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Afternoon Tea at the Strand Palace Hotel
Afternoon tea on one of the hottest days of the summer might not sound like quite the choice activity. Lying down in a cool room might be more the ticket. Yet Tea at the Palace was booked and you don’t keep her majesty waiting. Royalty was not present although the late Queen Mother might have appreciated The Gin Tea on offer, with a tot of Dubonnet.
The Strand Palace Hotel offers three choices of afternoon tea. A basic traditional Cream Tea (tea plus scones), The Palace Tea or The Gin Tea. The latter is the same as the second with the addition of a raspberry and gin sorbet as well as an Earl Grey gin martini. Both were excellent and well worth the extra £6 charged. Those with less alcoholic tastes should choose The Palace Tea.
Whenever I indulge in an Afternoon Tea I look forward to trying a new blend. Tea at the Palace offers Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Fruit tea, Chamomile, Green tea and Peppermint. Perhaps the hotel has found that its patrons are not interested in a wider variety than this. Tea aficionados might be a tad disappointed. Nonetheless, tea was plentiful, served in an attractive large pot with lots of milk – it is one of my pet hates having to ask for milk to be refilled.
The food was plentiful too. It was served on an art deco shaped, three-tier cake tray which added a lovely touch of sophistication.
The savoury selection included several items that made it stand out from the usual finger sandwich offerings. My favourite was a finger of ham and cheese toastie wrapped in newsprint and finished off with a silver ribbon. A lovely touch which intrigued me as the paper was printed with articles about Russia. I wondered why. The toastie was tasty and a very good start to proceedings.
Next up was a prawn cocktail served in a tiny, black tulip dish, another welcome change from a sandwich.
Then there was an open sandwich – a generous slice of smoked salmon with cream cheese on brown bread.
The final savoury was a ricotta and pickled cucumber finger sandwich which should be rethought as it was the weak link in an otherwise strong savoury selection.
Moving onto the scones, oh why do so many hotels struggle to make a decent scone? These came in plain and fruit variety and although served warm, I did wonder at what point in the day they had been baked. They were somewhat crunchy on the outside and rather dry on the inside. I want my scone fluffy when I open them.
The cake selection looked delectable. We enjoyed the Bailey’s cheesecake cone – a miniature cone wrapped in gold paper was filled with a creamy cheesecake mixture and topped with hundreds and thousands and a striped, chocolate straw. It was fun to look at and to eat; afternoon tea should always have a touch of fantasy in my view. It tasted light and not too sweet.
The dark chocolate and cream cup was similarly attractive. A very pretty and delicate white and dark chocolate cup was filled with a dark chocolate ganache and topped with a tiny cream rosette and an even tinier white and dark chocolate swirl. One for the chocolate lovers, of which I am one.
The white chocolate and Italian meringue tart looked lovely. It had a crisp, pastry base and a good, soft meringue topping. However, the chocolate filling rendered the whole far too sweet. The reason that lemon meringue or pavlova with berries works so well is that there is a tart foil for the sweet meringue. Sweet on sweet is cloying so this might be something the kitchen might review.
Less successful was summer berry millefeuille. Unless the pastry chef has mastered the art of one of the standard bearers of French patisserie, this item is a misnomer. This offering lacked delicacy, essentially two puffs sandwiched with a bit of cream and topped with a raspberry is not a millefeuille.
The Cocktail Victoria Sponge looked cute but was disappointing. Shaped like a mini toadstool which was a whimsical touch, it lacked the requisite light texture and, while having a cream layer, jam was absent.
High notes included the wonderfully refreshing and tasty raspberry and gin sorbet, a deep pink scoop scattered with chopped mint and served in a martini glass. I could have eaten a large bowl full. Also deliciously moreish was the Earl Grey gin martini, served with a large twist of lemon.
The Lounge Bar at The Strand Palace Hotel is a space with which the designers have done their best. A windowless room with an unattractive service door through which deliveries were wheeled during tea time is perhaps not the plushest environment. However, the fabrics are attractive in shades of purple and green, the furnishings a combination of upright sofas and chairs. The rather plain, wooden tables give the space a rather corporate look. Many were filled with people with laptops having business meetings which rather enhanced this impression. Three semi-circular private areas were more pleasant to sit in. I often feel that the choice of music detracts from the ambience of a restaurant and this was certainly the case here. If music is needed at all then some soft classical music might add atmosphere conducive to the ambience of afternoon tea.
What struck us at once was the excellent level of service. Our waiter was welcoming, offered us a choice of still or sparkling water and a glass of Lanson Black Label NV champagne before the tea even got going. What a lovely way to recover from the hot journey we had made to the Strand. Throughout the afternoon he was solicitous of our needs and his attention to detail is to be commended. When he noticed my companion putting on her jacket he came over and told us he would turn down the air-con. When a teacup was half-filled with tea that had not yet fully brewed, he whipped it away and brought a fresh cup.
We left relaxed, very full and well looked after. There are certainly some highlights on this menu and with a bit of tweaking from the pastry department, this afternoon tea will be a welcome addition to a London afternoon whatever the weather.
Looking for a venue for afternoon tea in London? – why not pin this post for later
The Gin Tea: £39
The Palace Tea: £33
Traditional Cream Tea: £9.50
Glass of champagne: £14
Strand Palace Hotel, 372 Strand, London, WC2R 0JJ