Tea with the Queen? Oh, go on then – if you insist! OK, don’t get over-excited now, this isn’t an invitation for tea with Her Maj in person we’re afraid, but it’s quite possibly the nearest we’ll come to said occasion. Afternoon tea with the Queen’s nearest neighbours and great friends – at The Goring. Located on a quiet little street a mere stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace, The Goring is actually the only hotel to have been awarded a Royal Warrant for hospitality services. So yes, you can guess that their afternoon tea is going to be pretty stupendous. If it’s good enough for the Queen, well then!
There’s always a smart bowler-hatted chap at the entrance, ready to open the doors with a smile and welcome you into London’s only family-run luxury hotel. But although The Goring’s undoubtedly a five-star, it’s not really like the other grand palaces you may have visited in the capital. Case in point: its afternoon tea. Luxury hotels have seen a stratospheric rise in popularity of afternoon tea in recent years. Hordes of tourists book up months in advance to have the chance to tick off “Afternoon Tea at the X” on their bucket list. And unfortunately the rise in demand has meant that some of these establishments have become something of a soulless conveyor belt of waiters pouring tea and disinterestedly talking guests through their script of what the menu entails. Luckily,the Goring is quite, quite different.
Afternoon tea is served in an elegant room overlooking The Goring’s pretty gardens, rather lovely with or without afternoon sunshine. It’s either cosy and chic, or light and airy depending on where you sit – and although, of course, things get booked up months in advance, it feels like you’re the personal guests of the hotel – a friendly, family-run establishment. But let’s peruse the menu and get down to tea! If you opt for the Bollinger afternoon tea (you must!), the occasion opens as all events should – with a glass of the finest fizz. It would be rude to say non.
Bien sur, you’re not just here for the fizz, it’s really all about the tea. And the cake. And the sandwiches. However, if you are particularly interested in tea, there’s an extensive menu, with The Goring’s very own blend of tea coming highly recommended. Suffice to say that the waiters’ knowledge of tea extends well beyond whether to pour the milk in before or after, and they’ll happily take time to explain the intricacies of the teas on offer – and the entire menu, in fact. Afternoon tea here is a very relaxed, unhurried experience and the idea that London is dashing about doing Important Things while we’re taking tea seems quite frankly ridiculous. There’s a petite amuse bouche to open proceedings: we had a delicate pea mousse which made us realise that peas are in fact the most divine and supremely elegant of all vegetables. I suspect The Goring’s chef would have the same effect on pretty much any legume.
After all, Executive Chef Shay Cooper oversees the hotel’s Michelin-starred dining room, so he knows what he’s doing. “The cake selection changes four times each year,” explains Cooper. No less than four excuses to make an excursion to The Goring then! The dainty sandwiches also change with a pleasing regularity, but rest assured, it’s all perfectly elegant – and just what we like to think that the Queen is savouring every day at about 3.30pm. Favourites? A hearty ham and mustard and the finest cucumber (bien sur), but it’s hard to spend too long on the sandwiches when there are those cakes winking at you from the stand. And the scones!
“A particular favourite by far was a salt caramel and apple choux bun,” says Cooper. We loved the miniature strawberry cheesecake on our visit, although the intricate white chocolate and honey mousse was deliciously different. And the bitter chocolate macaron would definitely score highly with any committed chocoholics. Of course, the scones are just as they should be – and served with wonderful homemade jam and the richest clotted cream. It’s all terribly delicious. And the worst bit? Any of it – tea, cakes, scones, sandwiches – can be replenished, just say the word!
Come in the summer months, and you can enjoy afternoon tea in the garden – perhaps with a game of croquet afterwards? Or perhaps you’d like to visit from November to January and enjoy a festive afternoon tea with turkey sandwiches, chestnut snowmen, pistachio Christmas trees and mince pies, to name but a few of the delights of the Goring’s Christmas afternoon tea…
We’re sure you’ll find an excuse to visit. Perhaps a few times, just to be sure?
Afternoon Tea at The Goring costs £42.50 per person, £52.50 with a glass of Bollinger Special Cuvée Champagne or £62.50 with Bollinger Rosé Champagne. There’s also a gluten-free afternoon tea available, and vegetarians can be accommodated on request. For more information and to book, see the hotel’s website or telephone +44 (0)20 7396 9000.