Our wandering party of three – me, Teko, and our self-consciously underdressed plus-one and friend, Pieterjan – settled in for an all-too-brief, eye-popping, gastronomic feast in the Art Deco foyer of one of London’s grand hotels, Claridge’s, which according to their website has been in the business of serving afternoon tea for 150 years. This being the most festive time of year and us currently in the capital of tea culture, it was a no-brainer that we’d be indulging in this English tradition, it was only a question of where. Luckily I chose well – considering the price we paid it had to be.
The hotel was on full Christmas mode this year, from the moment we stepped in front of the towering tree in the lobby, to the angelic strains of a children’s choir serenading classic Christmas songs nonstop. For the next two hours, starting with a freshly opened bottle of bubbly, the Claridge’s festive afternoon tea offered an endless supply of precision-crafted savory sandwiches, their boozy Christmas pudding a la flambé, oven-fresh scones with the requisite clotted cream and jam, and even as Teko and I called it quits, formally ending with row upon row of beautifully-done sweets that if not for Pieterjan would have gone mostly uneaten. Of course there was also tea to help digest it all.
The experience in the end did feel worth the indulgence – not only were the offerings the best I’ve had for afternoon tea, the friendly service was comfortably unstuffy, and even if Santa served us tea himself, the location couldn’t have been any more festive. Alas, if only money were no object we’d be at Claridge’s again and again. After doing it for a century and a half they’ve certainly mastered the details down perfectly. Hands down a winner over anything available in Amsterdam for sure.