Afternoon tea. It conjures up all kinds of things in the mind. Neatly-cut sarnies filled with salmon. Intricate cakes, just waiting to be eaten. Teas from far-off lands. It’s hard not to feel like you’ve gone back to a more elegant, classical time when someone asks you which flavour of tea you’ll be drinking this morning. After all, The Cadogan Hotel has been serving its patrons for over one hundred years.
The five star hotel itself is a real landmark. Situated a five minute walk from Sloane Square and Knightsbridge tube stations, it faces the peaceful Cadogan Gardens and is a stone’s throw from designer shops like Hermes and Chanel. Once home to Oscar Wilde, he was arrested in Room 118 for gross indecency. The room has since been converted into a suite, so if you want to retrace the poet’s steps (minus the arrest or gross indecency) you can.
But what about the tea? I took mum along to sample the experience with me.
Narrowly missing the thunderstorm that’s so typical of a British spring, we walked through the impressive entrance and I was greeted by a member of staff within moments. Mum and I were directed through the tall, mosaic tiled entrance through huge double doors to the drawing room, where tea is served. The room itself is full of character with large stained glass windows overlooking a small courtyard. Oak panelled walls are adorned with paintings and the soft light was welcoming, despite the gloom outside.
We were shown to our seats – a coffee table and sofas. Considering the hotel is on a par with The Ritz and Dorchester, it was lovely to be sat in a comfy chair. It makes the experience more pleasant, as if they’re saying, ‘Hey, there’s no rush! Enjoy yourself, relax and take your time!’ Compared to other places I’ve had afternoon tea, where formal dress is required, this was far more enjoyable.
Champagne was served, although I’m unsure which Champagne it was, and we were presented with the tea menu. There are the traditional options, English Breakfast, Earl Grey etc., as well as more exotic infusions. My mum went for a special blend, created to mark the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. It was a mix of flowers and fruits, and was delicious. I went for a rose tea. I always go for the rose tea. Of course, as the meal went on we were asked if we’d like to try a different selection, but we were both so pleased with our original choices we stuck with them.
The tea arrived soon after finishing the champagne. It was served beautifully, on a three tiered stand. On the bottom were sandwiches; salmon, cucumber with a lemon flavour soured cream, egg, cheese and pickle and beef. My favourite was the cucumber, it was absolutely moreish. Mum’s was the cheese and pickle. They sound slightly packed lunch, but the quality of ingredients used (Partridges do supply groceries to the Queen, after all) is top notch and can’t be faulted.
Sandwiches all eaten, the second tier comprised of Chelsea buns and scones with elderflower and champagne and rose and raspberry jam. We’re not huge fans of Chelsea buns, but gave them a go anyway. Sadly these were the only things left over. The scones were something else, light, fluffy and just delicious. My favourite.
The top tier had three types of cake, a battenburg, a Jaffa Cake cake, and raspberry macarons. The macarons, being the most pretty, were the first to go. They tasted delicious, if heavier than I expected. It tasted very much like a biscuit rather than a pillowy meringue. Mum went for the Jaffa Cake cake, topped with a gold flake. She’s a huge dark chocolate fan, and said it was the highlight of the whole afternoon. The battenburg was rose and lemon flavoured, with just a trace of almond marzipan. Not your standard Mr Kipling!
All in all, we had a lovely time, spending just over an hour eating and relaxing. The place was full of people, from a family sharing tea together, to what looked like a business meeting taking place on the table opposite. There were also regulars who sat their comfortably with newspapers in hand sipping tea contentedly. It’s definitely worth a visit. Mum had a fabulous time and couldn’t thank me enough for taking her. She knows it’s something dad would really enjoy so is planning to let him experience the tea for himself. It’s a reasonable £26.50 per person, or £33.50 with a glass of champagne. Go for bubbly if you can. It’s definitely worth it.
The Cadogan | 75 Sloane Street, London, SW1X 9SG | 0800 023 5445