To me, afternoon tea is all about spending quality time with someone special – taking time out of a normal day to enjoy a little indulgent luxury. Relaxing at Rubens Hotel in their Palace Lounge was just perfect after a busy, stressful couple weeks for both my lovely friend and I.
Disclaimer: We were guests of Buyagift but my (very many) thoughts and pinky raising are very much all my own posing.
There’s an old adage that the best gift you can give is time, which Buyagift has taken to the next level, offering all kinds of amazing experiences (and cool enough ones that you’ll hope the gift receiver will take the hint to invite you to.) We’ve sent and been given lovely experiences via Buyagift for years, so when they invited me to try one of the hotel afternoon teas they offer in honour of afternoon tea week, it was an immediate yes.
Rustling through the 350+ that they have on offer, we eventually whittled down our choice to the Rubens Royal Afternoon Tea, served next to Buckingham Palace, overlooking the royal mews and stables.
Won over by the sweet reasons behind each dish, we settled into one of the very cosy window couches to laugh away our Monday afternoon, gleefully embracing the holiday vibe that our indulgent afternoon consisted of.
Before I get started on the tea itself, allow me an indulgent moment to type a little something about my friend. We met 5+ years ago online, then when she moved from Brussels to London, we met up for an expat coffee at Kenwood House and it’s fair to say I fell a little in love – with twin obsessions for blogging, old grand houses, cat whiskers and laughing at ridiculous situations, it was a match made in caffeine heaven.
Over the years she has kindly put up with endless teasing #kettlegate, established “coffee” dates that almost always
end in consist of wine (occasionally champagne), given back as good as she gets and doesn’t even mind when I throw the occasional dinner party on her dining table or spam her with Tabby cat videos. If that isn’t the mark of an amazing lady, I don’t know what it.
She echoes an adoration that I have for London – a city that we both hoped against hope that we would love as much as when we started – because of and in spite of the roller coaster that you go through. All of the crazy traditions, kindnesses, small moments, large anniversaries and frustrations, not to mention the relationship that Brits have with cups of tea. Even that.
(Nice segue way back to the afternoon tea, right?) We began as all delicious teas do, with a selection of fresh, delicate finger sandwiches. Classic tradition are the watchwords of this menu; with nibbles including Smoked Scottish salmon and Horseradish cream cheese on beetroot bread, delicate rounds of Coronation chicken and toasted almonds on white bread, Ham, cheese and tomato chutney on onion bread, Egg and watercress on basil bread plus Cucumber and cream cheese on Caraway seeded bread. We loved them all, but the Coronation Chicken was our stand-out favourite – and when we were offered a second round, we were gently persuaded to enjoy another one each.
Sweetly, James also explained how Coronation chicken sandwiches were another way for tea host to show off; not only did they have the funds for importing tea, sugar and not having to work in the afternoons, but importing spices was another status symbol back in the days of Duchess Anna of Bedford.
Our scones were brought when we were ready; perfectly sized and baked rounds of delicate scone-ness (is that a word? It is now…) which not only prompted giggling over the burger shenanigans of another friend but included a chocolate twist which intrigued us. In the background, a pianist tinkled the ivories – crooning Beatles classics, pop ballads and the occasional acoustic surprise.
The sweet tier was a lovely confection of patisserie, and is steeped in links to the Palace:
Gin and tonic cheesecake: Gin and Dubonnet with a slice of lemon and a lot of ice is Queen Elizabeth’s favourite drink; it’s a classy and posh and powerful concoction and the inspiration for the gin and tonic cheesecake.
Peach mousse: One of the queen’s favourite fruits are peaches and she will often opt for fresh fruit as dessert after dinner and particularly the white peaches grown in greenhouses at Windsor Castle.
Lemon curd: This is a favourite with the Queen and she especially enjoys it with tea.
English Rose Macaroon: In honour of the English flower we created a rose macaroon.
Rubens Chocolate Cake: Chocolate is one of the favourites of the Queen, she is said to have a piece of chocolate and a glass of Champagne each evening before bed. This cake is also a particular favourite of Prince William and Prince Harry – it was even Prince William’s groomsmen cake.
Jammy Dodger: it’s traditional to have a biscuit with tea and with the Queen’s love for jam pennies, guests love our pastry chef’s interpretation.
Eventually painstakingly ranking our favourites, we agreed with Prince William and Harry – the chocolate was our joint favourite – and more than fit for two expat (wannabe) princesses.
Rubens at the Palace is a taste of tradition – in fact, the hotel used to be the servants quarters for Buckingham Palace, tucked away in the streets that circle one of the most famous buildings in the world.
Booking our afternoon tea via the Buyagift website couldn’t have been easier – and we loved the selection on offer. And, for all those lovely afternoons with friends and BFFs, they are offering customers 20% off from 13-19th August with the code TEAWEEK.
Exiting, we laughingly confused the poor doormen with our shoefie, before sneaking away for another couple of hours chatting over a glass or two. Time just seems to disappear when I hang with this lady – we never seem to be stuck for conversation and often leave clutching our sides with glee.
What is your favourite way to spend time with people that you love?