When you think of Britain, you think of the Queen, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Downton Abbey and James Bond, to name a few things in no particular order. When it comes to food, the Ploughman’s lunch, bangers and mash, Gordon Ramsey, Jamie Oliver, Heston Blumenthal, Yorkshire pudding, fish and chips and shepherd’s pie probably jump to mind. But when it comes to meals, nothing pops to mind more than British Afternoon Tea.
Friday, April 21 is National Tea Day! While tea may be seen more as a British thing – the British consume over 165 million cups of tea A DAY – there is no mistake that having a “cuppa” brings people together for a chat in the morning or afternoon. National Tea Day is meant to celebrate bringing people together. (Side note: April 21 is also the Queen’s birthday, so Happy Birthday Queen Elizabeth II!)
I have to admit that prior to my recent trip to London, I had never been to afternoon tea. Thank goodness on my last trip, our friends Anita and Steve came with us and Anita said: “I’d like to go to high tea”. The idea resonated like a lightening bolt! Of course! Why had we never been to high tea before? I’m not sure, but we were about to rectify that oversight!
Afternoon tea has been a fixture in London since the early 1800s thanks to Anna Maria Russell, Duchess of Bedford (3 September 1783 – 3 July 1857). She was a lifelong friend of Queen Victoria (serving as a Lady of the Bedchamber from 1837 to 1841) and the originator of making “afternoon tea” a British meal. This meal was meant to fill a gap between lunch and a later 8pm dinner.
The British institution of high tea is something really special. High tea is taken in the late afternoon between 3:00 and 5:00 p.m. It usually involves tea, sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, jams, mince pies and dessert….oh….and champagne.
After some research, we booked a table at The Goring Hotel. Of all the spots in London, why The Goring? The Goring was recently honoured with a Highly Commended certificate at the Afternoon Tea Awards 2016. Four generations of the Goring family have, for over a century, run The Goring. Today the hotel is considered a “bastion of quality and absolute individuality”. It is also the place that Kate Middleton (the Duchess of Cambridge) stayed her last night as a single woman, prior to marrying Prince William.
The hotel did not disappoint. As it was the holiday season, The Goring was dressed up in all its finery, including a lobby Christmas tree and both exterior and interior decorated and lit up.
We were escorted to the lounge (tea is also served on the terrace), where we were given our tea menus. Three tea options exist: tea only or tea with pink or white champagne. Once you pick your tea and champagne, they rest is up to the hotel. Speaking of tea, the hotel has a long list of teas to choose from, including the special Goring House Tea Afternoon Blend created 80 years ago, just for The Goring.
The teas are served from stunning silver pots and are poured by tuxedoed waiters into beautiful yellow tea cups.
To start, a small amuse bouche. A pea foam mousse with smoked salmon with foam creme fresh.
A tiered tray of sandwiches, scones and desserts are then bought out.
The sandwiches consist of smoked salmon and creme fresh, turkey and stuffing, hard British cheese with onion compote chutney and gammon (ham) with fig relish – all of course with the crusts removed! (Now you know where the term for crustless finger sandwiches, or “tea sandwiches”, came from!)
The scones are served with clotted cream and jams alongside mince meat pies.
The desserts are special and festive for the holidays – a snowman of chestnut cream, a fir tree of chocolate with pistachios, a blood orange Christmas ball, a Gingerbread snowflake with icing detail, and the very British Goring Christmas fruit cake.
The hotel will refill the trays as many times as you like, so men, do not fear! While they may be finger sandwiches, little scones and pies, you are pretty full at the end of the tea.
In honour of National Tea Day on Friday, April 21, later this week, I’ve teamed up with Carla at The Thirsty Camel Cocktails. (You can check out her extremely enjoyable cocktail blog here or some of her fabulous photos on Instagram.) We will be celebrating Tea for Two and showcasing some tea-based cocktails. You can see it later this week.
So the next time you are in London, grab some friends, head to The Goring and enjoy a chat, a cuppa, and some fabulous afternoon tea!
Happy Easter Monday everyone, Buona Pasquetta! If you are in Umbria today, you can go to Panicale and watch the Ruzzolone!
Where: The Goring – Victoria Beeston Place, Grosvenor Gardens, London SW1W0JW; When: Daily 3 pm – 4pm; Saturdays 1 pm – 4 pm; Website: http://www.thegoring.com/food-drink/afternoon-tea/