Some of the most memorable gifts I have ever received have been experiences, whether it’s been tickets to the theatre, a spa treatment or a meal for two at a swanky restaurant. Which is why, last Christmas, I told my mum that I’d bought her something that we could do together – something that, hopefully, we’d remember for years to come. It also solved the conundrum of what to buy the woman who has everything!
A glass of fizz is pretty much obligatory on our mother/daughter days out, and so a champagne afternoon tea felt like a natural choice. Plus, I knew it would be a wonderful pick-me-up during January – officially the longest and gloomiest month of the year.
One of the swankiest afternoon teas you can splash out on is at the Promenade at The Dorchester, on Park Lane. Set in the heart of Mayfair, The Dorchester is one of the world’s most prestigious and expensive hotels and we’d both been itching to set foot inside for years. Luckily, it didn’t disappoint…
We felt like celebrities from the moment we arrived. On the weekend we visited, there were three shiny Lamborghinis parked up outside, while a porter was loading one guest’s luggage into a Rolls-Royce.
Even though we had to make do with a rather unglamorous tube ride, followed by a short walk, to get us to the hotel, on arrival we were treated like VIPs – a doorman in a heavy gold-braided green coat welcomed us through the revolving door, and once inside the marble interior lobby, one of the front desk staff showed us through an archway into the gilded main concourse, the Promenade.
The hotel dates from 1931 and this area – known as ‘the drawing room of Mayfair’ – retains the glamour of a bygone era, with panelled walls, oriental deep-pile carpets, heavy drapes and plush goose down cushioned sofas, as well as spectacular terracotta marble columns and mahogany furniture.
Plinths support huge fresh flower displays at the entrance to the Promendade, too, and there are various flower arrangements and plants decorating the dining area (the floristry bill reportedly sets the hotel back an eye-watering £5,000 a week). The tables, all bathed in a warm glow from huge lampshades, are adorned with crisp white linen table clothes and small glass bowls containing fresh roses.
Once settled at our corner table – on a green upholstered, high-backed chair and plush sofa – we sat back and listened to the pianist playing at the grand piano (his beautiful rendition of the Phantom of the Opera theme was particularly memorable). Our friendly waiter, Denny, then arrived to introduce himself and talk us through the menu.
We had booked the champagne afternoon tea, which included one glass of either the Laurent Perrier Champagne NV or the Cuvée Rosé, a selection of finger sandwiches – salmon on granary, roast chicken on soft basil bread and cucumber and mint cream cheese on caraway seed bread, among other delights – warm scones and jam (with whole strawberries!) and Devonshire clotted cream.
Afterwards, an ornate two-tier stand arrived with a selection of artistically designed French-style cakes, including a beautiful red velvet creation. Denny appeared at regular intervals to offer us further sandwiches and cakes, if we could manage them – though we struggled to polish off the first round!
As well as the champagne, we were offered a selection of teas. The Dorchester are proud of their tea offerings; they have their own ‘house blend’ (similar to English Breakfast) and also serve a range of rare and unusual teas, including The Dalreoch selection, grown 2,400 feet up in the Scottish Highlands. It’s brought to the table to infuse in a siphon, and the unique oxidisation technique provides a bubbly spectacle. Like the sandwiches and cakes, refills were offered.
You may be just off of London’s busy Park Lane, but in The Dorchester’s elegant Promenade lounge you feel a million miles away from the hustle and bustle. The beautiful surroundings transport you back to a bygone era and the afternoon tea itself is a work of art – and tastes just as good. We only wish we’d been able to stay for longer than our allotted one hour, 45 minutes. We could have spent a whole afternoon here!
Champagne Afternoon Tea at The Dorchester costs £68 per person with Laurent-Perrier Champagne NV and £75 per person with Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé Champagne. An additional glass of Laurent-Perrier Champagne NV costs £14 and £23 for Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé.
Author: Kirsty Nutkins
Kirsty is an experienced journalist and travel writer, currently working on a national newspaper supplement as Features and Travel Editor. She is the founder of TravelLuxe.co.uk.