It’s nearly Christmas and last week, I kicked off the Festive Season with my first Festive Afternoon Tea at the Café Royal Hotel. Christmas is a special time of the year and it’s my favourite time of the year. For me, it all starts on the 1st of December, London takes on a magical feeling festooned with lights, wreaths, beautifully dressed trees and hotels looking even more inviting with fireplaces flickering and the twinkling of lights.
As soon as hotels in London release their Festive Afternoon Teas, I know it’s Christmas and with that in mind, I was looking forward to going back to one of my favourite hotels, The Café Royal. Since this iconic venue became a hotel in 2012, I’ve looked forward to a visit or two throughout the year. It has a special place in my heart as it’s where my husband and I got married and we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary back at the hotel, we were both impressed with its ultra-cool contemporary style and understated glamour. As if it wasn’t stunning enough, the Café Royal underwent some restoration work recently, subtle changes with a new lobby and its restaurants now located on the mezzanine level.
The Oscar Wilde Bar has remained as it always was because as with the rest of the hotel, it’s a grade 11 listed building which protects its architecturally significant fixtures and fittings, it’s an opulent space named after its most famous habitué, rich in gold and red velvet, dazzling mirrors and frescoed ceilings. My last Afternoon Tea here was a new concept, the hotel had collaborated with Diptque to bring an unusual sensory experience, so I knew I would be in for a treat as their Festive Tea brings new fragrance and taste combinations together inspired by winter berries and spices so popular this time of year.
As before, I was seated in between Oscar Wildes’ and Princess Dianas’ favourite tables, I could almost see and hear them and imagine them sitting here and enjoying themselves in this historic room.
I chose to have the full works as I did the last time I was here, this includes a glass of champagne and a mini Diptyque candle and if it’s the same one as last time, you’re in for a real treat if you decide to choose the same package as I did.
My Afternoon Tea began with a glass of N.V Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut champagne which was poured from a great height as it maximises the bubbles in the champagne! it’s as lovely as ever, by now, you know it’s my favourite tipple.
The menu sounded so enticing and I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.
English cucumber, rose pepper and cinnamon
Keen’s cheddar cheese, sweet & sour pickle
H.Forman smoked salmon, wild fennel pollen
Bronze turkey, pickled cranberry
Atlantic prawn cocktail in a brioche bun
To begin with, you start with the Amuse Bouche which is a Stilton mousse with walnut and pickled pear muffin which is a lovely little appetiser, Stilton is very much a cheese that appears on many cheeseboards especially over Christmas and this little morsel was a great match to my champagne. The tea that I chose was English Breakfast followed by Rosebud to go accompany the sweet course.
The sandwiches were just beautiful, they were probably the freshest sandwiches I’ve ever had and can give those in the famous Ritz Hotel Afternoon Tea a run for their money. The egg sandwich is one of my favourites but sadly doesn’t appear on the Festive menu. However, after chatting to my waitress about egg being my favourite, she told me all about the Café Royal’s truffle egg and garlic sandwich which is sometimes in their regular Afternoon Tea menu, I knew I had to try it and before I could say anymore, she had ordered one especially made for me. It was one of the most divine sandwiches I’d ever eaten, egg with truffle is a perfect combination of delicate flavours, slightly earthy with the merest hint of garlic!
The salmon was served in a bread I had never seen or heard of before, charcoal bread! My waitress saw the amusement in my face when I examined this very dark, almost black sandwich but she told me that though quite flavourless, the secret is that the charcoal in the bread has antiseptic properties and brings out the flavour of the salmon and fennel, she was right.
The cheese and pickle along with the egg were probably my favourite sandwiches, Keen’s cheddar was served on poppy seed bread and was incredibly nutty in texture and flavour, I’d say there were nuts in the pickle, but I couldn’t be sure if the nuttiness came from that or the poppy seeds in the bread, I definitely had another one of those. Probably my least favourite was the prawns in brioche roll, I just felt it was lacking in flavour and a little bit bland. The rest of the sandwiches were incredibly delicious, the bread was the star for me, so often I have Afternoon Tea with sandwiches that are dry around the edges or just feel that they’ve been sitting around a little bit too long but not here at the Café Royal, they were excellent, light as a feather and super soft.
The pianist was playing soothing music in the background and the Oscar Wilde bar relatively quiet at the 11:30 am sitting as you’d expect was slowly filling up during my Afternoon Tea. The subdued lighting often makes it difficult to take good quality photos (apologies for that) but it sets the tone in this beautifully ornate room. There is small lamp on each table and the china is contemporary and simple. Cakes are served on a stand with slates taking the place of plates.
Trying not to get too full, I refuse anymore of the very delicious sandwiches and move on to the scones. Always traditional, these were huge and as fluffy as clouds served with the most indulgent clotted cream and strawberry jam. I was also served a palate cleanser and as last time, in the form of a cold fruity hibiscus tea and to my surprise, a slate plate with “welcome back” and in the corner, a mound of flaked and grated chocolate topped with two creamy salted caramel chocolates, it was a lovey touch.
Yuzu & Mandarin Choux
Spiced Plum Tart with Orange Cream
Tonka Bean & Cherry Chocolate Bar
Blackcurrant Financier with Chestnut Cream
All the cakes were beautifully festive to look at, vivid greens, orange and red bursting with Christmassy flavours. The cakes were delicious and imaginative, my favourite though was the cherry chocolate bar and what I liked most about it was that the intensity of the chocolate was balanced perfectly so that it wasn’t too sickly rich. The financier with chestnut cream was also delicious. If I had to pick my least favourite cake, it would be the Yuzu Choux which looked amazing, like a giant snowball with the flaked coconut but I’m not a lover of yuzu and when combined with the citrussy mandarins, I found it all a bit too acidic.
To my surprise, I managed to finish almost everything and what’s so nice is that Afternoon Tea at the Café Royal is not a rushed affair. This means that you can take as much time between all the courses to recover, Afternoon Tea should be languished and enjoyed at a slow pace, I was here for at least two hours and when in a group, up to three hours is normal, who wants to rush this Great British Institution that is our Afternoon Tea.
I loved the Café Royal’s take on Festive Afternoon Tea, it was imaginative and beautiful, the whole experience was an absolute pleasure. The hotel really knows how to look after you, they definitely put me in the Festive mood. I was able to go and have a look at the new hotel lobby which use to be the Ten Restaurant which is where we ate dinner when we stayed overnight two years ago. It’s a fabulous hotel steps from Piccadilly, there’s no better location and there is no better place to kick start your Christmas festivities than to come to the CaféRoyal to enjoy their Diptyque Festive Afternoon Tea.
Festive Afternoon Tea £55
With a glass of N.V Veuve Cliquot Brut Champagne £65
With Diptyque Gift £70
With Diptyue gift & a glass of N.V Veuve Yellow Label Brut £80
I chose the last package with champagne and gift and my experience cost £90 which includes 12.5% service.
All photo’s and opinions my own.
Hotel Café Royal
68 Regent Street
London W1B 4DY
020 7406 3310