Did you know that today was International Tea Day? According to my (ahem) very extensive research, tea was made to be a popular drink in the seventeen century by King Charles II and his wife, Catherine de Braganza. But the concept of afternoon tea didn’t exist until about 1840 when Anna Maria Russell, the seventh Duchess of Bedford starting taking tea as sort of a meal in the afternoon to keep her hunger at bay until dinner was served later in the evening.
I love going to tea and I’ve gone to many in London. I find myself taking pretty much everyone who comes to visit. It’s a delicious way to participate in something cultural and it is something I believe everyone should experience at least once.
I was super excited to discover that Sarah Barber is the Executive Party Chef at the Hotel Café Royal. She has a lot of experience. Over 18 years, in fact. She creates the hotel’s desserts, pastries and afternoon tea. This was all I needed to hear. My mind was made up. I knew exactly where I wanted to go and celebrate International Tea Day, this year. The Oscar Wilde Lounge located in the hotel.
Walking into the lounge is like going back to an elegant place in time. The room is intimate, low-lit, with gold gilding and mirrors. There is live piano music playing softly in the background. It is easy to see why it was so popular with Virginia Woolfe, Noel Coward and the lounge’s namesake, Oscar Wilde, just to name a few. Ask for a corner seat in the back and it feels secluded and cosy. Equally perfect for a romantic tea for two or just a group of friends catching up.
The offerings on the spring menu were the perfect compliment to the gorgeous weather we’ve been having over here, the past few days. We started off with rosé champagne and the Oscar tea, a smoky Lapsang Souchong. There was a fairly extensive tea selection but we decided to stay with something a little more traditional. Both the champagne and tea paired nicely with the savory yet delicate finger sandwiches. Everything was fresh and delicious. The cucumber sandwiches with pink pepper cream cheese and coronation chicken with golden raisins and coriander sandwiches were particularly moreish. But we also really enjoyed the ham with English mustard, egg and tarragon mayonnaise and smoked salmon with lemon crème fraîche sandwiches.
After our sandwiches, the delicacies we were served. They were the shining stars of the tea. Everything was light and fruity and tasted of springtime in dessert form. We started with the warm scones, served with the traditional clotted cream and strawberry jam. They were the perfect bites before transitioning to the pastries. The Raspberry lychee rose choux, orange blossom cake with yoghurt mousse, wild berry tart and raspberry lemon mousse were almost too pretty to eat. But we managed! Chef Sarah and her team couldn’t have produced a lovelier experience.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful staff of the Oscar Wilde Lounge. The service was perfect. Everyone was attentive and knowledgeable. From the time we entered to the time we left we were made to feel like royalty. Overall, an incredible experience.
I would highly recommend the afternoon tea at the Oscar Wild Lounge. It would be the perfect way to end a day of shopping and wandering about the Mayfair area.
The Female Factor: Sarah Barber is the Executive Pastry Chef at Hotel Cafe Royal. 68 Regent Street, London, W1B 4DY. +442074063333. www.hotelcaferoyal.com.