A Classic London Afternoon Tea at Dukes Hotel:
Doesn’t everyone love afternoon tea? Those dainty little sandwiches with their crusts cut off, scones with clotted cream and then cakes to finish things off. Dukes London is a luxury, boutique hotel just off St James’s Park. It’s the sort of place that looks as if it was built to serve tea – quintessentially British, with comfy sofas and plush furnishings. Our table was nicely laid with starched white linen and a pretty vase of flowers.
Browsing through the menu, I discovered that Dukes London has a history going back to 1532, when King Henry VIII built St James’s Palace. The courtyard around Dukes led to the house of the Duchess of Cleveland, a mistress of Charles II. After the King’s death the courtyard became known as Cleveland Court and had a small inn on the site. Dukes itself was built in 1885 and originally used as London chambers for the sons of some of Britain’s nobility. It became Dukes Hotel in 1908 and still exudes old world charm and elegance. Part of the Small Luxury Hotels network, I was invited to visit and try the tea for myself.
Help was on hand to pour us that all important glass of Perrier Jouet champagne while we chose our teas. Dukes doesn’t have that kind of extensive tea menu you sometimes find now in London, but the options are comprehensive, with a few tisanes, Lapsang Souchong, Darjeeling and Japanese Sencha as well as some special blends. My sencha was light, fragrant and refreshing and for me the perfect complement to the cakes and sandwiches.
The whole affair had a gentle, English country house feel to it. Mismatched, pretty china on the tea tower, and attentive but not overwhelming service added to the sense of style.
The sandwiches, a classic selection with just a twist comprised chicken with truffle, smoked salmon with cucumber, roast beef and egg with cress were fresh and tasty. I’d have happily eaten a plateful of the chicken with truffle – a great flavour combination.
Scones were a bit dry and crumbly, perhaps not quite as good as I hoped for. It was that promise of ‘warm fruit and plain scones’. They were served on the tea tower so, if they had been warm when they were brought out, they certainly were not by the time we ate them. Perhaps it might have helped to wrap them in a napkin, or just to bring them out during tea service? Having said that, they were much better than anything I could make at home and both the strawberry jam, rich with fruit, and the thick clotted cream were delicious.
The cake selection was very pleasant.
My personal favourite, the raspberry pannacotta, would have made a good dessert.
The passionfruit and white chocolate dome was pretty though really quite tricky to eat.
Lemon meringue the least successful of the plate, had a lovely filling but the sort of pastry that was just a bit too stodgy for this pretty miniature.
Despite having to pick off the fruit thanks to my allergy, I loved the creative Pimms cheesecake with its topping of mint, cucumber and strawberries too.
The Drawing Room where tea is served also offers breakfast, a light all day dining menu and a short bar menu. They also have a Gin and tea afternoon tea, which sounds fun. It’s an elegant relaxed area of the hotel that I could see being a great place to meet for pre-theatre drinks and a bite to eat. And, afternoon tea is excellent value at £29.50, or £39.50 with a glass of Perrier Jouet.
St James’ Place