Me, seven or eight years ago (I look so young!) and my dear late grandmother having tea at the Ritz
I decided it would be nice and hopefully useful to one or two people who may find my website via Google to review some of the places I've had afternoon tea - and I have to start with perhaps the most famous of all, the Ritz hotel in London.
I took my grandmother for her 70th birthday. I'd never been before and I don't believe she had, but she was the old fashioned kind of lady who liked dainty sandwiches and always drank out of a cup and saucer, never a mug. So I knew she would love afternoon tea at the Ritz.
It was several years ago now so I can't remember too many of the specific details or even exactly what we ate. Afternoon tea at the Ritz really is an institution and something I think everyone should try once!
There is a dress code, though it isn't too restrictive, especially for women. Men must wear a jacket and tie and jeans are not allowed, but those are the only specifications (so it's much easier for women!). While some people do take the opportunity to wear their Sunday best, not everyone is dressed up to the nines. It's not as formal as you might imagine - yes, it seems quite posh, and the waiters are impeccably polite and attentive, but many of the people there are tourists, or people having a day out - not necessarily ones who could afford to stay in the hotel. Nobody is going to look down on you if you call your napkin a serviette (or indeed vice versa).
It's not cheap - it currently costs £45 per head or more if you want champagne, and you will only be there for about 2 hours - though I think that's pretty standard for afternoon tea at a London hotel. There are 17 varieties of tea on offer according to the website and a very traditional selection of sandwiches - cucumber with cream cheese, ham with mustard mayonnaise, smoked salmon with lemon butter and so on. The Ritz would never go for one of the more novelty types of afternoon tea you can find in London!
I was pleasantly surprised when the waiter informed us that the sandwiches - which are sliced into delicate fingers with the crusts cut off - would be replenished as many times as we would like, though there were plenty on the cake stand already for just the two of us. After the sandwiches we moved onto the great British staple, the scone - and then the part I was looking forward to most, the pastries. The menu on the Ritz website simply states "assortment of afternoon tea pastries and cakes" - I imagine this is because the selection isn't always the same. It's also nice to have something of a surprise! I think I tried most if not all of the cakes and was so full I couldn't eat for the rest of the day!
Other little touches I liked were the Tiffany style lamps on each table and the fact that the waiter was very happy to take a photo for us - again there was no embarrassment, no sense of "we mustn't draw attention to ourselves" - almost everyone there wants their photo taken while they enjoy their tea and the waiters are more than happy to oblige.
Overall this was a lovely day out and I'm very glad I took my grandmother and have this special memory.