Tea for you and me

Join me on my epic quest to find the best tea ever


The Ritz

The Ritz London, 150 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9BR

It’s the big one. When people think of a traditional afternoon tea then it’s often the Ritz that springs to mind (though interestingly in the movies I’ve seen when people have afternoon tea, it’s the Dorchester they’re sitting in). The four of us had booked this months ago and we were anticipating great things. Previously in London I’ve been to the Dorchester and the Lanesborough for afternoon tea and I was interested to see how this would compare.

The Palm Court at The Ritz

The Palm Court at The Ritz

The key to the Ritz is the splendour. You aren’t allowed in for afternoon tea unless you’re smartly dressed. No jeans or sports shoes and a jacket and tie for the men. There are liveried doormen and every surface is guilded.

We were shown to our table and our waiter introduced himself. There is no tea menu but what we asked for they had: English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Assam and Darjeeling. No notepads or labels here – he remembered who ordered what and could tell all the teas apart by smell. The tea was loose leaf (naturally) and a bit stronger than I normally take it, but there was always a  jug of hot water so it wasn’t a problem. Our waiter was wonderful and was nothing but helpful when we explained there were three vegetarians and only one meat eater in our party. Later, when we asked for extra sandwiches from a different waiter he vanished before we could add the veggie request and we had to explain carefully when he came back exactly what we wanted. This was the only wrinkle in the whole experience.

We had a variety of sandwiches between us. As the only omnivore I had chicken, smoked salmon, ham, cucumber, cheese and egg with cress. The veggies had cucumber, cheese, egg with cress, humus and tomato salad. The sandwiches were unlimited and very moreish.

Afternoon tea at The Ritz

Afternoon tea at The Ritz

Then were the scones, they were apple or raisin and small and perfectly formed, with the obligatory clotted cream and strawberry jam (and I had to introduce controversy here but yes, the cream should go on first). The scones were also unlimited but as we’d got a bit over excited with the sandwiches we couldn’t manage any extras. The scone plate also had some slices of fruitcake which H and N declined as they were feeling full. E and I went ahead. The fruitcake was lighter than most and very moist, but it pushed us over the edge and E and I were full as well.

This posed a dilemma – we had six beautiful patisserie cakes on the top of our stand, literally the pinnacle of the meal. We couldn’t face them and yet to leave them went against all our afternoon tea beliefs. We bravely soldiered on. H chose the fruit tartlet with pistachio and berries. N took the macaroon as he hadn’t bought any from Ladurée. E had a boat with fruit in and I chose the chocolate cake. Top marks for all four. E and I shared the penultimate cake, a mound of – well, let’s be honest, it looked like a breast. We couldn’t work out what it was or what it was made of. There was sharp lemon cream stuff over a cake base with a middle of pink something, mousse perhaps. Tasted nice though. Answers on a postcard please (or just comment on this post).

There is a time limit of one hour and thirty minutes for tea at the Ritz as they have so many sittings. This didn’t prove the problem we thought it might as we were so full we couldn’t face another morsel.

I’m glad we tried it. I would recommend it if you only get one chance to go for afternoon tea, as long as you pace yourself! There’s not much time to pace yourself though, so I’m still going to carry on searching for somewhere that lets you sit for longer.

Teapot? Yes.
Leaf tea? Yes.
Milk jug? Yes.
Price? An eye watering £37 each (not including tip).
Cake? Yes, and scones.
Go again? Yes, but not for a while.