Anna’s Tea – An Historic Tribute at Grosvenor House Hotel
Who invented Afternoon Tea? No one really knows, but one legend is that Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford found that dining late in the evening would leave her feeling hungry. Tea, bread and cakes were served in her room and, ultimately, became something of a ritual. Afternoon Tea was born. The Grosvenor House Hotel, with a deep seated heritage, serves a classic Afternoon Tea named after Anna, in the Park Room – a large space with pianist, views out over Hyde Park and traditional decor.
My justification for going (if anyone needs a justification for accepting an invitation to afternoon tea) was curiosity about the influence of new Head Pastry Chef, Dale DeSimone, who has joined the hotel from Sketch restaurant and the Lecture Room. Of the elements that make up a classic afternoon tea, it is, I believe, the pastries at the end which are the hardest to perfect. Too heavy a hand and guests are left overwhelmed. Yet, the miniatures which appear on any cake tower need to be immaculately cooked and flavoured so that everyone is left wanting more. I have a vision of the best kitchens being equipped with magnifying glasses to achieve the ultimate end result.
So, seated in the comfortable Park Room, we enjoyed a glass of Champagne with our ‘palate cleanser’ – a fresh tropical fruit salad.
The tea menu is quite extensive, but ‘special’ teas do cost more. As guests of the hotel, we didn’t have any issue with ordering the silver tipped jasmine (which is extra) for my companion. I enjoyed the house blend, which was a rather stronger black tea than I normally drink and was included in the standard afternoon tea price, along with the classics you’d expect like Earl Grey and Assam.
We were served two plates of finger sandwiches, partly I think because my companion doesn’t eat tomato. Immaculately presented, these included all the afternoon tea classics (cucumber and cream cheese, egg and cress, roast beef, cheddar and ham, smoked salmon). They were very fresh, very light and it was actually quite hard not to eat them all.
The top of the tea tower had two layers of cakes, but no scones. It is quite normal for the scones to be served fresh from the oven, a perfect way to ensure they are soft and moist rather than dry and crumbly. They are, however, generally brought out immediately after the sandwiches. As the menu had gone, we were not sure whether to wait or start eating cakes.
It turns out that Grosvenor House Hotel are planning to serve the scones after the cakes, a slightly incongruous break with tradition in somewhere that is otherwise one of the most traditional of teas in London. We requested, and were served our scones immediately, which turned out to be deliciously light and, as I’d hoped, fresh from the oven. There was an excellent selection of jams and a generous helping of clotted cream.
The cakes and pastries were utterly delicious and the perfect balance of flavours. Both of us particularly enjoyed the salted caramel chocolate tart.
And we loved the tiny lemon meringue with speculoos
The elderflower jelly was light and refreshing – a good way to balance out the pastries.
There was also a second chocolate cake – and a pineapple, walnut and coconut carrot cake
And finally, I can’t eat strawberries and I’ll admit to a level of food envy at not being able to try the beautiful strawberry, lime and ginger tart.
For the most part we loved this very traditional tea served in formal and very traditional surroundings. It’s a special occasion tea, with the live pianist adding to the atmosphere. And, the cakes and pastries really did live up to expectations.
Anna’s Tea starts at £35.50 per person without champagne or £48.50 with a glass of Pommery Brut. There’s also a children’s tea and I’ve been told that the Hotel will be serving a limited edition afternoon tea for Wimbledon starting on the 22nd June.
Anna’s Tea at Grosvenor House Hotel