hotel cafe royal afternoon tea 3
I have frequented Hotel Cafe Royal a number of times over the past two years and each visit – inclusive of afternoon teas, dinners, champagne and caviar excursions, et all – has been a pleasure.

Nothing, however, prepared me for this afternoon tea. Swapping the Ten Room for the gold-dipped Oscar Wilde Bar, Chef Andrew Turner’s newly-launched London High Society afternoon tea menu ticked every opulent box you could imagine.

I would endeavour to put the Oscar Wilde into words, but you simply have to experience it for yourself. ‘Royal’ is an understatement.

Settled in among a hidden congregation of fellow afternoon gluttons, The Manfriend and I cheersed our glasses of Veuve Clicquot and perused the tea menu before the amuse bouche was served. The ‘Low Sidecar Muffin’ was a fluffy and savoury delight accented by truffled cream cheese and a miniature pipette of jus.

Shortly thereafter, my pot of Queensbury (a refreshing, herbal infusion of lemongrass, fennel seed
and liquorice root) arrived alongside three tiers of savouries. For each person, there was a wild boar, crackling, pickled apple and mustard bun, a goat’s cheese puff with wine jelly, a Mary Rose prawn cocktail canape, a London Cure smoked salmon and quail’s egg pastry, and an artfully presented “Cucumber and cream cheese” sandwich…

…all preceeding a palate cleanser of chocolate marshmallows and a shot of fruit tea, of course.

Pausing to take a mid-tea teabreak (oh yes, there’s more) while the pianist tinkled the ivories to a few familiar melodies, we finished our pots and welcomed the sweets and scones with open plates.

Though neither of us has a particular sweet tooth, we are veritable SconeHeads so chatted, jammed, and clotted-creamed our way through the small basket of fresh scones between bites of the other fruit-filled treats.

High points: Absinthe green fairy macarons, edible flower pots, and individual tubes of lemon curd.

High society may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Cafe Royal’s edible version is instinctively praise-worthy.

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hotel cafe royal afternoon tea 8
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Cafe Royal Afternoon Tea
Every time I enter Cafe Royal I get a little wave of excitement. Gliding through the restored historical entrance and into the informal (yet stunning) Ten Room, last week’s weekend visit was arranged to taste test their Savoury Afternoon Tea.

As their menu says, “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” – Henry James, Portrait of a Lady.

Kicking things off with a glass of Tattinger Champagne (darling), high tea officially starts with a plate of toasted crumpets, Ford Farm Cheddar cheese and celery followed by a second course of scrambled free range hen’s egg with London Cure smoked salmon. Though both plates were a welcome change from traditional teas, I know of no appetite that would be able to stomach all that was on offer (note: at this point, the ‘tea’ has yet to begin). Next visit, I will save myself for the big bang; the three-tiered afternoon tea.

Tier One features a selection of classic afternoon tea sandwiches (Wiltshire smoked ham and English mustard, London Cure smoked salmon and horseradish on rye, Free range hen’s egg and cress, and Cucumber and cream cheese) while tier two features freshly baked traditional plain or golden raisin scones served with Devonshire clotted cream, strawberry jam, and lemon curd.

By sweet-toothed standards, I highly recommend jumping from tier to tier so you don’t fill up before getting to the selection of speciality mini pastries and classic cakes. Either that, or continue drinking until you’re hungry again. You have my permission, lushes.

Cafe Royal Afternoon Tea
Cafe Royal Afternoon Tea
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ten room cafe royal
Though Hotel Café Royal has been something of an institution for London’s big hitters for over one-hundred years, a complete overhaul of the space siren-sung me into checking out the hotel’s renovated culinary scene. First, Ten Room, their all-day brasserie.

Occupying what I expect was Café Royal’s former lobby, Ten Room has been reworked as a double-height foyer with spacious tables and red banquettes scattered underneath a palatial mezzanine balcony. Expressing ‘Café Royal’s transition from its famed past to its cosmopolitan present’, executive chef Andrew Turner (Wilton’s) has created an extensive menu of brasserie bests mixed with a few flourishes of razzle dazzle.

Settled in with my lovely lady friend, we were welcomed by a delightful amuse bouche of mushroom ravioli veloutée with truffle oil before deciding on two very different starters. In my corner, a very generously-sized terrine of duck Foie Gras with white grape chutney and rocket (£15) served alongside a slice of toasted brioche. In hers, Loch Duart salmon – cured – with pickled cucumber and ginger (£9). Both dishes were faultless, simple, and refined in the way a starter should be.

Unfortunately, one of our mains did not cut the gravy. My dining companion fared better than myself, ordering a salt-cured shoulder of English lamb with sweetbreads, onions, Paris mushrooms and thyme from lunch menu; one of the most understated and piquant balances of lamb on any plate I have been served in London. For my own main, I ordered veal cutlet Holstein with capers, anchovies and soy beurre noisette thinking that a little something special would be added to the old-fashioned dish to justify its £27 price tag. There wasn’t. While the dish was not bad, per se, there was very little fat (if any) trimmed from the veal itself which made the Holstein, everything considered, too stodgy to warrant a thumbs up.

Be that as it may, the dessert selection confirmed my speculations; the Holstein is a blip on an otherwise remarkable radar. After a small taster of their devilishly sweet brown sugar tart, we ordered their moelleux of Amedei chocolate with caramelised milk ice cream (exemplary at £8) and a coconut sorbet – served as a coconut itself – alongside roasted king pineapple with chilli and rum (£7) which wowed with the most impossibly spirited flavour mash-up.

Ending with petits fours secs (macarons!), glacés (salted caramel!) and tea, I found myself eager to return to the Ten Room in the coming weeks. In this case, one less-than-stellar dish has lost them no brownie points.

ten room cafe royal
ten room cafe royal
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