London afternoon tea review: Frida Kahlo afternoon tea at The Franklin: Knightsbridge, London
With Afternoon Tea Week in full swing, we headed to The Franklin, a stylish 5-star boutique hotel in the heart of Knightsbridge, to try their Frida Kahlo themed afternoon tea. As soon as we stepped inside this sexy hotel with its chic monochrome decor, we were in love. As we walked past the gorgeous Art Deco-inspired bar, which is all glass, mirrors and gold loveliness, we made a mental note that this would be the ultimate spot for a post work glass of champagne if we ever found ourselves in the neighborhood.
Drawing inspiration from the V&A’s hottest exhibition Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up, guests are treated to an array of delightful treats, all with a Mexican twist, including Flan De Cajeta (Milk pudding with ‘dulce de leche’ sauce); churros with a chocolate dipping sauce and an assortment of unique sandwiches such as guacamole and chicken; beans and eggs; chilli pepper and fresh ricotta; and octopus, sweet corn and capers. Of course, no afternoon tea is complete with scones, however instead of the usual plain or fruit scones, they switch things up with lime scones and banana and chocolate scones served with clotted cream, custard cream and strawberry jam. Delicious. Other tasty items included Sweet Frida’s Masterpiece, a chilli praline fashioned like a painting of Frida, propped up on a cute miniature wooden easel and a mini fruit salad with pineapple, mango, kiwi, pomegranate, watermelon and passion fruit.
This fresh and colourful afternoon tea experience is the third in a succession of teas that have been inspired by the group’s partnership with the V&A museum. Previous afternoon tea experiences have included the Rock’n Roll Afternoon Tea at The Gore, inspired by Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remain and the Silly Old Bear Afternoon Tea at The Pelham based on Winnie the Pooh Exploring a Classic exhibition.
Glamorous surroundings and fun, brightly coloured placemats and menus brightened our day
As with previous immersive dining experiences, The Frida Kahlo Afternoon Tea provides guests complimentary access to the exhibition at the V&A - the first one outside of Mexico to display her clothes and intimate possessions, reuniting them with key self-portraits and photographs to offer a fresh perspective on her compelling life story. The exhibition provided a glimpse into Frida’s life and the many struggles she overcame, including polio and a horrific tram accident, which left her needing to wear a supportive back brace. Despite her physical ailments, she loved bright and colourful Mexican clothing, which she used to great effect to cleverly hide her injuries, while also allowing her to create her unique style, which is now renowned around the world.
The Frida Kahlo experience is sold at £50 per person including a ticket to “Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up” exhibition at the V&A. Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up runs from now until 4 November 2018. To book, visit www.starhotelscollezione.com.
24 Egerton Gardens
This is a nice departure from bog standard afternoon tea – cake and culture, what’s not to love?!
Our experience overall
Food and drink: ★★★★
Staff attentiveness/friendliness: ★★★
Enjoy civilised afternoon tea in an exquisite central London location
London doesn’t lack for afternoon tea options, so providers of this civilised institution are immediately put in the rather less civilised position of having to be (whisper it) competitive. Some efforts to stand out are quirky enough to be successful, others, like tea that’s been steeped too long, leave something of an unpleasant taste in the mouth.
The Landmark London doesn’t appear to be trying to differentiate its offering from what you might find on a conventional tea menu - but it doesn’t need to, because its setting is exquisite. Located close to Marylebone station and opened in 1899 as a Victorian railway hotel, it was originally named the Grand Central Hotel and is now a Grade II listed building.
The foyer is deceptively dim, the low light punctuated by a huge floral display. It makes entering the Winter Garden, large and light-flooded, all the more dramatic; your daylight-accustomed pupils dilate and then contract while your eyes widen with glee at the sight of the central table, heaving with delicious looking treats. Soaring above, the central atrium’s 8-storey high glass ceiling not only fills the area with light, but also absorbs much of the sound, so conversations at the surrounding tables are seen rather than heard.
In fact, being seen is a large part of the afternoon tea experience at The Landmark London, at least if the clientele on the day of our visit is anything to go by: the young ladies at the tables nearby are engaging in an orgy of selfie taking with an enthusiasm that I usually reserve for cake - of which, fortunately, there is plenty.
There are no end of beautiful backdrops for photos in this stunning setting, however - from grand, curving staircases and spikily proud palms, to the graceful harp, from which the resident harpist teases a waterfall of enchanting melodies. There’s the table itself, which is elegantly set with gold-patterned china. In any case, even though the tradition of afternoon tea began life as a way for a cake-craving Duchess to push through the post-lunch slump on the long road to dinner, it soon became an occasion for which invitations were jealously sought, hair was curled and frocks were chosen, and over which gossip and confidences were exchanged. It became, in short, an opportunity to show off a bit. If yesteryear’s inner circle had been gifted with social media, they unquestionably would have posed, pouted and posted as voraciously as their modern day counterparts.
As noted above, The Landmark London isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel - nor indeed, the roulade - with their afternoon tea: the flavours are reassuringly familiar, but beautifully executed, with sandwiches of cucumber, Coronation chicken, smoked salmon and egg and cress served on wonderfully toothsome bread. If you so desire, waiters will deftly tong additional morsels on to your plate: beware not to overdo it, because the scones and cakes are worth leaving room for. A glass of pink champagne is the perfect accompaniment before moving onto tea: I chose the Landmark Blend, which melds Assam and Ceylon with a hint of vanilla, while my friend opted for a pot of Lapsang Souchong.
The menu offers a choice between a classic and a chocolate afternoon tea: for the scones, this means either raisin and apple or chocolate chip and fruit peel - both delicious. The jam menu is a quaint touch, with each table allowed a selection of two from Bergeron Apricot, Blackcurrant, Cherry, Strawberry and Gooseberry and Elderflower; the last of these had us in raptures.
The cakes are gloriously pretty; on the chocolate menu, there’s a coconut and chocolate macaroon and a blood orange and white chocolate mousse, as well as a milk chocolate dacquoise sponge and banana, pecan and chocolate cake. Traditional tea takers needn’t fear missing out on the chocolatey treats - they get a dark chocolate and caramel dome, as well as classic fruit cake, a pistachio and cherry macaroon and lemon, elderflower and gooseberry meringue tart. Once again, that combination of elderflower and gooseberry is to die for; as delightful as everything else it, I would happily have had just that one. Well, four of that one.
It’s not just the palm trees that put one in the mind of an oasis - The Landmark London is so beautifully calm and elegant that it seems to whisk you away from the fast-paced London that lies, unbelievably, just beyond its doors, and swaddle you in an air of indulgence. The service, while possibly a little too attentive in so far as the waiters seem constantly to be apologising for interrupting us, makes up for our disjointed gossip by responding to our every whim and request smoothly and smilingly. As a special treat, an occasion, or just as an excuse to wear that new dress, The Landmark London definitely offers one of the loveliest ways to take afternoon tea in the city.
I’m not a vegan or a vegetarian – well not anymore any way. I was one for 14 years and I started to eat fish and chicken 16 years ago, because eating out just became too difficult. I would be served bland food all the time that it became easier simply not to dine out. But fast forward to today, and vegan and vegetarian restaurants are popping up everywhere. Raw at La Suite West in West London is one such place and I went along to find out what they plated up for their afternoon tea.
Located on a tranquil street on the edge of Hyde Park, this boutique hotel is the minimalist and latest creation of British designer Anouska Hempel. And leading from this little gem of a place is RAW restaurant. The dark ink-black moody interior and the crisp lines and sculptural forms that characterise the hotel reception extend to the dining area which leads onto a closed garden. We were fortunate to have weather on our side so my friend Mel and I decided to dine al-fresco in the garden encased by meticulously pruned plants, trees and hedges allowing just the right amount of light and privacy.
Taking our seats, we were swiftly offered a glass of alcohol free fizz - the hotel has a non-alcoholic policy to keep in line with its healthy vegan and vegetarian offerings. They also offer a choice of two mocktails as an alternative to the set afternoon tea menu. Sadly, neither the Passion Fruit and Almond mocktail or the Lemon and Lychee mocktail are strictly healthy, as the juices used in them come from concentrate.
Still, as I perused the menu, I realised there was lots of healthy choices that sounded really exciting. The selection of finger sandwiches on offer include Scrambled Tofu, Portobello Mushroom Pate, Lemon and Thyme Tahini with cucumber, Roast Tomato with Sunflower seed Pesto and Avocado chilli Mousse. Which one was my favourite? I honestly couldn’t tell you. They all were really good and I don’t often have that problem. But I can say the gluten free bread I chose was one of the best I have had as they can be so hit and miss.
Moving on to the home-made scones, and I was like a child in a sweet shop. The medium-sized scones came with fresh strawberries and whipped coconut cream and were simply delicious - I devoured all three! When you get a great scone with healthy cream, you need to eat it up as you never know when you get one as good as that again. The cream was so light that it was easy to eat it with a spoon straight out of the bowl.
To say both Mel and I were stuffed after the two courses is an understatement. Alarmingly, we had failed to read that a selection of cakes and desserts were to follow - had I known I wouldn’t have eaten all the scones! So, I asked our attentive waitress to wait while we let our food digest and ordered a jasmine tea in the interim period.
When the second pot of tea helped wash down our food, we decided to take on round two. And so the three lovely dainty cakes arrived in the form of raw carrot cake, a prune tart and a fresh strawberry and coconut cream mousse. I’m pleased to say they were no bigger than a mouthful. But even then they were hard to finish. Did I feel guilty? Not an ounce! After all it’s not often you get served a healthy afternoon tea.
After requiring a temporary Buddha belly, I certainly needed a lie down and I was pleased to have booked a room at the hotel! The stark temple of black and white moved through the corridor of black marble and into our cosy and intimate room. I didn’t move for a good hour as I admired the boudoir from the pillow on my relaxing but firm bed. The thick black wood shutters added depth and a touch of zen to the room. Just what I needed after the meal.
Later on when I managed to peel myself from the bed, I indulged further by taking a bath in the marble bathroom using The White Company products. I slipped into my white fluffy towel and relaxed on the sofa until I was ready for sleep. It was seven hours since I had indulged in the afternoon tea and I still didn’t feel hungry. Now that’s what I call a healthy afternoon tea that was equally value for money. Simply put ‘good for the waist and good for the wallet’.
An afternoon tea for two at the Raw restaurant at La Suite West costs £27 per person. To make a reservation email email@example.com or E: firstname.lastname@example.org.
During my visit I was hosted by La Suite West, 41-51 Inverness Terrace, London W2 3JN. All views and opinions are my own. Pictures courtesy of La Suite West.
The Luggage Room is a decadent 1920s speakeasy inspired cocktail bar located in the London Marriott Hotel near Grosvenor Square in Mayfair.
In true speakeasy style, we had to knock on the door using a statement door knocker (a lion no less), to be granted entry. Once inside, we were amazed to discover the luxurious, intimate cocktail bar that was hidden within.
Seriously sexy and sophisticated, the bar used to be the luggage room of the hotel (hence the name), but it has since been revamped to take on a new lease of life as a gorgeous drinking den. Nods to the bar's earlier heritage are carried throughout the decor, including the luggage inspired wallpaper and the luggage trunks that house the low tea foodie treats.
We were informed that the interior of the hotel was inspired by the The Bentley Boys, a group of wealthy British motorists who drove Bently sports cars to victory in the 1920s, which explains the plethora of supple leather lounge chairs and the masculine detailing that features throughout.
The Low Tea concept
Now we've all heard of afternoon tea and high tea, but if you're like me, you've never heard of low tea. The Duchess of Bedford is credited with having devised the concept of low tea to keep peckishness at bay, serving it as a replacement meal for lunch and helping to stave off the craving for dinner. Low tea was typically served from 1pm- 4pm and was something enjoyed by the upper classes, who used to serve low tea on their best china, with the savoury treats displayed on lower side tables - hence making it low tea. The middle and lower classes would have a more substantial 'high' tea later in the day, at five or six o'clock, instead of dinner on the dinner table, giving it the name high tea.
The food was fabulous and included a wide variety of savoury and sweet treats. Savoury highlights include smoked eel, horseradish and crème fraiche vol au vents, Devonshire wild boar sausage rolls and devilled Balmoral venison and Clarence Court Scotch egg, which had a lovely spiciness to it. Dessert highlights included a Tiptree Tawny Marmalade infused carrot cake, salted caramel meringues and our favourite - the Jam Jar Scone Trifle, which was incredibly fresh..
They take their tea seriously at The Luggage Room, and as they should, it being low tea and all! Our server talked us through a 'tea smelling', during which we delightfully sniffed our way through a wide selection of tea, while learning about the various fragrance and flavour characteristics of each. Apparently, the larger the tea leaf, the more flavour it imparts, which is good advice and will make me think twice before taking the easy option of using pre-packaged tea bags!
Tea? Don't mind if we do...
I selected the 'Speakeasy tea', which was a Heavenly blend of Earl Grey and citrus, and my friend opted for a sweet, Chai tea, both of which were great with the savoury and sweet foods.
The barman was incredibly friendly and very knowledgeable, taking the time to talk us through each of the bespoke cocktails - all of which were divine.
The Low Tea is priced from £48 per person, with supplementary options to enjoy with Champagne and exclusive cocktails.
The Luggage Room
London Marriott Hotel
Escape the hustle and bustle for an afternoon treat
The Arch London is a stylish boutique hotel, which spans seven Grade II listed Georgian townhouses and two mews homes. Tucked away on a residential street near the West End, it's a great place to escape the chaos to treat yourself to afternoon tea.
My friend and I visited Arch London on a relatively quiet Sunday afternoon, which was nice as it meant we almost had the place to ourselves - meaning I had all of the benefits of having a friend round mine for tea, although let's be honest, it was an all around much more glamorous affair! Afternoon tea can be enjoyed in the hotel’s stunning Martini Library, the stylish Hunter 486 restaurant or the chic Salon de Champagne lounge, which is where we enjoyed ours - naturally.
If you're looking for a refined restaurant in Mayfair that's perfect for enjoying afternoon tea in relaxed surroundings, then Mews of Mayfair is ideal.
Founded by London entrepreneur James Robson in 2006, Mews of Mayfair is an 18th century mews house tucked away in a historic courtyard. Those in the know frequent Mews of Mayfair for its sophisticated elegance and exemplary service, ensuring that all guests feel well looked after during their visit.
Relax in the Art Deco inspired bar with its soothing colour palette featuring black and gold mirrored detailing, charcoal and black ombre walls, and comfortable lavender and duck egg blue leather arm chairs that provide a cocoon of opulence. While unwinding, enjoy a sinful cocktail from one of the skilled bartenders or sip on a glass of Veuve Clicquot. Whatever you choose, it's guaranteed to be of superb quality.
Afternoon tea options include a selection of finger sandwiches: Cotswold chicken Caesar wrap; egg mayonnaise on sun dried tomato bread; Philadelphia cream cheese and cucumber on caramalised onion bread; salmon and cream cheese on a poppy seed bagel and homemade scones).
For those with a sweet tooth, the desserts are a hit. Options include a selection of fancies and cakes including raspberry macaroons, chocolate marble cake, mini trifles and chocolate brownies.
Beverage options include a glass of Veuve Clicquot Champagne and a wealth of teas served in small, charming glass tea pots. More unique tea options include ''ost Malawi English breakfast; second flush muscatel darjeeling; silver tip jasmine; whole leaf fresh mint; whole chamomile flowers and Sri Lankan lemongrass.
The quality of the sandwiches and desserts was fabulous and you could tell that a lot of care and attention to detail had gone into every item.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon tea experience thanks to the stylish settings and the friendly and unobtrusive service, which together created the perfect environment for catching up with friends over dainty delights and invigorating teas.
Afternoon tea is priced from £35 (without Veuve Clicqot) or £45 (with Veuve Clicquot) per person.
If you enjoyed this post, check out my other posts on afternoon tea across the UK ...
Cloud 23, Hilton, Manchester
K West Hotel, London
Amanzi Tea Bar
Limewood Hotel, New Forest
Brasserie Blanc, Winchester
Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh
Secret Cottage Tour, Cotswolds
Restaurants, Bars and food/drink pop ups and reviews
There's nothing more delicious in life than indulging in a sensational meal.