What is it that’s so special about afternoon tea? It’s only a few little sandwiches and a couple of teeny cakes, right?
Nope, nope, nope.
Disclaimer: We were invited guests of The Langham Hotel but my (very many) thoughts
are only ever my own.
It’s the act of taking a little time out of our busy lives
and setting aside a few hours of pure opulence – from taking a simple
cream tea in local vintage café to a special afternoon of grand
sumptuousness worthy of a princess. Admittedly of late, they haven’t
featured so strongly in my calendar (I think even I got a little
overwhelmed with them after devising my afternoon tea golden rules) but they definitively have a special place in my heart.
Stepping out of the crisp Monday evening air, into the beautiful
winter wonderland of the 5-star Langham Hotel – famed as the birthplace of afternoon – my lovely sugarplum fairy friend
and I (let’s call her WB) not only managed to dust a kiss on the cheek
of Mr Fresh and Fearless (also trying out the new festive tea) but enjoy
ourselves a little quality time all the while being attended on by a
beautiful French waiter.
Life could be worse I guess.
Walking through the grand hotel entrance, replete with marble pillars
and perfectly dressed Christmas trees – not to mention the smiling
staff just waiting for us to ask them to take a picture – we were
settled in the beautiful Palm Court for the last sitting of the day
(5.30pm, who needs dinner?) Listening to the pianist softly tinkle the
ivories as we settled ourselves and the heavy linen napkins on our laps
we knew that it would be a Monday night to remember. (Ps. please excuse the photos – my camera is enroute still from its extended holiday in America.)
begin with a glass of Laurent-Perrier, Brut NV (as the saying goes
“start the day with a smile and finish it with champagne”) and a lovely
Eggnog pannacotta flavoured delicately with Christmas magic (aka
cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and vanilla) and served with rum jelly which
brought cherubic grins to our weary countenances. Having developed an
intolerance to gluten in the last few years, with my
particular dietary history my doctor has advised me to try
re-introducing it slowly into my diet to see how I cope, which gave me
all the excuse I needed to indulge in the festive tea inspired by
Then presented with the tea menu, we went for our waiters
recommendation of the special Langham Blend; “the ‘champagne’ of teas
with delicate charm” according to the description, our waiter then
proffered our table with a silver tray selection of finespun sandwiches
that Lady Bedford herself would have been proud of. Balvenie whisky
smoked salmon and fennel brioche; light Farmhouse stilton, red onion and
port relish on walnut bread; the classic cucumber, cream cheese and
chives plus a faithfully festive smoked turkey, marjoram stuffing on
cranberry bread. We think that the kitchen may have substituted the turkey for a delicious honey roasted ham for our table – and it was scrumptious.
All of them light, flavourful and
very moreish (a technical blogging term) WB and I couldn’t quite agree
on a unanimous favourite, so when proffered a second round, I enjoyed
another slice of the delicious ham sandwich and WB chose the cucumber and cream cheese.
For an even more exquisite end to round out our savouries, we were
presented with a delicate duck egg blini polished off with oscietra
Warm scones – plain and fruited – swaddled with cloth and lightly
dusted with icing sugar as ever prompted a discussion on the order of
jam and cream (I have arrived at the Cornwallian methodology after
extensive scone sampling, a Twitter poll, heeding advice from Mary Berry and a
side-by-side taste testing session) were delectable.
Switching up our tea for the Peach with Flowers – scented with the
sweet fruitiness of ripe peaches – we were presented with a floor stand
laden with our individual plates of pastry heaven. Designed by Cherish
Finden and switched up each season, we explored our way through the festive offerings. An intriguing fruit jelly, snowflake macarons perfect to the bite, a snow white bauble containing lemon confit, Manjari cremeux and bergamot mousselines, a delicate pistachio and cranberry
slice, not to mention the white chocolate reindeer crowned rosehip and hibiscus shot. Having overindulged on the savoury section, I took the gingerbread house home for the husband to nibble later.
They say that every picture is worth a thousand words, and somehow this tea prompted much the same.
Afternoon Tea isn’t a hearty meal that provides sustenance, but an elegant way to spend a few hours with someone special in luxurious surrounds – and the Langham is certainly a generous offering. I’m always asked what my favourite afternoon tea is (I’ve got a bit of a reputation now) and though Claridge’s still hasn’t quite been knocked off the crowning spot insofar as elegant, sumptuous teas, The Langham’s festive tea swooped to second place in my favourites (the summer tea in The Orangery at Kensington Palace gardens is my third).
Oh, and did you know that the term “Luxury” originates from the mid-14th Century, meaning “lasciviousness, sinful self-indulgence,” from O.Fr. luxurie, from L. luxuria “excess, luxury,” from luxus “excess, extravagance, magnificence,” probably a fig. use of luxus (adj.) “dislocated,” which is related to luctari “wrestle, strain.” …and the first use as an adjective was recorded in 1930.