There’s nothing quite like Afternoon Tea especially when it’s a Festive Afternoon Tea and there is nowhere more magical than London at Christmastime. It’s not just because of the way our luxurious hotels are dressed during this time of year but it’s the extra special festive celebrations that all our five star deluxe hotels pride themselves in providing and that includes Afternoon Tea.
Festive Afternoon Tea is planned with such finesse, every little detail has to be perfect, it comes with carol singers as seen at the Ritz Hotel and Claridge’s or more understated in the form of live piano music evident at my favourite Savoy Hotel. The glitzy shiny Ritz is famous for “putting on the Ritz” and exquisite art deco jewel Claridge’s comes to life at Christmas but the elegant and classy Savoy will always have a special place in my heart since our extraordinary stay in May where we celebrated our weddinganniversary. From the Savoy’s elegant mix of Edwardian gliding seamlessly with glamorous art deco to it’s old school glamour and classic elegance, it’s me right down to a Tea pardon the pun; it was good to be back at the Savoy and feeling a part of the “Savoy Family” the hotel’s slogan which is so intimate and welcoming.
The hotel has truly outdone themselves in the way they have dressed the hotel for this festive season. The entrance to the hotel is resplendent with greenery and gold presents and sitting above the Savoy “sign” are some cute mini Christmas trees but surely the highlight must be the magnificent Christmas tree in the lobby beautifully bedecked which this year is partnered with the famous old English perfume house Penhaligon’s who are bringing the sights, scents and tastes of a Victorian London, my favourite part of history; Penhaligon’s is a personal favourite, perfumes I have revisited over the last 30 years again and again.
I was so excited to be having Afternoon Tea here as when we stayed in May, we didn’t indulge in this lovely treat but all the better because I get to enjoy the Savoy’s Festive Afternoon Tea. The Thames Foyer is breath-taking just as it was when I first saw it in May but at Christmas, it’s suddenly even more exquisite and dazzling, full of festive magic with the gazebo festooned with strings of fairly lights and white foliage, the piano sitting proudly inside. It’s the heart of this stunning room.
I felt quite special to be escorted to my table, just to sit down and take in the atmosphere, I was literally in awe of the magnificence of the Savoy at Christmas. My benevolent waitress Katalina couldn’t do enough for me, she was wonderful and started out by explaining the choice of either High Tea or Festive Tea and the different choices of tea. I have now decided not to experiment with my choice of tea for the first course (sandwiches) I like to stick to English Breakfast tea, I think it’s a match made in heaven, but I like to experiment when the sweet course arrives and Katalina mentioned a beautiful fragrant rose tea which was something very adventurous for me, I couldn’t wait to try that.
I was very kindly offered a complimentary glass of Louis Roederer vintage champagne which arrived in a beautiful, delicate, intricately designed champagne flute which was such a lovely touch, it’s moments like this, that extra special touch that make you feel that you matter just as much as anyone else even if you are here for a little while.
The hotel ought to be congratulated on their outstanding customer service, again, I felt part of the Savoy Family. Tea arrived shortly after followed by a traditional china tiered stand beautifully adorned with violet flowers, it reminded me of having breakfast here when we stayed in May as the morning pastries arrived on a similar stand. It was laden with the most appetising delicate sandwiches in the centre with the jam and clotted cream beneath and the scones above.
The finger sandwiches were Scottish smoked salmon with lemon infused crème fraiche and watercress on Norfolk crunch bread. Sometimes I find salmon to be too strong therefore a bit offensive, but this was delicate and mild, of course I had two of these. I also enjoyed double helpings of Coronation chicken which was served on olive bread, not being a lover of olives, I found this surprisingly delicious, in fact, I would go as far as saying as these were one of my favourites because the spicing was punchy unlike the mild nothingness you usually get with Coronation chicken.
The other offerings were sliced cucumber and crème cheese with mint on caraway bread, not at all bland unlike some cucumber sandwiches, the classic but favourite egg salad with watercress always best served on white bread in my opinion as it was today and Wiltshire ham with Bromley apple and cider chutney and pickled cucumbers with grain mustard on wholemeal bread, an unusual but nonetheless delicious sandwich. The Savoy do not serve an amouse bouche which I have grown quite accustomed to but that did not disappoint in any way at all.
I was beginning to feel rather full, so I only had one scone and I had half of the fruit scone because it was flavoured with festive spices to continue the Festive Afternoon Tea theme, they reminded me of mini Hot Cross Buns! As well as unctuous clotted cream which was almost whipped in texture and rich Christmas strawberry jam (I didn’t ask but I have a feeling the jam was laced with champagne) the Savoy had alongside these a delicious zingy citrus orange curd which complemented the fruity spicy scones.
Wow, I was fit to burst but a trip to the ladies and a little time between the sandwiches and scones plus perhaps a button or two undone on the skirt helped a bit, so I was as ready as can be for the pastry course.
These were displayed on a silver platter with a waitress serving you a choice of some or all the sweets on offer which were a mulled wine éclair with mulled pears and chocolate cremeux which I loved, a dinky Christmas tree made from a Granny Smith apple jelly with brandy mousse and gingerbread cookie which was my another favourite, a cranberry pie reminiscent of a mince pie with an Earl Grey flavoured pastry and a white chocolate Chantilly cream, a Yule log with chestnut sponge filled with vanilla cream and Clementine jelly and finally an orange marmalade Battenberg cake with plain and chocolate sponges and marzipan.
I chose one of each of these delicate delights, to try all of them is a must even if it’s to have a few bites to know what each one is like. Sometimes our eyes are wider than our stomachs and we tend to overfill on the sandwiches because they are just so delicious so by the time you come to the sweets, you can be quite full, a lesson learnt for next time!
A waiter in top hat and tails brought over my rose tea, to give it it’s proper name, a herbal tea of Whole Rose Buds – light, graceful, heady aromas of rose within a refreshingly light liquid with a highly perfumed dreamy aftertaste, every time someone walked past, a gentle aroma of rose engulfed my table. I was so surprised by my love of this tea which can be bought from the Savoy’s shop in the foyer, the tea really is made with real rose buds which you can see from the photo below.
I was so taken aback when I was offered a complimentary pack of this gorgeous scented tea to take home with me.
During my two or so hours at the Savoy which was probably a quarter full when I arrived at 1:00pm but by the time I left, the enchanting Thames Foyer was completely full of diners enjoying their Festive Afternoon Tea all chattering away, the anticipation of what was to come firmly on their lips, the pianist on the dot at 2:00pm tinkling the ivories with gentle melodies and traditional festive tunes added a whimsical ambience. I had a magnificent time at the Savoy, once again, I was made to feel so special and important and that counts for a lot in my book, Festive Afternoon Tea in any of London’s luxury hotels is a must over the Christmas period and none more so than at the Savoy, I guarantee you will leave feeling on top of the world, full of festive spirit and more importantly, that you are part of the very special “Savoy Family” I cannot wait to return to my favourite hotel and experience the magic once again.
My champagne was complementary, and I was gifted a box of Whole Rose Buds Tea, opinions and photos are my own.
The Savoy Hotel