The Café Royal is a place very close to my heart as it’s here where my husband and I celebrated our marriage all the way back in May 1991 when it was simply the Café Royal, a venue for parties, banquets, meetings and a place to enjoy dinner and drinks, you can read my post on coming back to the Cafe Royal to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary here. The Café Royal became a hotel a few years ago in December 2012 after it underwent extensive restoration when it closed in 2008. It is now a luxurious 160 room 5* Deluxe Hotel. The hotel was created by a French wine merchant in 1863 who came to London from France to escape the clutches of his creditors. It was simply a large venue, a meeting place to enjoy fine French wine, it soon became one of the places to be seen and frequented by literary legends such as Rudyard Kipling, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and H G Wells as well as Royalty, Princess Diana was a frequent guest, HRH Edward and Mrs Simpson as well as many celebrities, Louis Armstrong, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Brigitte Bardot, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton to name but a few.
After our Anniversary stay last year, I knew I wanted to come back for Afternoon Tea since we didn’t book this when we stayed. Afternoon Tea is served in the Oscar Wilde Bar named after probably it’s most famous literary visitor, OscarWilde, here is where he met his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas. This opulent and magnificent room retains all it’s original features and looks just the same as it did all those years ago when we would return to the Café Royal to celebrate our first Wedding Anniversary at what was then the Grill Room. It’s a majestic room very much reminiscent of French Baroque style, the Palace of Versailles, of course the lavishness and grandeur of Louis XIV with it’s gilded gold opulence, plush red velvet sofas and paintings which adorn the Oscar Wilde Bars’ walls and ceilings, it’s a sight to behold.
I first had Afternoon Tea here a few weeks ago with my daughter and so impressed was I that I wanted to return the moment I heard that the Café Royal were collaborating with the French perfume company, Diptyque. If you’re a lover of perfume and home fragrance, you’ll have heard of Diptyque, the legendary perfume house born in Paris’ Boulevard Saint-Germian in 1961 and has since gained status as one of the world’s leading French perfume brands. This is why I was so excited at the prospect of trying their collaborated Tea with the Café Royal, how would it work? Well it certainly does! When you arrive you are given the menu where of course, you can simply choose the usual Afternoon Tea or the Diptyque offering at £42, for £60, you take away a beautiful Diptyque gift and for £5 extra, you get to enjoy a glass of Laurent-Perrier champagne. Of course being a lover of all champagne, I most definitely chose that one at £65.
The service is impeccable at the Café Royal; the waitress sat down with me and guided me through their extensive tea’s and all about the menu, the sandwiches and cakes on offer, it’s a testament to the hotels’ hospitality and status which can definitely rival the likes of the Savoy and the Ritz. My waitress sat me at the end of the Oscar Wilde Bar and proceeded to tell me that I was sitting at the late Diana Princess of Wales’ favourite table and next to Oscar Wilde’s table where he met his lover! I was suitably impressed and could really sense something I can’t quite define, it was quite emotional to know Princess Diana sat where I was.
Shortly arrived the champagne, the rush of bubbles that hits the throat is so welcome, I adore champagne and wonder why I can’t have many mini bottles at home to have as and when I please without having to open a big bottle and face the outcry that would surely come when hubby got home. Of course, I chose English Breakfast tea and decided I would again have jasmine tea when the cakes arrived. The sandwiches arrived on a classic tiered stand but very simple and striking with the silver handle against white china plates which was laden with really appetising sandwiches. When my daughter and I were here in August, we commented on how lovely and fresh the sandwiches were unlike a place we recently had Afternoon Tea at, she was pleased to be eating really fresh and tasty sandwiches with springy bouncy bread and I was reminded of that yet again when I was enjoying my sandwiches this time around.
Taking on the scents guided by Diptque’s fragrances, the selection of sandwiches were English cucumber and rose pepper cream cheese which was an interesting one, Burford brown eggs and tarragon mayonnaise, the addition of tarragon which I love gave these sandwiches a lift from the usual egg and mustard cress, I think these and the chicken were my favourite. Also, Cotswold chicken and lemon verbena, verbena having a very lemony scent and used in many scented candles including Diptyques, it really worked and elevated the humble chicken sandwich to something quite special, naturally I had more egg and tarragon and chicken verbena sandwiches when I was asked if I wanted more, as with many establishments, sandwiches are always replenished. The final sandwich was roast Aberdeen Angus beef with watercress and horseradish, I was delighted to be eating a beef sandwich as I find they are sadly missing in many Afternoon Teas in favour of more up to date fillings but I am a sucker for tradition so I loved these.
The most delectable sandwiches and ingenious apple muffin complete with pipette full of apple juice!
I mustn’t forget to tell you how ingenious the Café Royal’s Amuse Bouche is, a muffin and I hear you ask, a muffin? Indeed but it is a goat’s cheese and pickled apple muffin with a pipette of apple juice inserted in it and the idea is that you squeeze the apple juice from the pipette into the muffin which is then bathed in sweet apple juice which just adds the most delicious moistness to a usually dry muffin and not being a lover of goat’s cheese which I find too strong and offensive, this clever idea of a pippette full of apple juice just takes the edge of this strong cheese.
Suitably impressed but not surprisingly so as this was the Café Royal after all and because I knew my previous experience was fantastic, I knew I was in for a treat when the cakes arrived. Before the cakes, I was given a palate cleanser which has become customary now and this was in the form of a lychee and rose cold tea which you can actually purchase from the Café Royal as stipulated in the brochure. I didn’t buy on this occasion but it is definitely something I will do whenever I am passing by the Café Royal and would make great stocking fillers at Christmas.
Lychee and Rose iced tea, palate cleanser.
The cakes made an appearance on a slate tiered stand, I’ve never had that at a hotel before, but it’s quite striking and sitting majestically on each one were the scones and cakes. Carrying on the Diptyque theme, four stunning cakes with unusual additions to bring out the flavour of the cakes and in keeping with Diptyques fragrances. We have Rose Victoria, Tahitian Vanilla bar, Violet and Cassis tart and Lemon Verbena again which is an absolute favourite of mine and of course the delectable scones which were so pillowy soft and light as a feather. I judge scones by how high they are and these were just right and with a lovely shiny gold gloss to them served with Cornish clotted cream so unctuous and rich, perfect with the strawberry jam. I need to ask, are you a jam and then cream person or cream and then jam? Personally, I am a cream then jam “sconer” I do it the proper Devonshire way, cream first then jam whereas the Cornish prefer to jam then cream! There is currently an on going disagreement about the correct etiquette but for me, it’s simply less messy to add the rich cream (which slides off the jam) then top with a little jam, it’s easier to control the amount you use in my personal opinion, all I know, whichever method you use, it all goes down the same way! – lovely!
I know, what a mess, that’s because I did jam and then cream trying to be proper Cornish, I failed as you can see so from now on, it’s cream and then jam for me the way Devonians do!
Whilst enjoying Afternoon Tea here at the Café Royal you are serenaded with the most dreamy piano music, some tunes I recognised, other’s I really wanted to ask the pianist about the music and who the composer was, such was the beauty of the gently soothing piano music lending a calming and relaxing ambience to the Oscar Wilde Bar, I am sure the man himself would also approve if he were here.
Apologies for the slightly out of focus photos, the dim lighting makes it extra hard to capture a good shot but you can see how delicious everything is.
Back to the cakes, each was a stroke of genius, the rose flavoured Victoria sponge was exquisite, very unusual in shape but the essence of what makes the Victoria sponge so popular was not lost. I love the flavour of rose and often cook with it, it’s very much used in Mediterranean desserts and this cake showcased rose in all it’s glory. The Tahitian vanilla bar was delicate in flavour and texture and then we have the boldness of the violet and cassis tart which was really delicious. The lemon verbena was a kind of take on the famous lemon tart which was lovely and sharp and ever so slightly different with the addition of lemon verbena. If I had easy access to the verbena plant, I would definitely use it in recipes. The inspiration behind these cakes as I said before is Diptyque and all the flavours in these cakes are used in their gorgeous home candles and perfumes. During the cake course, I opted to have Jasmine tea which was light and fragrant, it really complemented the floral inspired cakes, only thing was it got over brewed quite quickly and I feel how the Rosewood Hotel served their Jasmine tea was so clever, they allowed it to brew and then decanted it into another teapot. A suggestion perhaps for next time.
My gorgeous and indulgent Afternoon Tea was sadly coming to an end but before I left, I popped out of the double doors to where the ladies were and up along the stair case, lots of photos of all the film starts and celebrities who have visited the Café Royal over the years, I definitely recommend you to take a peak next time you’re here.
I will say that the ritual of Afternoon Tea is expressed in the most delightful and impressive way here at the CaféRoyal with expert waiters and waitresses only too pleased to assist in any way possible in a beautiful ornate and historic room with the most romantic ambience. Might I also add that the Cafe Royal have recently been awarded Best Traditional Afternoon Tea in the UK in the 2017 Afternoon Tea Awards, a testament to the talents of it’s Executive Pastry Chef, Sarah Barber, an even better reason to visit.
I was given a cute Diptyque bag containing a 70g size candle in Bulgarian Rose with notes of blackcurrant leaves and a couple of miniature perfumes, this will be most welcome at home and each time I light it, it will remind me of this marvellous Afternoon Tea. If you’re a lover of fine things, a philocalist and appreciate beauty in all it’s forms both visually and culinarily, you must make the Café Royal your next destination.
The Café Royal Hotel
68 Regent Street
London W1B 4DY
020 7406 3333
All photos and reviews are my own.