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Anyone for Tea?
Member Name: garymarsh6
Date: 06/09/11, updated on 07/09/11 (167 review reads)
Advantages: Refined indulgence in a delightful 'olde World' luxury tea room.
Disadvantages: Being ignored by the waiting staff.
Following our visit to Buckingham Palace we headed off to Brown's Hotel in Albemarle Street in Mayfair for afternoon tea. Brown's is supposed to be the epitome of Afternoon tea and has won awards from the tea guild for its dedicated afternoon tea room. Browns hotel has been opened for over 170 years and is one of the most exclusive hotels in London close to Green Park, Piccadilly and Bond Street in Mayfair. Rudyard Kipling wrote the Jungle book here and several other well known guests have stayed here. This review is about the Tea room as opposed to the hotel where the cheapest room rate is bookable in advance for £285 a night.
The history of taking afternoon tea.
Traditional afternoon tea is usually taken between the hours of 3pm and 5pm and is known as low tea as it was supposed to be a slight snack. Although it is known as traditional English tea it first gained popularity when Catharine of Braganza, Portugal Married Charles II in 1661 and introduced tea drinking to the Royal court. It was the Duchess of Bedford at Woburn Abbey who started afternoon tea as we know it in the 1840's as a light snack because dinner was not served until much later and many people were left quite hungry until dinner was served.
Afternoon tea was supposedly a light snack consisting of tea, usually Darjeeling, cakes or sandwiches however an English afternoon tea consists of Tea, Sandwiches, scones and cake. There are of course local variants such as the Cornish afternoon cream tea or the Devonshire cream tea these teas being served with scones, jam and clotted cream.
Devon or Cornwall tea?
How you load your scones determines which afternoon tea you are having. In Devon the cream is spooned onto the scone and jam over the cream whereas in Cornwall the jam is spread on the scone and the cream on top of jam.
Our visit to Browns tea room.
We had made a reservation about a month prior to our visit and the day before our arrival we received a telephone call confirming that we were going to attend. Afternoon tea is served between 3pm to 6pm during the week and 1pm - 6 pm at the weekend. We had booked in for 4pm thinking that we would amble across Green Park after our visit to the palace. However on the day it was absolutely pouring down with rain so as we left the palace we flagged down a cab and took the five minute ride to Albemarle Street.
Arriving at the hotel the taxi door was swiftly opened by the doorman and we were ushered into the foyer of the hotel. The foyer and reception area is quite small and the reception desk is tucked around the corner. To the right of the corridor is the tea room. We were shown into the tea room where we were greeted by the Maitre'd who relieved us of our coats and bags. We were escorted to our seats past the pianist playing beautiful soothing music on a grand piano. We were seated at a corner sofa and an armchair around a smallish set table.
The tea room was set up in an atmosphere of calmness and relaxation in mind with matching comfortable lounge furniture set around small tables on which the afternoon tea was to be served. The tea room is surrounded by wood panelling and magnificent fire places.
We were presented with the menu which took quite a while to navigate due to the extensive menu they provided. The waitress explained the differences between the teas available and left us to have a read of the menu. After five minutes the waitress returned but we had been chatting so much that we had not even had a look at the menu and suggested she came back after 10 minutes.
The traditional afternoon tea £38.
Champagne Afternoon tea £47.
Rose Champagne afternoon tea £52.50.
A detox afternoon tea was also available which consisted of fruit infusions as opposed to the above teas with a different selection of sandwiches and cakes.
Essentially whatever tea you take it is the same afternoon set tea and you are given a selection of finger sandwiches including ham, coronation Chicken, egg and cress, cream cheese and cucumber and salmon. These are placed on the lower plate of the three tiered cake stand. The middle plate included hot fruit and plain scones and the top tier contained an assortment of small cakes. After this either a Victoria sponge or carrot cake was cut from the trolley.
The tea menu is quite extensive and there is a selection of Seventeen different teas including Browns own blend plus a blended Cornwall Tregothnan estate tea which was the strongest blend available.
Not really being a tea drinker preferring coffee to tea I opted for the Darjeeling knowing that it is one of the finest and weakest teas going. Unfortunately it was second flush tea which was markedly stronger than a first flush tea and I did not really enjoy it. The others chose Browns own blend which tasted quite nice. However on the second round of tea the tea was certainly weaker. Each tea was served in individual heavy silver tea pots and silver milk jugs.
The sandwiches were absolutely delicious and there were eight fingers of sandwiches on the plate. As the last sandwich was taken the waitress came and replenished it with two more rounds. Although the sandwiches were all very nice I think the ham sandwich was probably the best one on the plate.
The scones were firm on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside. The waitress brought the clotted cream and jam. The jam was strawberry jam with quite large pieces of strawberry in it and the jam was quite runny. It tasted lovely. There were only four scones on the plate and we asked the waitress for more scones she came back to tell they had run out of scones but were baking a fresh batch up so the second batch of four scones were nice and hot when they arrived at the table covered in a serviette to keep them warm.
The top tier of the cake stand had five very small cakes on it. There was a chocolate tartlet, a bright red sponge, a small glass of what looked like passion fruit compote and a tiny banana loaf. The ladies took the first choice and I ended up with the banana loaf which looked the least interesting of the lot although it tasted lovely. It was quite heavy though I thought and not light at all.
When we finished this the waitress brought the cake trolley with the Victoria sponge and the carrot cake. Whilst the ladies went for the Victoria sponge then we went for the carrot cake. The carrot cake was quite heavy and absolutely delicious, sweet and mouth watering. The ladies thought it would be a good idea to swap cakes which we did and to be honest sweet toothed Gary preferred the carrot cake over the Victoria sponge because it was sweeter however that being said the sponge was perfect as it was light and fluffy.
Personally I did not think that the service was 100% I felt at times we were ignored in preference to the American and Japanese tourists I guess because they may well have been bigger tippers. It was quite obvious at times as it seemed we were being ignored when we tried to attract their attention for example they brought the second round of tea but no milk. In the end we took a jug from the next table as we had waited so long for the waitress to even acknowledge us. In their defence when they were serving us they did so with exemplary service and manners although I did feel that we were let down somewhat. I guess the tourist pound talks!
Did we enjoy it?
Yes we did it would have been much nicer had the weather been a bit kinder as we had been soaked to the skin in the rain earlier in the day. We were certainly hungry by time we reached the hotel so were ready for something to eat. By time we left we felt absolutely stuffed. I had allowed three hours for this experience before going on to our next activity of the day and it took exactly three hours from the start to the finish. Ten-fifteen minutes or so were taken up with looking through the menu and the rest of the time talking and enjoying the beautiful afternoon tea.
Would I go back?
I would go back but would probably try a different venue first. Whilst I thought the actual tea was brilliant I did feel slightly let down by the staff swooning over the other guests. It really is a delightful old hotel traditional and landmark hotel and I would recommend it as a surprise venue when you are looking for an special place to celebrate something important. Despite this I would still rate it as five dooyoo stars as it really was quite top nosh!
You may well bulk at the price of the afternoon tea but it is fairly priced and is roughly the same as other high end establishments.
Snippets of information about Tea.
Tea as we know it has been drunk since 2737BC when the Emporer Shen Nung from China was sitting under a tree. A few leaves had fallen into the boiling water being prepared for him and brewed the first ever cup of tea.
All tea comes from the species of plant the Camellia Sinensis.
We have been enjoying tea in the UK for over 350 years when the great sea clippers used to race to bring the tea from China to England.
Tea has been sold in the UK since 1657 and was only drunk by the middle classes. However today it is probably the most popular drink after water.
Tea can be either black or green. Most green tea is drunk in China although it has become quite popular in the UK due to the high anti-oxidants in the tea.
There is a tea plantation in Cornwall at the Tregothnan estate and it is one of the world's most expensive teas at £375 for 250g. Its first commercial crop was in produced in 2006 and is sold in Fortnum and Mason's in Piccadilly.
Telephone 0207 493 6020
Summary: A superb treat for a special occasion.
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