On my last birthday, my friends treated me to one of the most iconic places in London: The Ritz, for a stylish afternoon tea.
This is with huge excitement that I lately discovered this amazing venue full of history and enjoyed a celebration time with my husband.
Today, DOYOUSPEAKLONDON invites you to The Ritz for a special afternoon tea…
The Ritz, London
Located in the heart of London in Picadilly, The Ritz already has 116 years of history marked by elegance and the finest of British traditions.
The hotel was designed by Cesar Ritz (the former manager of the Savoy Hotel) with opulent interiors and lavish furnishings and opened in 1906. It was then considered “one of the greatest hotels in the world”.
The Ritz has seen numerous iconic clients like Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower, and Charles de Gaulle who met in The Marie Antoinette Suite to discuss operations during the Second World War; or Hollywood stars including Charlie Chaplin, English playwright Nöel Coward who wrote songs at The Ritz including ‘Children of The Ritz’, Jackie Onassis who described The Ritz as being “like paradise” (no wonder), and Prime Ministers Sir Edward Heath and Harold Macmillan who dined at The Ritz.
The Ritz afternoon tea room
Stepping inside The Ritz is quite something I have to admit. Once inside, we were greeted by an attentive staff and directed to the afternoon tea room downstairs.
As I mentioned to the staff member I was expecting the afternoon tea to take place in the beautiful lounge on the ground floor I had spotted on a previous visit, they explained to me that due to refurbishments the afternoon tea would temporarily be served in another room.
Despite being quite disappointed at first, I completely forgot about it when I saw the room. Such an impressive setting full of elegance, recreating a period atmosphere with paintings and gilding on all the walls.
A famous resident pianist, Ian Gomes, is also contributing to this stunning ensemble by offering music to the guests while they enjoy their afternoon tea.
The Ritz dress code
You need to know that you can’t get inside The Ritz without being dressed accordingly to a certain etiquette reflecting the “grand history and the finest of British traditions”. In case you forget though, the hotel will provide you with everything you need (as my husband discovered it)!
So, The Ritz has a dress code in different areas of the hotel and in particular “Gentlemen are required to wear a jacket and tie (jeans and sportswear are not permitted for either ladies or gentlemen) for afternoon tea in The Ritz Club”.
In all other areas of the hotel (The Ritz Restaurant breakfast service, The Rivoli Bar, The Long Gallery, and The Ritz Garden), smart casual attire is required. But you have to be aware that shorts, trainers, and sportswear are not permitted in any of the hotel’s restaurants or bars!
The afternoon tea experience at The Ritz
I had heard so much about the “unforgettable” afternoon tea experience at The Ritz that my taste buds were already buzzing with excitement while I was reading the menu.
To my surprise, there’s only one Traditional Afternoon Tea menu available at The Ritz, offering a selection of sandwiches, scones, and pastries. But you still have the opportunity to add a glass of champagne, of course, which I did (we said celebration, right?).
There’s also an extensive Tea Menu to choose from, and I was very delighted with my tea called “Passion Fruit and Orange” including notes of Apple, Hibiscus, and Orange Peel blended with Passion Fruit.
I had a funny first impression though because I had to pour the tea myself after the waiter left warning me that “I had to wait for 3 to 5mn before it’s good to serve” (at first, I was waiting for him to come back but after a while, I was too thirsty to wait!). The next waiter (we saw lots of them throughout the afternoon, each one bringing something new to the table, like an endless ballet of waiters) was just on time to refill my cup a few minutes later, though!
The food arrived while we were watching the room filling up. The sandwiches and pastries were presented on a three-tiered tray, and the scones were added much later as we finished our sandwiches.
We had 6 different sandwiches, all very traditional except the original brioche roll:
– Ham with Grain Mustard Mayonnaise on Brioche Bread
– Cheddar Cheese with Chutney on Tomato Bread
– Cucumber with Cream Cheese, Dill, and Mint on Granary Bread
– Breast of Chicken with Tarragon Creamed Mayonnaise on Malt
– Bread Scottish Smoked Salmon with Lemon Butter on Sourdough Bread
– Egg Mayonnaise with Chopped Shallots and Watercress on Brioche Roll
What can I say about these sandwiches? Unfortunately (and I am very sad to say), they did not reach the “exceptionally high standards” we read online. Despite the efforts in the bread choices (either brioche bread or tomato bread…), the fillings were insufficient and consequently lacked both taste and texture.
And then came the plain and fruit scones, freshly baked and …exquisite! Perfect texture and taste this time, the only downside was the limited choice of accompaniments: only Cornish Clotted Cream and/or the Strawberry Preserve.
We finally tasted the seasonal pastries.
I really appreciated these pastries made by Lewis Wilson, the Head Pastry Chef at The Ritz: they were fresh and fruity (for 2 of them), with different textures and a search for aesthetics. I would have asked for more, though!
A friend of mine told me about a tray of desserts being brought at the end of the afternoon tea, but I saw none in the room so I guessed we had a different experience…
We finished our last bites and enjoyed the room emptying out; we could admire the place quietly and think this experience over.
The setting is undoubtedly unique and the piano music definitely adds to the grandiose atmosphere, but the overall food experience was below what we were expecting from this iconic place, either in quality (sandwiches) or offer (limited choices of accompaniments for scones, few desserts available). This is of course my personal opinion, and I leave you free of your thoughts and your choices on that matter!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and found inspiration here. If you are about to book an afternoon tea at The Ritz soon, please share your experience and opinion on DOYOUSPEAKLONDON’s blog!
To go further:
The Ritz hotel: 150 PICCADILLY, LONDON W1J 9BR.
The Ritz website
Afternoon Tea is served daily at 11.30am, 1.30pm, 3.30pm, 5.30pm, and 7.30pm.
Priced from £67 for adults and £40 for Children’s Afternoon Tea.