Afternoon Tea at Brown’s

Afternoon Tea in London

Traditional British Afternoon Tea

‘There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.’

Forgive me for stealing Henry James’s words, but I can only assume he came to this conclusion after taking tea at the iconic and rather sumptuous Brown’s hotel in London.

Time travel may be confined to myths, but I was certainly transported into another era as I watched the tea sommeliers glide effortlessly along the floor of the tea rooms on a dreary Wednesday afternoon in the heart of Mayfair.

A cursory glance around the room confirmed the absence of fake Prada bags and conspicuous clothing. A piano gently wafting out innocuous tunes in the background served to further create the genteel and refined world into which I was suddenly placed. No jostling here. Oh no. Time, I was about to discover, was to stand temporarily still and make way for the most leisurely and splendid of tea ceremonies.

Having been escorted to our table, I was struck by the juxtaposition of comforting tradition and bold as brass ‘new’. Surrounded by original wood panelling you would have thought that the sheer beauty of wood being interrupted by Paul Smith lighting would jar. Not a bit of it. The effect was elegant and sophisticated, not unlike our charming sommelier actually, who navigated us through the world of tea with the unhurried air of someone who was delighted to act as ambassador for this ‘liquid wisdom.’

To accompany our tea journey, the visual joy approaching our table heightened our anticipation to the power of ten. Set upon a beautifully crafted cake stand were the most delicate, gorgeous looking morsels that resembled little works of art. Greedily eying all the layers, my nostrils were virtually assaulted by the heady aroma of homemade strawberry jam, next to which was the most luscious, gloopy dollop of Cornish clotted cream to pile onto our scones.

First things first however. The finger sandwich selection. Tradition should rarely be broken and indeed we were not about to experience otherwise. Cucumber, beef, chicken, smoked salmon and egg and cress graced our plates reassuringly. They say that all sorrows are less with bread and the sudden silence and ensuing gluttony were proof of this wise saying. I say gluttony as this fine establishment replenishes your plate as many times as is your heart’s desire.

Spooning an unnecessary amount of cream onto my scone, I wondered how many people would shame a scone with jam on the bottom.  Inconceivable. Sinking ones teeth into a tidal wave of jam and clotted cream should be made compulsory at school.

As for the gorgeous selection of pastries and cakes, for me the star of the show was a shot glass of elderflower jelly topped with a cucumber cream and a delicate edible flower. The subtlety and fusion of tastes were just sensational.

As for the teas, I chose Brown’s own mix to accompany the cream tea and as a palate cleanser I chose a glass of ‘First Flush Wonder’ from the tea library. This lightly golden liquid beauty is drunk in a wide bottomed glass that looks like a brandy balloon without the stem. The fragrance needs to be bottled and sold. The taste is as delicate as a purple water lily.

Lastly, If you’d prefer to indulge in a civilised glass of champagne this is, of course on offer and judging by the number of tall, elegant glasses that made the room sparkle, a popular choice indeed.

Whoever said you can’t have your cake and eat it was a blithering idiot.

Afternoon Tea is served from 3pm to 6pm Monday to Friday and from 1pm to 6pm at the weekend.

Maria Kuehn is a chef, writer and winner of The Observer Food Monthly Awards 2011 and has her own food and recipe website and blog

Reviewer's Rating
Cost per head High
Dress Code Formal, Smart Casual
Clientele Locals, Hotel guests and visitors from abroad
Need to book Yes

Additional Price Comments

Browns Traditional Afternoon Tea starts from £39.50; the Champagne Tea is £49.50 and the Rosé Champagne Afternoon Tea £52.50.

Last updated on 25-11-2012

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