordered a whole set apiece.) The younger members of the party chose the chocolate pastries, so I can only report on how delicate and tiny the bite of banana bread was, and that it was a lovely fruit cake (but fruit cake isn't a preferred choice of mine for tea).

The scone course followed, with much greater success. They were oven-warm and tender, with plenty of clotted cream and strawberry jam to go around. Our second batch of scones included a few flecked with chocolate. They shouldn't've been better than the regular scones but were, since the chocolate was bittersweet and added inflection to a uniformly sweet meal. Later, we finished with mini-cupcakes, more delicate frosting than cupcake. Still, they were festive, with their sprinkle-topped colors.

Our teapots were all to-hand, with individual sieves (so the tea did keep brewing, as it did at the Goring). Service was reasonably attentive, and certainly intelligent, suggesting variations on quantity to suit the group's hunger, pacing, and ages. A pianist playing elegantly and fluently, although the music would have been easier to ignore had it not all been well-known musical numbers. The location was beautiful and spacious, and the hotel looks lovely. Still, the uniform sweetness of the sandwiches, pastries, scones, and all accompaniaments meant there wasn't really as much variety to the food as there should have been.
Tags: afternoon tea, eating in london, food

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