Afternoon Tea at Harrods’ Georgian Restaurant, London
April 13, 2011 17 Comments
Before I left for London, I researched and researched places all the touristy things I wanted to do and some of the yummy places where I wanted to eat. Afternoon tea was very high up on my list, after all, in my mind it’s so quintessentially English. Websites like Chowhound recommended the Mandeville Hotel, and brief a browse through their menu convinced me to go there. But the day my mom and I wanted to get afternoon tea, we weren’t close to the Mandeville Hotel. It was an awkward in-between time after having spent hours at the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey and before we had to go see Legally Blonde: The Musical, a time that we both agreed should not be spent transporting ourselves to and back from where we were staying (a lovely hotel in Kensington) or unnecessarily wasted trying to find a new landmark.
We had just been to Harrods for the Chocolate Bar the day before and on our way out, we had meandered into a remote part of the children’s floor and found the Georgian. It was our last full day in London. Afternoon tea had thus far remained elusive. Towards Knightsbridge we went (again). And we were there for nearly three, incredibly relaxing, tasty hours.
The Georgian has a sort of typical, lavish and modern European ambience. Brocades in neutral, light tones, lighting fixtures with baroque accents, that sort of thing. When we went, a pianist was situated in the middle of the restaurant, his playing a subtle, but pleasant background to the waxing and waning of chatter in the main dining room. Because we had made the decision to go to Harrods at the last minute, we did not have reservations. So instead, we were invited to enjoy tea on the Terrace, an extended sun room attached to the back of the main room. I actually vastly preferred the Terrace to the main room because the natural light was much more relaxing and altogether better for photography.
Promptly after taking our tea orders (I went with the basic afternoon tea whereas my mom went with “Moroccan Mint”) our server delivered this magnificent, three-tiered trophy of perfect afternoon snacks and sweets. I couldn’t quite get all the tiers in at once, but at the top were pastries. A mini fruit tart, some strawberry cheesecake, slices of raspberry coffee cake, and chocolate éclairs…
Then there were scones. Golden, perfectly formed scones with little glass bowls of the creamiest butter and cute, teeny jars of preserves.
And finally, there were sandwiches. Lots and lots of sandwiches with the most exacting geometry.
These sandwiches are totally my weakness. Yes, sweets are too, but tea sandwiches are just so delicate and perfectly formed. Honestly, they’re something that I would probably not make at home even though they’re the easiest to recreate, just because I can’t stand the thought of throwing perfectly good crusts away. But when you’re on vacation, when you’re at Harrods, it’s time to indulge.
So that’s what we did. Bite after bite, we sipped our fragrant tea, refilled our cups, dropped in rustic sugar cubes, and poured swirls of milk. The best part about afternoon tea is sharing it with another person. In my case, my mom and I discussed everything we ate, our favorite memories from our trip so far, and our excitement to see the musical.
Everything had something uniquely delicious about it. The sandwich bread was just so thin and delicate, the filling was always understated, yet impactful. Shown above is the “smoked salmon with caper butter” sandwich, but there were other dreamy and phenomenal ones: “Cucumber and minted yoghurt,” “ham and piccalilli,” “cheddar cheese and Branston pickle,” “truffled egg salad with cress.” My weakness was definitely the truffled egg salad. All the sandwiches were well balanced and gave a complete, savory dimension to the tea experience.
Having finished our sandwiches, we moved on to our scones.
Prior to this tea, I was not a scone fan. My prior experience with scones involve the dry, floury tasting hockey pucks from Starbucks. Yuck. But come on now, we’re at Harrods, not Starbucks. And these scones are top-notch. Slicing it in half revealed a crumbly, buttery texture inside. Casting aside my healthy eating inhibitions, I smeared both sides with generous globs of butter and strawberry jam. Something about this buttery scone with extra butter pretty much made me a scone lover for life. I love jam that is extra chunky, with large pieces of fruit in the occasional bite. You see that bite on the left side of the scone? Directly underneath that strawberry chunk is butter. Strawberry chunk + extra butter + buttery scone = transcendental experience. Don’t question this.
Now, while the scones were delicious, we were anxious to start the plate of pastries. From the fruit tart to the teeny cheesecake, it was hard to choose where to begin eating. Ultimately, we started with the fruit tart and went clockwise. Each sweet bite was in perfect harmony.
I can’t even distinguish which one was my favorite. Each had elements of pastry and dessert that make me weak in the knees. I love desserts that highlight fruit–the tart and the coffee cake did this remarkably. I love cheesecake and the strawberry cheesecake had a fantastic density.
But for decadence’s sake, I will leave you with this picture of the chocolate éclair. Crispy on the outside, puffy and buttery in the inside, before culminating in a rich, chocolatey core.
For more information about the Georgian Restaurant at Harrods or about afternoon tea, go here.
This is part 4 of a series about some dining experiences I had while in London. You can read part 1 about Jamie’s Italian here, part 2 about Gordon Ramsay at Claridges here, and part 3 about the Chocolate Bar at Harrods here.