TEA FOR TWO - BROWNS HOTEL
There is no getting away from it, I am a scruffy old bugger. I cannot envisage spending more than the bare minimum on clothes though I am happy to spend a great deal more than that on a decent meal.
That being said, there are times when I like to drag my best bib and tucker kicking and screaming from the dark nether regions of the wardrobe, give my face a bit of a dry polish and leave the house not looking like a character from a Galton & Simpson sit-com.
Today was such a day.
For Christmas, amongst the presents I bought for M was an invitation for tea at Brown's hotel ( I like to think that my choice of gifts is now a little more thought filled than the choice of an antique pipe rack I once bought for a girlfriend who, strangely, suddenly realised that she was more than capable of living without me in her life. Funny creatures women)
I had not been for afternoon tea for a long while. But, it is one of those things that although the rest of the world attempts to replicate, only London really seems to do well. There are many options and choices in town. The Ritz, Claridges, The Waldorf etc etc. But, Browns was always best and, now it has resurfaced from its recent refurb, I had high hopes.
With my recent qualification as a trainer and M's acceptance as a Polish translator for Islington council, we had a double reason for celebration and decided to meet up for a pre tea drink at Claridges Bar.
Claridges' bar is the only bit of this once great hotel that I still like. The restaurant under Gordon " I played for Rangers" Ramsay is the scene of the most noxiously bad meal I have ever had in London and the hotel is getting a bit worn around the egdes. The bar, however, is still a good, if pricey, choice for excellent cocktails and the best free snackage in London hoteldom.
A perfectly made martini ( ice cold and naked ) and a glass of louis Roederer was a nose bleedingly expencive £27 inc tip, but served as a nice little heart starter for the assault course ahead.
Tea is served a Browns on Albermarle from 3p-6pm and, when we arrived bang on 3pm the place was practically empty. By the time we staggered out of there two and half hours later, it was packed to the gunwhales.
Service was prompt, amiable and efficient. It remained so throughout our stay. We were shown to an small table in the front room and offered a glass of champagne which we declined. The waiter brought the tea menu which had samples of the leaves under glass so you could make an informed choice. I couldn't, as I know bugger all about the stuff. But, we made a choice anyway. M had the specially blended Brown's Afternoon Blend. I chose Assam. Both were good. Were they superlative examples of their type? I have not got a clue. But they were hot and wet which is all I ask of tea and/or lapdancers, so I was happy.
A three tiered tray was placed in front of us. The bottom tier had dainty, crustless finger sandwiches ( egg, ham, cheese and tomato, smoked salmon and cucumber ) The second tier had pastries ( chocolate, fruit tarts etc ) the third, four mini scones alongside this, bowls of clotted cream and housemade raspberry jam were also offered.
Then the fun began.
Every time we looked like we might be emptying one of the tiers, more were offered. Every time the tea in our cups came close to being drained, more was poured. Plates were replaced regularly with clean ones and the napkin test was bitchslapped into submission with expert folding ( with one attempt that lost points for poor artistic merit ) This was seriously good service, attentive but not overly so.
As for the food itself, about as many carbs ( for remember CARBS=DEATH ) as I have ingested in the whole of the last 5 years put together, but worth every insulin producing mouthful. The sandwiches were quite lovely, the cucumber in particular. The pastries were light and the patisserie cream in the tarts was worth the admission on its own. The scones were a little dry, but, we both spooned plentiful amounts of cream and jam on them to good effect.
They would have been quite happy for us to have sat there for hours but, two hours and fifteen minutes later, we could barely move let alone eat any more. So, bill paid, we waddled out both feeling as if we were large enough to have our own climate.
Afternoon tea in London is not, I think, something that many Londoners think of doing unless they have visitors in from out of town. But, it is serious fun and, on the amount of food we put away, very good value for money.
Heart attackingly recommended.