I had the pleasure of visiting St Ermin’s Hotel about three years ago for a playful Afternoon Tea centred around children, it was around the end of the summer term so I took my daughter who was then 12. I remember being impressed by the hotel’s beautiful terrace, part of St Ermin’s Tea Lounge where Afternoon Tea is taken in the summertime. The Tea Lounge creates an air of warmth and repose with it’s warm tones and fabrics, I was really looking forward to my honey inspired Afternoon Tea.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE HOTEL
St Ermin’s is a hotel full of history dating right back to the 15th century. It was built upon the site of a 15th century chapel dedicated to St Ermin. In the mid to late 19th century, the city of Westminster underwent many changes resulting in the creation of St Ermin’s Mansions by E.T. Hall in 1889, the building that now forms St Ermin’s Hotel. In 1899 saw the building being converted into a hotel with extensive renovations overseen by famed Victorian theatre designer J.P. Briggs. He created a collection of outstanding reception rooms and rich plasterwork, his craftsmanship was second to none, in fact, the hotel’s centre piece is undoubtedly the magnificent sweeping staircase reminiscent of our Victorian theatres. St Ermin’s Hotel continues to play an important part in London’s history, whether true or not, it’s rumoured that a tunnel runs underneath the grand staircase in the Lobby all the way to the houses of Westminster!! You can have a look at an original hotel brochure from the 19th century here, courtesy of the hotel.
The hotel is certainly magnificent and as you approach it’s long tree-lined courtyard, it’s simply awe-inspiring. Inside the hotel, the lobby and the grand centre staircase is reminiscent of the homes in America’s Deep South almost reminding me of the scene in the iconic and much-loved film GonewiththeWind, one can almost imagine Rhett Butler greeting Scarlett O’ Hara at the foot of this beautiful staircase. It’s décor is certainly not what I have seen before in London’s hotels, it’s flooded with natural light and brightness especially because the breathtaking staircase is white rather than the usual wood you find in most hotels. It’s full of shiny marble and a striking opulent patterned carpet, it’s aesthetics are definitely pleasing to the eye.
Photo of the hotel lobby above by Tim Fordham-Moss
ST ERMIN’S BEE AND BEE HOTEL
What’s more, it’s the only hotel that I know of that has it’s very own beehive aptly called “Bee and Bee Hotel” is it any wonder that their Afternoon Tea is called Honey Afternoon Tea. Nestling on the third floor of the hotel are hexagonal suites that offer a large variety of bees a comfortable home, bamboo nesting areas are more suited to solitary bees whereas the boxes are more suited to the social varieties of bee. The “Bee” hotel draws on St Ermin’s ethos that everyone is welcome to their establishment and that includes the bees and other insects such as ladybirds, earwigs and spiders, they can rest in peace amongst the crevice stacks. If you take the lift to the third floor, you can watch the hotel’s 350,000 bees from behind the safety of glass and watch how these insects go about their daily job of making honey. The honey produced is used by the hotel for breakfast and in the kitchen when producing such wonderful delicacies seen in their honey Afternoon Tea. I’m told by the hotel that there isn’t the quantity needed to produce enough honey for sale which is unfortunate as it would be lovely to have a jar of honey made by St Ermin’s honey bees.
Photos courtesy of the hotel.
THE HONEY AFTERNOON TEA
That being said, I was very fortunate to enjoy a really yummy honey inspired Afternoon Tea at the hotel on a miserable Monday lunch time, it certainly chased Monday Morning Blue’s away.
I was seated in the hotel’s St Ermin’s Tea Lounge, a beautiful room, bright and warm at the same time, elaborate yellow fabric sofa’s, they were some of the most comfortable sofa chairs I had ever sat on. It’s a cosy tea lounge reflecting the calm sophisticated ambience of the hotel.
My Afternoon Tea was complimented with bottomless prosecco which is always such a nice treat. I started off with a glass of this creamy coloured fizz and sat back in the comfort of my plush chair waiting for my tea and sandwiches to arrive.
I decided on my usual English Breakfast tea and I would finish off with Jasmine when the cakes arrived. My tea arrived with a tea timer, I associate these old fashioned sand timers with cooking eggs however I was told that the different coloured sand denotes to the type of tea you are having so therefore a green, herbal and other light teas is timed by the green sand which is three minutes because it brews in less time than traditional black tea so my timer was set at five minutes. My tea was perfectly brewed.
Shortly after, a tier of not just sandwiches but the cakes at the same time, I thought this rather unusual but every hotel has it’s own unique style.
They were a selection of smoked salmon on white bread with crème fraiche and cucumber, goats cheese roll with apricot chutney, almond flakes and bee pollen, glazed pork loin with oak smoked cheddar, caramelised onion and watercress on rye bread, cottage cheese roll with carrots, sultanas, shallots and honey truffle sauce and finally, honey and mustard chicken with red cabbage coleslaw in a mini brioche bun. I have to say, they were all gorgeous even the goats cheese which I’m not a lover of, it surely has something to do with the sweetness of the added bee pollen. If I had to pick a favourite it would be the delicious honey mustard chicken with coleslaw in brioche bun. The most unusual of all was the glazed pork loin which was served on rye bread, you’d imagine rye to be brown, well this was dark brown and looked exactly like a sandwich made of “chocolate bread”.
Again, I’m not really a lover of rye, usually a dense bread, this was unexpectedly light and deliciously nutty. If I had to fault anything, it would be that the sandwiches were not replenished, something that is customary in the ritual of Afternoon Tea, I don’t know why not so at St Ermin’s but in all honesty, at least I’d have plenty of room for the scones and cakes. All the while, my prosecco was topped up, I think all in all, I must have consumed a very naughty three or four glasses!
Scones arrived separately in a wicker basket, they were quite small in size but that didn’t take away from the flavour and texture, soft, light and fluffy accompanied though by rather sloppy “clotted cream” and jam. Cornish clotted cream is always a very rich, almost yellow in colour very thick, it certainly does not run off scones as it in this case and so did the jam which was equally runny. However the delicious honey inspired cakes more than made up for this oversight.
Very sloppy and runny cream and jam, I felt it too runny to be proper clotted cream but still tasted nice.
I also changed teas to have jasmine tea, heady in fragrance and lightly floral in flavour, it really complemented the honey in the cakes. On display were a Mini Bee Hive – orange yoghurt mousse and honey sponge, a Chocolate and Espresso cup because we all love chocolate don’t we! Honey and Lemon Cheesecake on a sesame praline base, Burnt Honey Jelly with jasmine panna cotta topped with granola and finally a Matcha Sponge with yuzu and honey crème mousseline and blackberry jelly.
Definitely my favourite of the desserts, burnt honey jelly, jasmine panna cotta & granola.
The one thing I was very surprised about was the lack of palate cleanser, something I have seen in all the Afternoon Teas I’ve had so far, I’ve grown quite accustomed to enjoying these usually zingy refreshing cold teas, granita or jelly. The cakes were equally delicious and because I didn’t overfill on sandwiches, I enjoyed each and every one. I think my absolute favourite had to be the burnt honey jelly with jasmine panna cotta and granola, it was served in a really cute shot glass and so sublime, because I was having jasmine tea, it brought out the flavour of the panna cotta which was infused with jasmine.
My other favourite was the honey and lemon cheesecake and what brought it to life was the sesame praline base, it tasted completely of the very Middle Eastern treat Sesame Snaps, this was a treat I remember having on my childhood family holidays to Cyprus where my parents come from.
The other favourite of the day was the honey & lemon cheesecake on sweet crunchy sesame praline base.
I really enjoyed my Honey Afternoon Tea and I was also really impressed with St Ermin’s Hotel. I forgot to mention that the hotel has a very good restaurant called the CaxtonGrill which encompasses a bar and an outdoor terrace, fabulous for al fresco dining in the summer months. My waitress was really lovely and friendly and perfectly knowledgeable on the Afternoon Tea, I felt very much at home at StErmin’s and it’s somewhere I would definitely go to again. Especially for an overnight stay. For a hotel in Central London, I found Afternoon Tea to be very affordable too. Afternoon Tea is from £29 and £35 for unlimited prosecco. Make your way to St James’s and treat yourself to their Afternoon Tea and don’t forget to visit the honey bees on the third floor.
Photo of the courtyard of the hotel in the evening, by photographer Tim Fordham-Moss
St Ermin’s Hotel
2 Caxton Street
020 7222 7888