I was a little slow on the ‘advance booking’ of Mother’s Day celebrations this year, so despite trying to find a suitably fitting option to celebrate my favourite lady two weeks before the big day, I was coming up empty. Instead of settling I booked us in for a belated treat of afternoon tea at the Dorchester last Sunday. After all, Mother’s Day is every day!
We arrived at the grand Dorchester hotel bang on 4:30pm, exhausted from a day of extremely successful shopping and ladened under multiple Harvey Nichols bags.
We were in desperate need of a stiff drink, mini sandwiches and sweet treats.
Service: As if all our prayers had been answered, a lovely Eastern European lady appeared and showed us to our personal, intimate little nook of the Promenade (front lobby).
Although I am personally not a huge fan of traditional regal British décor, the Dorchester is one of those iconic places that retains its charm and status by preserving its 1930’s class. The Promenade has a marble floor and gilded ceiling, and is filled with pale orange Corinthian marble columns, gold leaf features, French tapestries, sparkling chandeliers, brass lanterns, and upholstered green sofas with low tables covered in white tablecloths, set with silver cutlery and crockery. The Dorchester personifies the height of mid-1900’s sophistication & elegance, with service to match.
Our server was utterly sublime. Incredibly polite but not stiff, she quickly gathered that we were there to have fun and that we were not looking for straight jacket service. Champagne was always topped up, fresh tea was poured, water never ran dry, and rounds of sandwiches continued to arrive. I never felt that she over-imposed, yet she always had us in the corner of her eye and was there the moment that we needed anything. Truly exquisite service.
Ambience: The Dorchester is the pinnacle of old-fashioned British luxury with an ambience to boot. I.e. it’s all very prim and proper and everyone is on their best behaviour wearing their Sunday finest. Straight backs, crossed legs, clean napkins & tablecloths, and pinkies at a right angle when sipping from the china are all givens. It’s all a bit hush, hush, and everyone gives everyone else the eye up and down as you walk by. It’s definitely NOT the sort of place where I fit in having standardly spilt half my breakfast down my shirt when we were at Tom’s Kitchen earlier that day, and despite my best efforts at performing all the correct airs & graces, everything goes out the window when I’m a few glasses of champagne down and get overly chatty with the waitress who is doing her best not to appear as if she is socialising with us. What can I say, I’m more of a wild gal…
That said, the Dorchester is a very unique hotel and one that is full of incredible history. Their afternoon tea experience is most enjoyable and one that I would highly recommend to Brits and tourists alike (just reign in your clumsiness). The surroundings, service & food are superior to any other venue (apart from perhaps the Ritz, although this is very much down to personal preference). For example, it’s not everywhere that you get prime, front-row viewing of an exceptionally talented pianist playing the grand piano.
Or see bouquets of flowers this large and stunningly beautiful.
Food: Once we’d settled in to our cosy seats, it was time to get down to business. Since it was my treat I was doing the ordering and chose for us both to have the traditional afternoon tea (£49.00 each), without any optional additional glasses of champagne, instead opting for a full bottle of the good stuff – ‘Laurent-Perrier NV Champagne’ (£80.00). Don’t say I don’t know how to treat a lady! After all, as written in the afternoon tea menu, “Great love affairs start with Champagne and end with tisane”. Well said Honoré de Balzac, and if you’re wondering what tisane is, it’s herbal tea.
As for our tea selection, I had the Dorchester Blend, “a blend of Sri lankan Ceylon and golden Assam teas, a bright tea with a malty character with just a slight hint of caramel notes”. It was sweet & delicious. So obviously mum hated it. She instead chose the Wuyi Shan Lapsang Souchong, “grown in the Wuyi mountains, China. A smoky tea, fired over cedar wood. Not for the faint hearted as it has almost a tar-like character”, which I can tell you tasted like old sock, yet she eagerly lapped up every last drop. I find it so amazing how we’re all the same but so different (thank God!). How boring this world would be if we all liked the same things…
I digress. Back to the important stuff. Sandwiches. Lots & lots of sandwiches. You can choose from cucumber with cream cheese on caraway seed bread, egg mayo with shiso cress on white bread, chicken with wholegrain mustard mayo on basil bread, roast beef with salad and horseradish on wholegrain bread, and smoked salmon on granary bread. Naturally, we started with one of each.
It didn’t take long for me to spot my favourites. The veggie options were instantly off the menu and it was all about the juicy chicken with basil bread, which was phenomenal, and the smoked salmon on bitty granary, because who can ever have enough of the beautiful stuff? Many, many rounds of sandwiches ensued.
Once my tummy said no more to savoury, it was time to bring on the sweet. We were brought a ‘palette cleanser’ of what was essentially a large chocolate cornflake filled with salted caramel ganache. DIVINE. Although I’m not entirely sure how it can be classed as a palette cleanser?! It was certainly the best I’ve ever had.
Then came the scones. Warm raisin & plain scones fresh out of the oven were brought to the table, served with homemade strawberry jam, a dark cherry jam & Cornish clotted cream.
Fortunately for me my mother doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth, so I got to scoff 3 scones whilst she was content with just the one. Could she be a more perfect date? Michael must hate me… The scones were delicious, they were airy & light and extremely moist. The homemade strawberry jam was my favourite of the two jams and was sublime with large, fresh strawberry pieces lurking within. The clotted cream was also sensational, incredibly thick with just the right level of sweetness. I devoured the lot.
OK, so by this point I was most definitely filling up, but how often do you get to have afternoon tea at the Dorchester? A selection of French pastries arrived. Round 1, may I add.
There was a raspberry & cream filled choux pastry, a delicate chocolate mousse cake with a thin layer of dark chocolate sitting atop, a passion fruit & coconut sponge, and a caramel & espresso panna cotta cube. My favourite was the chocolate petit four, but anything chocolate will always win for me.
I’m pretty sure mum had half of the caramel espresso cube. I cleared the rest. Then Round 2 arrived. Somehow I found the strength within to solider on. Lemon drizzle sponge, a raspberry tartlet, a vanilla macaroon and a miniature slice of classic Victoria sponge with jam brought our afternoon tea to an end.
Or so we thought. Our wonderful server had of course cottoned on to the fact that we were celebrating a belated Mother’s Day and brought out a complimentary dessert with a heartfelt message to mum as a kind & thoughtful gesture, for which I was most grateful and she was extremely chuffed.
Dessert packaged up in one of the Dorchester’s fine to-go boxes (probably the only place where I’d say it’s acceptable to get a doggie bag from), we wobbled out of the front doors back into the blissful sunshine and harsh return to reality.
Thank you SO much for the most wonderful day mumma, you truly are one of a kind xoxo
Price: I paid £200.25 for 2 afternoon teas, a bottle of champagne and 12.5% service charge. What can I say, she’s worth it!