Overlooking the extraordinarily beautiful Kensington Palace Green, and served in the quintessentially English Park Lounge, the experience of Afternoon Tea at Kensington’s Milestone Hotel is a regal affair to say the least. The open fireplace and ‘sink and stay’ chairs invite visitors to not just ‘pop in’, but spend an entire afternoon between this majestic room’s four walls, and afternoon tea is a sumptuous affair that demands time to savour.
As our waitress showed us to our table she handed us the biggest afternoon tea menu I’ve ever laid eyes on. From single estate teas cultivated in the misty hills of Taiwan or the lush green slopes of Ceylon’s Maskeliya Valley, to classic Earl and Lady Greys, and more than half a dozen Tisane and Oriental offerings, we were spoilt for choice. So while deciding we bowed to not-very-much pressure at all and accepted the offer of a glass of champagne to sip while we decided!
Afternoon Tea is the epitome of English tradition and can be taken at hotels and restaurants across the capital. But few have such a wide selection of teas on offer, or are served in such regal surroundings as The Milestone, a boutique Five Star venue named after the cast iron milestone which rests against one of its walls. And the menu your server will hand you as you’re seated proudly tells the tale of the tradition on its pages. We learned that tea had been popular with Britons since its introduction in 1559, but it wasn’t until 1884 when Anna, Duchess of Bedford, invented the meal to fill the time between early luncheon and late dinner – a time she felt to be the low point of many a country house party – that the tradition began.
As time progressed, Afternoon Tea became a meal surrounded by etiquette and very strange customs; silver teapots, delicate china, cake stands, starched napkins, and whether to pour the milk before or after the tea – a burning question indeed that still causes many a bicker over accompanying biscuits!
But we weren’t here to bicker, we were here to indulge, and indulge we did. Served on shiny silver stand was the perfect balance of sweet and savoury bites, featuring three tiers of sandwiches, French pastries freshly made cakes. Our finger sandwiches include Smoked Scottish salmon and cream cheese, free-range egg mayonnaise and Hampshire watercress, roast ham and English mustard, Mull of Kintyre Cheddar and tomato, cucumber and Greek yoghurt and chicken mayonnaise with chopped almonds.
There was a fascinating selection of tiny cakes on the delicate stand. I most enjoyed the lemon meringue lollipop and mini éclair, whereas my guest was wowed by the savoury frittata and mini macaroons. And once we had washed them down with some Rooibos (for her) and Darjeeling (for me) we were on to the pièce de résistance – a warm selection of freshly-baked scones served with Devonshire clotted cream and homemade strawberry preserve. Made fresh-to-order these scones do not disappoint. I’d always thought of afternoon tea as a light affair, bridging the gap between meals, but this had left me fit to burst! What an elegant, tasty, and utterly enjoyable way to spend an afternoon in the capital.
- Afternoon Tea is served in three sittings on most days and priced from £40 a person. See the full menus and book online at www.milestonehotel.com.