Friday, 20 December 2013

Afternoon Tea review - The Georgian Restaurant, Harrods

Afternoon tea at The Georgian Restaurant Harrods  £29

Harrods at Christmas is a tradition – The food hall, the toy department,  the amazing window decorations, the crowds…  So the Tea ladies decided they would go there for afternoon tea  for a Christmas treat.

Tea is served in the Georgian restaurant on the 4th floor which is next to another restaurant and just beside the Disney shop which didn't make for a relaxed approach.  It’s a large restaurant with a (rather loud) pianist at one end and, at this time of year a huge Christmas tree in the middle of the room.  It was busy with families and the acoustics are such that we found it very noisy and not very relaxing.  Perhaps it’s not so frantic outside the Christmas period.  On first glance, the restaurant looked nice but on closer inspection everything was a bit shabby, the chairs needed re-stuffing and there were several areas that could have done with re-painting. 
There were eleven teas on offer –  rather a poor show we thought, especially as the Food Hall sells many more than that. Mo had St James Orange Pekoe, Caroline Georgian Blend and Charlotte had Idulgashinna, a pure green tea.  All were served in silver teapots and all were too strong.  The two black teas were fine to begin with but the green was far too strong and tasted quite bitter.  When Charlotte added more water it turned they had given her enough tealeaves for about four pots.  We were offered refills and got hot water on request but otherwise it only warrants   21/30

This is not how you make green tea.
The sandwich selection was good - lobster roll, turkey with mustard, smoked salmon with spinach and cream cheese, cucumber and cream cheese, and egg mayonnaise and we were able to have refills.  The turkey and the salmon were particularly good and the breads were nice and varied.  27/30
The scones were huge, two each - one fruit, one plain, served with clotted cream, strawberry jam and rose jelly.  They were warm when they were brought but not by the time we got to them.  They were a little dry and because of their size we could only manage one each.   23/30
There was a decent variety of cakes: a tiny mince pie, a chocolate hazelnut delice, a mille-feuille, a miniature lemon meringue tart and a raspberry macaron each.  They looked very pretty and were all quite small and dainty.  The macaron was not great – it had a soggy bottom!   The rest were good and we could have had more if we'd wanted.  No trolley selection here like some other places but it wasn't really necessary.   24/30

The service was pleasant but a little vague.  We weren’t offered the option of champagne, one of the waiters was confused by the request for hot water and they were hard to flag down.  They also clearly didn't know how to make a pot of tea.
Overall, the experience was disappointing.  The ambience was more of a noisy café in a department store than a calm sophisticated afternoon tea.  And the loos were a long way away!  Value for money?  Not really - plenty of food but we didn't feel inclined to linger

Pros                                                                              Cons
Cheaper than many we've had                                      They can't make tea
Good sandwiches                                                              Noisy and not relaxing
Nice variety of cakes                                                        Erratic service        


7 out of 10

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Afternoon Tea Review - Hotel Rafayel, Chocolate afternoon tea

Afternoon Tea Review - Hotel Rafayel, Chocoholics afternoon tea, £35 for two

The Hotel Rafayel is situated alongside the River Thames and the  restaurant on the ground floor is next to the river so it's a lovely setting for afternoon tea on a nice summer day.  Being in Battersea though, means it's not that easy to get to.  Also, there is a helipad a few yards away, so the afternoon was occasionally interrupted by the noise of a helicopter landing or taking off.
We usually don't go to themed afternoon teas as we prefer to review places based on the quality of their traditional afternoon tea.  However, there are so many themed teas around that we thought it was about time we tried one, and a chocolate afternoon tea seemed like a good place to start.  We had a discount voucher and invited honorary tea lady Rebecca to join us and make the tealadies a nice even four.

We arrived and were seated at a table next to the window, looking out over the river.  The chocoholics afternoon tea includes a choice of chocolate martini or a glass of prosecco.  In keeping with the theme, we all chose the chocolate martini.  Unfortunately, this turned out to be a coffee martini.  Two of us can't stand coffee so had to swap it for the prosecco.  The two of us that do like coffee, ended up wishing they'd had the prosecco, as the martinis were unbearably sweet and didn't taste remotely of chocolate.  

The teas were from the London Tea Company, which we've had several times before.  Mo had the Assam, Charlotte had the White Tea with Elderflower and Apricot, Caroline had the Rooibos with Nutmeg and Vanilla, and Rebecca had the English Breakfast.  They were all tea bags, nice but great, and we got a pot of hot water when we asked.  However, getting the tea took some time.  For some reason, possibly because we already had cocktails, we weren't given the tea menus immediately.  We eventually asked for them but then had to wait for some time before the waitress came back to take our order.  Due to the small size of the table, we ended up balancing the menus on our laps while we were eating our sandwiches.  We didn't actually get our teas until we had started on the scones, which none of us were very happy about. 20/30

The sandwiches were less dainty and more doorstop.  There were four different ones with either brown or white bread: chicken mayonnaise; smoked salmon and dill; ham and mustard; and cucumber and cream cheese.  The fillings were all good but the bread was cut extremely thickly.  The sandwiches were presented on a separate plate rather than on the cake stand, probably because they wouldn't have been able to fit on one.  There were no refills but due to the size of the sandwiches, quantity wasn't really an issue.  18/30

The scones were medium sized and there was one fruit and one plain per person.  According to the menu, they came with cream and a 'selection of jams or chocolate praline spread'.  Our scones came with cream and strawberry jam.  For a chocoholics afternoon tea, so far there had been a surprising lack of chocolate.  The scones themselves were fairly average in taste and texture, fine but nothing special.  The jam was also fine, and we got more cream when we asked for it.  22/30
Again according to the menu, the cake stand 'overflows with chocolate goodies such as homemade cakes and miniature chocolate fancies'.  We had one chocolate macaron.  Between four of us.  There were also large slices of carrot cake and a creamy lemon gateau, as well as pistachio and coffee macarons and some miniature tarts with and indistinguishable filling, possibly something fruity.  They were all fairly good in quality, although the selection was poor and the appearance could have been better.  Our main issue was the lack of chocolate.  18/30

This particular afternoon tea had a fourth course, which was a chocolate fondue with strawberries and marshmallows to dip in it.  This was easily the best part of the meal, although there were also a few problems here.  Firstly, the chocolate was very strong and dark so if you don't like dark chocolate (which Rebecca doesn't), this wouldn't be very pleasant.  Secondly, it meant there were 3 sweet courses to one savoury.  Thirdly, afternoon tea really doesn't need to have a fourth course.  Sandwiches, scones and cakes are all very filling, so adding a fourth course means there's far too much food.  We left several of the scones, and the hotel gave us boxes to take home some of the cakes we couldn't manage to eat, which was great but not really the point of an afternoon tea. 

Overall, this was a disappointing experience.  We expected a lot more from a 'chocoholics' themed tea, especially considering the descriptions on the menu.  Apart from one chocolate macaron and the chocolate fondue, there was no chocolate in this tea.  The chocolate martini was a misnomer, the chocolate and praline spread for the scones was invisible and there wasn't even a slice of chocolate cake.  In addition to this, the service was friendly but erratic, we had to wait ages for our tea and the menu advertised the standard price as £35 for two, which made our discount voucher completely pointless.

On the plus side, the food was decent quality, the lemon and carrot cakes in particular were very nice.  Also, the quantity of food we received, as well as the martini/prosecco, definitely gave us value for money.  So, if you are thinking of going for this particular tea, go for the prosecco, don't expect much chocolate, and remember you can take some of the food away with you.

Pros                                                                              Cons
Nice Setting                                                               Awful Martini
Good Fondue                                                            Lack of Chocolate
Value for Money                                                      Inconsistent Service


6 out of 10

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Afternoon Tea Review - The Park Lane Hotel

Afternoon Tea Review - The Park Lane Hotel, £33 per person

Honorary Tea Lady Dave chose to go to the Park Lane Hotel for his birthday afternoon tea.  Tea is taken in the Palm Court, a lobby area with sofas and a bar, just past the reception.  It is a cosy, nicely decorated area and the comings and goings of the hotel guests was barely noticeable.  The seating, however, was a little awkward and designed for comfort rather than eating a meal - we had a sofa for 2, an armchair and  a pouffe.  There were only a couple of tables to sit up at, so if you're going there with someone elderly make sure you get one of these.

They had a good range of teas, which included everything we'd expect to see on a tea menu - green, white, oolong, flowering teas, herbal teas, rooibos and a good variety of black teas. Caroline had the Ceylon, Charlotte the Organic Silver Needle White Tea, Mo the Russian Caravan, and Dave the Assam.  The tea was poured for us, and although it was loose leaf, they only used two tea strainers between the four of us, which none of us were very happy about.  The quality was generally good, although the White tea was disappointing as it tasted of Jasmine, which the menu hadn't indicated.  We were given extra hot water and refills when we asked.  24/30
The sandwiches were an interesting range of crab and cucumber, coronation smoked chicken and watercress, roast beef with wasabi,  roasted and smoked salmon on pesto bread, egg and crème fraiche on carrot and herb bread and there was a vegetarian option available if needed.  We were a little disappointed that a couple of the fillings were a bit meagre, but they were generally good quality, we liked the variety in breads, and we were given refills.  26/30
The scones were served warm with cream and a choice of lemon curd, blueberry jam and raspberry jam.  There were two small scones per person, one fruit and one plain.  The quality was fine, nothing outstanding.  The jams and lemon curd were good though.  23.5/30

For the cakes, we could choose two from a selection of five: a fruit tart, a raspberry panacotta, banana and white chocolate layer cake, a chocolate rum mousse cake and a mango cream slice.  They were beautifully presented and very good quality.  There was also a nice variety in the types of cakes and definitely something to please everyone.  It was a bit disappointing only being able to choose two, but they were a nice size and definitely very tasty.  24/30
The service at the Park Lane Hotel was just right, attentive and friendly without being intrusive.  We weren't rushed at all and spent a leisurely time enjoying the occasion and the food.  The atmosphere and surroundings were lovely, we all enjoyed our time and felt we would be happy to go back.  At £33 per person, this isn't by any means the most expensive tea we've had and we think that the quality was definitely worth the price for a special occasion.

Pros                                                                              Cons
Good quality food                                                   Uncomfortable seating
Relaxed atmosphere                                               Only two cakes per person
Excellent service


8.5 out of 10

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Afternoon Tea Review - Knightsbridge Green Hotel

Knightsbridge Green Hotel - 'Luxury' afternoon tea (includes a glass of Prosecco) £26 for two with a voucher

The Knightsbridge Hotel is situated, as the name suggests, in the centre of Knightsbridge, close to Harrods and Hyde Park.  It is a small boutique hotel and would be quite easy to miss if you were just walking past, which is possibly why they decided to put their afternoon tea area in the small ground floor room at the front, with a large window looking onto the street.  This is presumably quite good advertising for them.  However, our problem with this was that the room seemed to be nowhere near the kitchen, or in fact anything else.  The reception was further down the hall, the toilets were on the second floor, and halfway through the meal the waitress vanished and we never found her again, despite Caroline going and looking for her.

At the start, we were met by a waitress, seated and given glasses of Prosecco.  The tea menu was Twinings, a fairly standard selection although we were a bit bemused to see Ceylon listed under White teas.  Mo chose the Earl Grey, Caroline had Darjeeling and Charlotte chose the Green tea.  The teas were as you would expect, decent but nothing special.  The teapots were quite small though and when we needed more hot water we couldn't find the waitress.  19/30

The cake stands arrived promptly with a selection of sandwiches, cakes and scones.  The sandwiches were triangles of egg, cucumber and cream cheese and ham, cheese and mustard.  However, we had initally been asked if anyone had any allergies or dietary requirements and because Charlotte doesn't eat red meat, she was given smoked salmon sandwiches instead of ham and cheese.  These were very nice but caused a certain amount of jealousy.  We were also a bit puzzled as to why, if smoked salmon was available, they didn't provide it automatically as it's a much more traditional sandwich for an afternoon tea, especially when this was supposed to be a 'luxury' one.  For the other sandwiches, the egg was fine, the cucumber was drowned by the cream cheese, and the ham and cheese fillings were very meagre.  The bread was either brown or white, but clearly pre-sliced shop bought.  13/30

We were given one medium-sized scone per person.  There was some disagreement over whether these were fruit or plain.  Caroline and Charlotte definitely had plain ones but Mo swore she found a raisin in hers.  The scones may once have been nice but for some reason the chef had felt the need to toast them (possibly to disguise staleness?) So they were still hot even after we'd eaten the sandwiches, causing the cream to melt.  They were also crunchy.  Distinctly unpleasant.  In addition, the cream was very poor quality, yellow in appearance and slightly grainy in texture.  11/30

The cakes were a small petit-four style selection: a round sponge with cream inside, which we initially thought was a macaroon, this was unfortunately the best one; a chocolate brownie which was dry, not particularly chocolatey and burnt on the bottom; a layered tiramisu gateau which was unremarkable; and an eclair which was stale, dry and awful.  11/30 (only because the quantity was acceptable)
From the outside, the hotel looks nice but the room we were in was small and unimpressive.  It felt more like the breakfast area in a B&B, not the afternoon tea area of a Knightsbridge hotel.  What we had of waitress service was fine but not being able to find the waitress, even when you leave the room and go looking for her, is ridiculous.  We were there in total less than an hour as we didn't want to stay.  This wasn't even value for money at £13 per person, we would rather have gone to somewhere like Paul's for a cup of tea and a cake as it would have been better.  If we had paid full price for this, we would have been complaining loudly to any member of staff we could actually find.  A meal is not 'luxury' simply because you include a glass of Prosecco, and this was nothing like luxury.  This is clearly a hotel that is trying to cash in on the trend for afternoon teas.  We advise you to stay well away.

Pros                                                                     Cons

The Prosecco was nice                                   Awful food
                                                                             Missing staff
                                                                              No atmosphere 



3 out of 10

Monday, 10 June 2013

Afternoon Tea Review - The Ritz

Afternoon Tea Review - The Ritz, London £45.00

We were excited about going to The Ritz.  It’s one of the special ones in the afternoon tea world. Tea at the Ritz has a ring to it. It’s an institution.

However, because it’s so popular they have “sittings” and we could only get a booking in the morning 11.30 and had to be out by 1pm.

The setting is beautiful, lots of gilt and mirrors and a harpist (though the menu gave a detailed description of a pianist who would be playing!).  It is a surprisingly small room though, considering how popular their afternoon tea is, which probably contributes to their need for timed sittings.

The Ritz offers 16 teas – a reasonable range but a little disappointing considering some of the other high-end places we've been to.  Mo had Earl Grey, Caroline Russian Caravan, Charlotte, Green and honorary tea lady Dave had Darjeeling. All were well brewed and came in silver plate teapots with plenty of hot water to top up.  However, the teapots were not very clean, there were visible stains and there was no offer of fresh tea at any point.  23/30

We were brought a 3 tier cake stand with sandwiches and small cakes on the top which looked a little odd.  The scones were brought separately to keep them warm. The sandwiches were mostly good and we could have refills if we wanted.  The selection was ham, cheese, cucumber, chicken, smoked salmon and egg mayonnaise – all the ones we would expect and on varied breads.  The ham was particularly nice.  However, attention to detail was a little lacking (one still has a bit of crust on!). 28/30

The scones, though warm arrived while we were eating our sandwiches, which meant they weren't that warm by the time we started on them.  There were two per person, one fruit and one plain,  with strawberry jam  and plenty of clotted cream. 22/30

There was a small quantity of cakes on the top tier of the cake stand.  They all looked very appetising and in addition we could choose a slice of cake from the cake trolley.  The waiter with the trolley insisted on our choosing these cakes even though we had only just started our scones and looked disgruntled when we asked him to come back, so we had to choose far earlier than we'd have liked.  The cakes from the trolley were good and varied, but it was all rather  rushed.    There was a banana passion fruit dessert that divided opinion!  

We weren't offered refills of the cakes or scones at any point, possibly because it was coming close to the end of our sitting and the waiting staff were obviously trying to hurry us up.  21/30

The time constraint really seemed to affect the service which at times as a little obtrusive bordering on pushy.   We were constantly being hurried - our scones were brought too early, we had to choose our cakes just as we'd started on the scones - it wasn't at all a leisurely occasion and felt more like we were part of a conveyor belt. 

In addition, the details let them down.  Crust left on, teapots with stains, our table was wobbly, and, although that was sorted out for us it still added to the lightly shoddy feel.  Men must wear a jacket and it was very warm so Dave, our honorary tea lady felt rather uncomfortable.  At the end of our time, as we waited to pay, a large crowd was gathering at the foot of the steps leading to the tea room, waiting for the next session, which meant we were being watched as we finished our meal.  Also there are only 3 cubicles in the (very lovely) ladies’ toilets, which meant that we were delayed paying the bill as Caroline got stuck in the queue for nearly 15 minutes.  This may seem nit picking and petty but it IS the Ritz and we expected better.  The setting is lovely and it is nice to be able to say “Tea at the Ritz” but it falls short of the high standards it claims for itself and it is necessary to point that out.

On the whole, we were disappointed.  We expected better and we didn't feel the Ritz offered value for money.  We feel that you are paying more for the name than for the experience itself, so although it is nice to say we've had tea at the Ritz, we wouldn't choose to go back there.

Pros                                                                                      Cons

Nice Setting                                                                      Pushy staff, bordering on rude

It IS The Ritz                                                                    Time Constraints


8 out of 10