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JW Marriott Grosvenor House Hotel – Anna’s Winter Afternoon Tea
(invited press review)
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 and the fashion caught on with society ladies of the time. Like all good fashions, it’s never really become unfashionable since – and there’s nowhere better to enjoy afternoon tea than in one of London’s leading historic hotels. Of course, that’s absolutely the case with the JW Marriott Grosvenor House Hotel, the first hotel to open on Park Lane, way back in 1929.
With such a deep-seated heritage, it isn’t surprising that the hotel serves a classic afternoon tea named after Anna. Tea is served in the newly refurbished Park Room, a large, light space that has been carefully designed to draw elements of Hyde Park into the room in a way which uplifts the whole room. I’m impressed by the transformation. The hotel has retained plenty of traditional elements – white table linen, the historic Grosvenor House Hotel China and of course, the grand piano being played discretely in the background. But, the waitresses are wearing flattering and ever so slightly seductive outfits, there’s a chic contemporary ceiling decoration in the style of a flock of birds and an elegant, muted leaf pattern carpet. Floor to ceiling windows and well-placed tables with chairs upholstered in muted tones make this a discrete and charming space.
Anna’s Winter Afternoon Tea comes with the option of champagne and I was delighted to be offered a glass of Perrier-Jouët Blason Rosé, a subtle rosé perfect for pairing with food. There’s an extensive selection of Newby teas too, some as standard, others, rare and exclusive, at a small premium. Traditional teapots match the pretty historic pattern of the cups, plates and tea tower.
The tea opened with a dainty palate cleanser of fresh orange spritz topped with candy floss. We were given instructions…
‘remove the candy floss, drink the orange then eat the candy floss’
It worked, though I have to confess it sounded unlikely at the time. And it was a nice way to start tea too – not too sweet or overwhelming.
I’m wise now to afternoon tea and never give in to the temptation of extra sandwiches no matter how good. In this case though, it was hard to resist the offer of additional ‘open sandwiches’ served on delicate bridge rolls. I couldn’t pick a favourite between the egg mayonnaise with a tiny quail egg and the smoked salmon, prawn and cream cheese.
Finger sandwiches which followed were, as the menu said, delicate and light. Cucumber with garden mint butter is an idea I’m going to copy because the fragrant butter lifted a classic sandwich. I loved the honey roast Yorkshire ham with vivid and piquant Coleman’s English mustard. Then there was a smoked Oakham chicken with tarragon and crème fraîche and a North Atlantic cold water prawn with Marie Rose sauce. A traditional selection executed carefully – no stale edges or soggy bread here.
Plain and raisin buttermilk scones came with a generous helping of clotted cream and with six options of homemade preserves. Strawberry, rose petal, rhubarb and ginger, gooseberry, raspberry, blackcurrant. I enjoyed the rose petal, not the prettiest for photography perhaps as it lacks the vibrant pink of raspberry, but delicately perfumed and not too sweet.
The main event, of course, is always the pastries, here a dainty, pretty and nicely balanced assortment.
Clementine and vanilla delice was light and melting. The delicate texture meant that it might have benefitted from a foil tray but of course, that didn’t distract from the taste. I loved the dainty miniature salted caramel and peanut Paris-Brest, a French dessert, made of choux pastry and a praline flavoured cream. I smiled at the Black Forest Roulade – a retro tribute piece that was light enough to let you know it was a contemporary recipe. Lemon and chestnut speculoos tart looked fresh, with fine crisp pastry and the pistachio and pomegranate macaron was perfectly executed. A well-balanced selection that wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet or heavy but didn’t leave you needing more.
Had we still been hungry there were cakes too. But, honestly, you’d need to starve for a lot longer in anticipation of this tea if you really wanted to indulge in all there was to offer.
I’m truly delighted that this rather fine and historic room has been relaunched with such a perfect fusion of traditional and contemporary styling. I haven’t tried every afternoon tea on Park Lane but I can genuinely say this one ranks with the best. I learnt that since Marriott has taken over running the hotel, their improvements have resulted in Grosvenor House Hotel being upgraded to JW Marriott Brand. It’s a historic hotel with royal suites that are genuinely worthy of their royal guests. More significantly, the hotel’s American heritage means that all rooms are a reasonable size while the location means that many have views out across Hyde Park.
The classic afternoon tea starts at £42.50 per person or £52.50 per person with a glass of Perrier-Jouët champagne.JW Marriott Grosvenor House Hotel
Grosvenor House Hotel,
86 Park Lane,
London W1K 7TN
Disclosure: I was a guest of JW Marriott Grosvenor House Hotel. All content is editorially given.