Monday, 18 January 2010
Afternoon tea at Brown’s Hotel, Mayfair, London
Having been in London for more than a few years, we’d considered going for afternoon tea, but then dismissed it as some sort of touristy thing. Actually, the price of these teas (£37 for some sandwiches???) was really what stopped us, but anyhow, we finally decided to try it out, and where better to try afternoon tea out than at the place where it all started.
Browns hotel in Mayfair is one of the oldest hotels in London, and according to some, this hotel was where the tradition of afternoon tea began. I had a quick read of the hotel’s history on the menu, and it said that the hotel was actually opened by James Brown and his wife (James Brown was the butler to Lord Byron).
This hotel was also where the first successful telephone call in Great Britain was made, by Alexander Graham Bell.
It was also very, very warm by the fireplace, where we sat.
The first impression of the hotel (because we paid £37 each so I’m gonna soak up every bit of ambience there is) is that it’s not one of those places where you put your elbows on the table. The other hushed tones of the diners (or tea-ers) nearby made the place feel more formal than it probably should have been, for a weekend afternoon tea session.
Anyhow, unperturbed, we were led to our smallish little table by the fireplace (it’s not the one shown, but that was the only diner-free view I had so I snapped it). The waiting staff are aplenty in this hotel, but all of them stood a respectful distance away, always observing to see if we needed anything.
A great show is made of every serving done here, to much delight. I mean, when we’ve paid all that to come and have tea, I expect more than a teabag in a cup, and Brown’s knows that. There are more than 10 varieties of teas to choose from, and you’re allowed unlimited tea, so we tried 5 types that afternoon. Each time we changed our order, a new silver teapot was produced, and the waiting staff took the time to explain each type of tea to us.
My favourite that afternoon was the Rosebud tea, and next was the Lemon Verbena tea. The Rosebud tea I liked, because it was like nothing I’d ever had before. Nothing like the rose syrup type drinks from cordial, but the rosebuds produced a slightly fragrant, somewhat musty aroma, and when sugar was added, it became slightly more syrupy. The Lemon tea we liked because it was refreshing. The other teas we had were just … tea, really.
Once you’ve made the order (ours was for the afternoon tea priced at £37 per person, as I keep saying), this lovely delicate looking tiered tray was put on our table. The keyword here is UNLIMITED. Not in the style of an all-you-can-eat buffet where you have to fight your way to the crispy squid before everyone else, but more in the style of, the moment it’s finished, a plate gets replaced.
We started off with the bottom tray, which was the sandwiches tray. Even here, the waiting staff took the time to explain what was in each little finger of sandwich, though, by the time that was done, I’d kinda mixed them all up anyway.
The yellow one had ham and piccalilli in it, the next red one was smoked salmon, and then there was the chicken in mayo, cucumber sandwich, and lastly the egg mayonnaise sandwich.
On another note, watercress goes surprisingly well with scones.
Anyway, the sandwiches were superb. Maybe it was because we were really hungry, or because the anticipation made everything seem nicer, but these were really one of the nicest sandwiches we’d had in a while. I don’t like sandwiches, but I liked these.
The butter was great, the filling was great, and the only downside was that after a while by the fire, the bread got a little crusty and hard, but this was no fault of the chef.
This was by far my favourite tier on the tray. 2 fruit scones and 2 plain scones. Each scone was probably the size of a flat tennis ball, and each one was fluffy, buttery, and just utterly delicious. They came with a pot of clotted cream, and some strawberry jam, which went perfectly with the scones.
Just looking at them now is making me want some.
Not helping, still wanting some scone.
Look, jam on scone.
The white cream is the clotted cream. First time I’d had it, if I’m not mistaken. Tastes slightly like butter, slightly like cream. Texture wise, it was almost stringy, if you get what I mean. Look at the little curly bit, when you put the spoon in the pot, and try to take some out, it kinda leaves a little cream stalactite.
This was the view from where I sat, all these cakes looking at us, each one saying … ‘Calories’. But we ate them anyway.
First one in, the orange something-or-another. Looked like some mini upside down cake, tasted like moist orange sponge, but with a little more substance. The orangey thing at the top was possible either orange (doesn’t look like it) or peach.
The raspberry mini trifle thing. Tasted like what you’d expect raspberry trifle with mousse to taste like. Slightly warm, but that was because we were sat right next to the fire, and by the time we’d gone through the tray of sandwiches (three times), it was getting really warm. We couldn’t help it that the waiters kept bringing those sandwiches every time the plate was empty.
Lemon cupcake. Very nice, but very small. To give the impression that we were small eaters, we had a bite each and passed it back and forth until it was finished.
Hazelnut mini tart, which I didn’t like, because the hazelnut whirl thing on top of the tart tasted too strong, and the sponge and pastry at the bottom were kinda dry.
Brown’s chocolate macaron, or a French macaroon. Saved this for last as I thought it was a really nice picture. Tasted very chocolaty, and so crumbly, like all good macarons should be.
I’m going to of course recommend that you try it out once, just to have the experience of having been to an afternoon tea. We really enjoyed it, had a fantastic afternoon, and probably will come back for tea again here, probably not too often though because of the price!
In comparison: Our grocery shopping bill for the week (including lunch) came up to about £71, which is less than the bill for this tea.