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Claridges for Afternoon Tea

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by Kat Parr Mackintosh (subscribe)
Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published July 14th 2010
While not known for their cuisine, there are some things that the British do jolly well. And afternoon tea is at the top of that list. If taking time out in the middle of the afternoon to enjoy what is essentially a three course snack while taking tea, and if it's high tea, champagne, isn't the pinnacle of civilised living then we haven't reached it yet. And one of the finest traditional afternoon teas in London is laid out by Claridges, that epic name in glorious art deco style.

Before you consider the quality of the tea or the consistency of the scones, the best British afternoon teas demand a certain setting, and this is the first category that Claridges excels in. On entry, though that patiently revolving door, the lobby is revealed in its marble deco-decorated, yet unpretentious, luxury, beyond which is the lobby restaurant where the teas take place. Drawing room style arm chairs, couches and high backed dinning chairs suggest a comforting mix of furniture, that makes it feel homelier if your home was a splendid manor house where the linen was perfectly laundered, the flowers fresh daily and the piano music live, yet understated.

Once seated at your table take a moment to appreciate Claridge's own aqua, gold and white china, before your napkin is discreetly laid over your lap and you're presented with a menu listing the 30 different kinds of internationally sourced tea available. Claridges has been sourcing teas from China, Japan and India since the 19th Century so it's reasonable to believe them when they say they have the finest selection. If you're terribly modern you can have coffee, and if you're terribly opulent you can upgrade your order to a Champagne Afternoon Tea or a Vintage Champagne tea. Tip: the green jasmine tea smells divine. Full marks there as well.

Then comes the spread. Claridges serves afternoon tea over three seasonal courses: luxury finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones served with tea-infused jam and Devonshire cream, of course, and finally an array of irresistibly delectable cakes, deserts and pastries. Tip: anything chocolate and berry is to die for.

Unlike other London afternoon tea seatings, Claridges doesn't serve you everything at once on one of those wonderful tierd stands, you get one course at a time ensuring you're offered more of each course as you finish it and that you never have to pour your own tea. Claridges' history of discretion still demands they have the best staff.

What you may not realise is that after you have finished your 'desert' you've the option to go back around again, or have another scone, it's really up to you. Which means you don't really need to eat anything else for the rest of the day, and if you're on a budget it represents a very impressive potential buffet. To be frank you're going to be hard pressed getting through all the delicacies presented to you. Tip: go easy on the scones, they're very filling... despite their wonderful fluffiness. And make sure you visit the little boys or girls room

Boys, any girl you take to tea here, be she your Mum or your intended, is likely to reward you for it heartily.
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Why? Afternoon tea is the delectible
When: Every day, but book in advance
Where: 49 Brook St. Mayfair, near South Moulton St., nearest tube Bond Street
Cost: 35 for Afternoon Tea, 45 for Champagne Afternoon Tea
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