Thursday, August 18, 2011

Spot on

I had my first experience with a full-blown “afternoon tea” on Saturday. Londonista -who wishes she were always here but was, in fact, only here for a week- and I both love tea. We’ve been drinking tea together, both real and imaginary, since we met when Londonista was three. We also both love food, so a “real” afternoon tea was the perfect friend date. In fact, as soon as I found out Londonista was coming to town, I started investigating venues:

    • The Ritz: booked (too bad, we were hoping to fashion-stalk Kate)
    • Claridges: booked (and also a little too OTT for a “girls’ tea out”)
    • The Howard: third try’s a charm- a couple of time slots were available. And tea at the Howard ends with a plate of biscuits and chocolates in the shape of famous London landmarks. Um, yes please!

    We slept in on Saturday and had a bird’s breakfast (you know, to save room for the tea), got dressed up in our “eating dresses”, and shopped our way to the hotel. Mulberry, Harrods, Burberry, Harvey Nichols… A few food hall bags (and a creamy carrier filled with luxury to quell Londonista’s Burberry obsession until her next visit) later, we arrived at The Howard.

    We walked through a chic lobby to the partially-cleared dining room (we were a little early). As we were escorted to our table in the lounge by our lovely hostess, we noticed that a lot of people had left a lot of food on their tea caddies: nearly-full plates of sandwiches, only one missing scone, a complete level of strawberry tarts. Why would anyone go to tea on anything but an empty stomach, we wondered?
    We forgot about the leftovers as soon as we sat down in our plush grey chairs to peruse the tea menu. We both settled on Earl Grey Flowers. As we waited to be served, we exclaimed over the décor:
    “It’s modern, but definitely not cold”
    “LOVE the table – hard to keep smudge-free though!”
    “Great bookshelves – is that really a cat book???”
    “Can you fit that pillow in your bag?”
    “I love that lamp!”
    “And aren’t the chandeliers neat?”
    ”I would buy that” 
    “Ask where they got it from”
    And then the food arrived, stunning us into silence. It was a clouds-parting, harp-playing angels kind of moment. A man across the room barely contained his laughter when our faces lit up at the sight of two tea pots, three tiers of food, a tray of cold desserts, and the crowning glory, the cookie plate.
    It was elegant. We were, well, not.
    It started out well. We sipped our tea and took dainty bites of our delicious sandwiches (prawn lemon on pesto bread, smoked salmon on tomato bread, cucumber, and ham and mustard). The waiter looked amused as he cleared our plate.
    We moved on to the tarts (lemon and strawberry), and then Toblerone mousse and raspberry and pistachio cake and another pot of tea. The waiter’s amusement changed to morbid fascination (how much can these two eat??)
    One scone (could we have some more cream please?) and then another… and then…. We were full. SO. FULL. While we had been sure we were barely going to leave even crumbs behind, we ended up asking for all of the cookies to be boxed up, much to the waiter’s relief. (I’m fairly certain the staff had never before seen two girls eat an entire afternoon tea.) We were there for our full time-slot (teas are booked in two-hour shifts) and then some.
    All gone!
    “TLSee”at the Howard, or “London-cookie-tea”, as we call it, has made its way into my little black London book. The food was amazing. The tea was amazing. The service was amazing. Fun for tourists and residents alike, and perfect for a friendaissance, tea at the Howard is spot on. Just make sure you’re good and hungry before you go…
    Tall Girl and Londonista at the Howard
    P.S. The cookies make a great late-night dinner!

    1 comment:

    1. Good to see Londonista in the "other London."
      I love those cookies!