This morning, for Tuesday Travels we’re staying close to home, in our fair isle’s capital, London. Afternoon tea is not only a national pastime, but a completely decadent opportunity to eat cake and drink
champagne tea, which makes it perfect for a get together. I think it’s a brilliant day out too, with your favourite girls, to treat your mum, for a hen do, or even as part of a weekend away with your man, so I’m happy to be sharing this review with you from Victoria of Sugar Plum Slipper.
Victoria is quite the ‘girl about town’, and I’m looking forward to hearing more from her!
Anyone that knows me, knows that afternoon tea is one of my favourite meals of the day, followed by brunch, midnight snacks, supper, dinner, cocktail-hour “picky-bits”, breakfast and lunch – in that order.
I love the fact that afternoon tea, what is meant to be a light, ladylike, delicate afternoon snackette to keep energy levels up for gentle croquet on the lawns and some light needlework before dressing for dinner, is basically just an excuse to eat a massive brunch. Well, I’m not eating lunch and I have to survive until 2.30pm on just breakfast… and then to stuff my face with naughty delicacies all afternoon with some of my best girls (and ladies) until they send the pastry chef home and bring in the dinner chef and then we get started on the cocktails.
I’ve worked my way around London and a few other cities sampling the afternoon tea delights on offer and thus, I feel like I’m a bit of an afternoon tea aficionado, if I do say so myself.
Image Credit: The Soho Hotel
This weekend’s afternoon tea date was at The Soho Hotel with my mum, and some close family friends. (two of whom you could refer to as my “god family”) We try to get together every couple of months for a catch up of some kind, and afternoon tea always wins out. This weekend followed the usual schedule: we met at 2pm, ate afternoon tea for three hours, then worked our way through the cocktail list for a another three hours, before rolling home! The first time we went out, my lovely hubby agreed to pick us up in the evening, but was incredulous as to how afternoon tea can last until ten pm. He has since learned that afternoon tea means that most of the weekend is a write off!
So anyway, I digress. This isn’t supposed to be about my eating habits, but about the venue, menu and service.
We picked the hotel as it’s part of the Firmdale Hotels group and I’m slowly working my way through their entire portfolio. This time I picked the Soho Hotel for the Pommery Autumn Tea menu, convenient location for us all (a five minute walk from Tottenham Court Road tube station) and it’s a funky design hotel.
The Soho Hotel was awarded the accolade “The Most Glamorous Hotel in the World” by the 2005 Tatler Travel Guide. It was a lovely, stylish, funky hotel but if I’m honest I think I’ve been to slightly more glam hotels in my time (not on my own account, unfortunately) but the accolades aside, it was pretty impressive.
I’m the first to admit I’m an utter pleb when it comes to art, design and architecture but what I feel I do know is when something is aesthetically pleasing, when the surroundings are comfortable, whether the cuisine is tasty and when the service is attentive, so those are the aspects I’ll be reviewing.
On arrival we were greeted by the giant Botero cat sculpture often used in the hotel’s logo and a spacious lobby filled with colourful artefacts. We were shown through to the Refuel restaurant and bar whilst they located our table as we were slightly early.
Booking had been very easy, the staff were helpful and polite and when I requested that our booking be in “the pretty pink and green room with the squishy sofas” they said they couldn’t promise that area to any booking, but that they would do their best to accommodate my request.
It turned out that they had indeed honoured their promise and we were seated in the Drawing Room around one of the large shared tables – Wagamama-style.
a) we were early
b) one of our party couldn’t make the date
c) I spied a nicer spot across the room
d) I spent nine years as a waitress in a tea shop and so have an almost algebraic talent for table re-organisation, and
e) I’m a bossy boots
I spoke to the waitress and pointed out that by moving us, she’d have three much happier parties, with much more space. Luckily she agreed and I helped her move our crockery and glasswear across the room, and she was either a really good (but out-of-work) actress or she really was happy I’d suggested it. I like to think the latter.
While we waited for the other members of the party, and while we had the room to ourselves, I had some time to take in the décor and surroundings. There were more sculptures, carved lamps balanced on large books, the most enormous Welsh dresser I’ve ever seen and masses of soft furnishings in fuchsia and lime green. It’s definitely not a place for the guys, and the room was filled entirely with women, but it’s worth noting that the Library and the bar area were a bit more “guy-friendly”.
We ordered the Pommery Autumn afternoon tea which started with a glass of bubbles and a selection of sandwiches including cheese and chutney, ham and mustard, smoked salmon and the ubiquitous cucumber. These are replenished on request, and when I asked for a few more of the cheese I received an entire plateful. Heaven.
Just as an aside, the Great British High Tea is a bit more expensive and includes a selection of slightly more “fancy” sandwiches, and so these are not replenished. The servers do explain all this at the start though and also what can be switched in and out of the order. So we requested a few plain scones with our quince, apple and rosemary scones (which came as standard in the Pommery Afternoon Tea).
The pastries and cakes were also plentiful, and in fact we left quite a few, which is a bit of a travesty but I think I gorged on too many scones and cheese sandwiches at the start. A mistake I always seem to make!
We were advised on arrival that we’d have to vacate the table two and a quarter hours after the reservation time, which in my opinion is unusual as afternoon tea is always a leisurely, drawn out affair and most places (bar The Ritz) allow you to languish at your table for as long as you need. But I suppose it’s a popular place, and they worked hard to accommodate my wishes and were incredibly polite about asking us to move, so I can’t really complain. They helped us re-locate to the bar area where they replenished our tea, and added a few more cakes to the stand and left us to peruse the cocktail menu.
The cocktails aren’t cheap, and despite being used to inflated London prices, even I baulked at the pricier ones, choosing to stick with the lower end of the price scale (still costing upwards of £11 though), with one tequila and strawberry concoction and then a fruity take on a mojito. To be honest I found the cocktail menu hard to deal with as there were just so many – I find it hard to take in if there is too much choice. I spend too long focussing on the pretty names not the content! Thankfully they were separated into sections based on their key (alcoholic) ingredient so I just kept my eyes on the rum and tequila pages. A few members of our party chose wine instead of cocktails and the prices were even higher(!!) which, personally, I think is crazy – but it’s a good excuse to stick to the pretty concoctions on the cocktail pages I suppose.
After six or so hours we felt it was time to take our leave (having a few group photos with the giant cat on the way out, of course) and despite the high prices I think it was money well spent for an indulgent afternoon with my girls. The atmosphere was buzzy, the staff were great, the food was yummy, the décor was lovely and the company was divine. I’ll defo be going back!
Have you taken tea at the Soho Hotel, or can you recommend another spot for delicious cakes and decadent cocktails? I’ll add your recommendations to my ‘must try’ list…