Umami - Afternoon Tea at The Savoy

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Afternoon Tea at The Savoy
Author: Victoria Jones

As I mentioned in my recent review of Afternoon Tea at Bath Pump Rooms, my next fancy afternoon tea would be at none other than The Savoy in London. In all honesty I am still on a bit of a comedown – the entire experience completely exceeded my expectations in every way.

After a day of sightseeing in London we wandered up the Strand to that iconic entrance – the topiaries shaped like the Savoy’s mascot and famous ‘14th guest’ to parties of 13 diners, Kaspar the cat, the beautiful art deco fountain, the doormen in top hats. Fun fact – the roundabout at the entrance of The Savoy actually dictated the turning circle of the London Cabs – they are specifically designed to fit around it easily.

We arrived a little early, so had plenty of time to relax in the opulent reception and watch the comings and goings of guests, staff and visitors to the hotel. I also took a quick look around the little museum room, definitely worth a look and quite easy to miss if you don’t know it’s there. We went down to the Tea Shop, just to whet our appetites a little. The chocolatiers were hard at work creating all sorts of fantastic creations, the teas smelled fabulous and the trays of pastries looked just perfect – I couldn’t wait.

We had our coats taken to the cloakroom, and were seated at a low table surrounded by squishy, comfy armchairs and sofas. This gave the occasion quite a relaxed feel, which really put us all at ease to make conversation. We ‘kicked off’ with a round of champagne, and soon had the tea stands full of sandwiches and scones brought out. I had a separate plate of just vegetarian sandwiches brought as well – well remembered from our booking as we hadn’t mentioned this on arrival. The standard flavour included lemongrass chicken, egg and tobiko (a type of roe), ham and mustard and, my favourite of the day, tomato, cucumber and basil cream. The vegetarian plate included egg and chive, red pepper and hummus, courgette and hummus and cheddar and mango chutney, as well as another round of the tomato, cucumber and basil cream. We had several refills of the plates, and staff seemed to have an almost psychic knowledge of when our cups and plates needed refilling. They weren’t hovering, and therefore making us feel awkward, but were never long when we started running low.

Then we moved to the scones. They were actually served warm, but by the time we had finished several plates of sandwiches, the first batch of scones had cooled down. They were served with bowls of lemon curd, strawberry jam and clotted cream. The lemon curd was an absolute revelation, creamy and sharp, just like the filling from a good tarte au citron, and just what we needed to clear the palette after the savoury sandwich course.

We then had a little bit of a break, where they topped up our teas and let us have a nice conversation. The background pianist then started playing ‘Happy Birthday’ and a small army of waiting staff brought out cakes to every person who was celebrating a birthday (including me). Everyone on our table was as surprised as I was – this hadn’t been pre-arranged in any way, just gathered from conversations with our waiters over the afternoon. It really was a lovely surprise (even if it was a little embarrassing – I’m glad I wasn’t singled out and plenty of other people had them too!)

After our little break, we were presented with a mouth-watering tray of pastries. I chose the Raspberry and Earl Grey Macaroon, and a Cherry and Tonka Bean éclair. Both were absolutely exquisite and beautiful –  a feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds.

By this point we were absolutely full-to-bursting and still had a course to go – the signature cakes. They rolled over one of those fantastic dessert trolleys, with a banana and pecan cake, Dundee cake and chocolate fudge cake. Normally I would totally go for the chocolate fudge, but I was just too full at this point for a rich cake so I chose the Dundee cake. I’m not really a big fan of Dundee cake, as I find it too dry, but aside from the dryness this one was delicious.

We left the Savoy very full and very happy into the evening, to top it all off with a walk along the Embankment and a few drinks on one of those boat-bars moored in the shadow of Waterloo Bridge. It really was a fantastic experience from start to finish, and pretty much as close as I’ve ever come to a perfect afternoon. The staff absolutely bowled me over, and my complaint from the Pump Rooms review that the other guests were acting a little too ‘touristy’ absolutely didn’t apply here – everyone seemed to appreciate and respect the occasion.

Article by Victoria, still on a high 4 days later.


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