A penchant for High Tea takes us to a variety of places in Australia and, now, to places around the world….
Whilst in Ireland we would be celebrating our first of our third wedding anniversaries and, as I love sampling High Tea (with Champagne, of course) what better place to do this than the famous Lord Mayors Lounge in the Shelbourne Hotel Dublin. I had given our travelling companions advance notice of this plan however they weren’t obliged to attend as this was our anniversary. We would not be disappointed if they preferred to do something else. Originally they said they’d let us have the afternoon to ourselves but when the time came to make booking both decided to join us.
We dressed in the best clothes we had and left the house for the 5 minute walk to the bus station for the twenty-minute journey to the city centre. Once in the city we still had a bit of a walk to the Shelbourne Hotel. It was a lovely day so that wasn’t a problem, we were enjoying the Sunday stroll. We arrived at the Hotel early for our arranged time so we went to the bar and ordered a glass of wine….well Maryanne and I had a glass of wine, Ty a beer and Darelle a soft drink. The small lounge we were in very much reminded me of the old English movies with the men’s smoking lounge with the big rounded, thickly padded and buttoned leather sofas, dark wallpaper, sports pictures adorning the walls and the barman in his crisp white shirt, black bow tie and black pants with a very serious attitude. The room was dark and sombre which meant we talked in whispers, no raucous laughing in this bar!! We humans are odd sometimes aren’t we? Allowing a room to dictate how we act.
At last the time arrived for us to move out of the dark room into the very bright, almost shining, Lord Mayors Lounge. The waiter seated us at a table with round back lounge chairs covered in beige or stripped fabrics between 2 windows. We didn’t have a view to the street outside…no people watching available here, well, outside the room anyway. The piano was directly behind us and the woman playing smiled at us as we sat down. She didn’t break into hysterical laughter so that was a good sign.
We had more important things to focus on than people watching and worrying about what the pianist was thinking. What goodies would be served to us this afternoon, would we receive hot food as well petite fours? These questions were foremost in our thoughts!
Our very polite waiter arrived with the menus and asked if we were partaking of the High Tea or the Champagne High Tea – “oh, the champagne high tea” I replied a little too quickly probably, but not unusual given I’d already had one glass of wine. He didn’t seem taken aback just nodded and asked us to choose a tea from the tea menu whilst he strode off to collect the bottle of Moet.
Maryanne chose a pear and caramel tea, Darelle a lemon grass with a ginger twist, Ty, a little boring, chose english breakfast and for me it was chocolate and orange truffle. Our waiter came back with the silver service and set down tea strainers strategically on all our cups, however, Maryanne had a tea leaf on her strainer so he promptly whipped that one away and replaced it. Well, he could have taken it out the back, blew on it to remove the errant tea leaf then brought it back!! Of course, we believe he threw that one in the sink with a disgusted look and growled at the kitchen hand who hadn’t washed up properly!!
The tea settings were Wedgwood and very beautiful, tea and coffee taste very different when drinking from fine bone chine cups and not a chunky cup or mug. That’s my opinion and if you’re not sure you should try it sometime.
Whilst we were waiting for the tiered stands holding our afternoon tea we took in our surroundings. The room was very bright, not just because of the gold and crystal chandeliers but from natural light coming through the large windows. The wallpaper was gold and the curtains, maroon in colour, made from heavy velvet. It’s a beautiful grand old building situated across from St Stephen’s Green ( public park in centre of Dublin) in the Georgian part of Dublin.
Our trays of treats arrived, just in time, as I’d finished my glass of Moet and was now onto my sisters’ glass – it’s ok -.my sister doesn’t drink. It’s vary rare for me to go for seconds as a second glass generally can have me falling off my chair and that wouldn’t be a good look in this salubrious establishment! We had two three tiered plate stands between us holding sandwiches,made from different types of breads containing fillings such as salmon, ham, goats cheese and tomatoes, another plate had buttermilk scones with jam and cream. The piece d’ resistance was the top tier. This tier held all the yummy sweet treats like the chocolate cup holding the mouse, strawberry cheesecake and pistachio slice which was very green and didn’t look very appetising but a small piece tasted surprisingly good. Pistachio nuts aren’t too bad but pistachio slice was too much for Ty….he couldn’t even touch it. At the end of the sitting there was pistachio slice left on both trays.
The friendly pianist finished at six o’clock and there was a thirty minute break before the next pianist arrived, Suddenly we realised people were starting to come into the lounge for supper and we’re still sitting enjoying the ambience and the subtle sounds of the piano. Our waiter had stopped offering to top up or pour our tea an hour ago so it must be time for us to move our bodies out of the comfy chairs and head for home. The sun was still shining as we stepped out into the street, even though it was after 7.30pm. Love daylight saving in Europe…the days are so long.
A little piece of history before we move on to the next High Tea destination, if you’re wondering why it’s named the Lord Mayors Lounge – each of the Lord Mayors of this bustling city head to this lounge for refreshments after their inauguration. The Lord Mayors’ residence is located close the Shelbourne. The hotel founded in the mid 1820’s and is the place where the Irish Constitutions was drafted in 1922.
The Ritz was the setting for our second third anniversary celebration. Confused??? We had two weddings….the first was Greece in August, the second Las Vegas in September so we celebrate twice!!! Our last day in London started off fine and sunny but the weather soon deteriorated and by mid afternoon it was very wet. This evening we were partaking in High Tea at the Ritz Hotel. Afternoon Tea or High Tea starts from 11am every day so, naïvely, I thought phoning 4 days in advance would be plenty of time to book in for Sunday. I was surprised and a little disappointed to find the only day and time available to us was Tuesday at 7.30pm. We were flying out for Singapore on Wednesday and I was not leaving London without tea at the Ritz so I took the date on offer. Darelle opted out because she hadn’t packed any ‘dressy’ clothes and high tea wasn’t really her ‘cup of tea’. Maryanne wasn’t sure whether to attend either but decided to go with us on this excursion.
We hadn’t had many chances to dress up this trip so it was good to spend the time attempting to look suitably dressed, with make up and hair in place. We had to look the part as we joined the rich and famous lifting our tea-cup to our mouth with the little finger extended in the twinings way! Although the typically English weather was against us arriving looking our best.
The rain was torrential and the London traffic horrendous as our taxi negotiated the narrow inner city streets. It seemed to take an eternity to reach the revolving doors of the Ritz. As the taxi pulled up the doorman, dressed impeccably in his long green overcoat and hat, opened the door and held it open for us to alight. We didn’t waste any time rushing from the car to the revolving doors….it was pouring and I for one certainly wasn’t going to fall into the foyer looking like something the cat dragged in!!! Were we obliged to tip the doorman, no idea, we all rushed by him with a very quick ‘thank you’ wanting to get out of the wind and rain as quickly as possible.
We stepped through the revolving doors and there was another set of doors. Just as well because I needed time to readjust my hair and brush the rain off my dress. That done we stepped into the foyer all the while I’m making a mental note to keep my mouth closed, not to look like I’m catching flies as my eyes feast on the amazing view. Gold shimmered from every corner, of course the lighting and mirrors helped brighten the effect. The grand piano stood to the left of us, to our right was The Palm Court. How did we know? There were palms (in pots) strategically placed by the pillars so it had to be the place!! We stood for a second taking in the scene before stepping, gracefully, up the three stairs to the The Palm Court welcome desk. How do I know we stepped gracefully? Because I was on my best ladylike behaviour and I didn’t trip up the stairs. This area was amazingly opulent, gilded mirrors around the walls, ornate lace work on the ceiling and cherubs looking down on the diners. Standing on the edge of the room. taking in the surrounds and the diners at each table (men dressed in jacket and tie) it felt like stepping into a scene reminiscent of the European establishments in the fabulous 1920’s and 30’s.. I could imagine Coco Chanel sitting at one of the tables talking in hushed tones to friends or Greta Garbo seated at another table in large sunglasses before moving into her reclusive stage. Marlene Dietrich would have leaned against the piano singing in husky tones whilst Mr Piano Man tickled the ivories (so to speak). The Ritz was the place to see and be seen and mostly frequented by high society. We probably would never have been allowed through the doors some 50 years ago!!
Suddenly the Maître D, was standing in front of us, welcoming us to this fabulous place. He duly checked our booking on his Ipad,and showed us to our table. Reality reared its head very quickly, no old-fashioned reservation books here. As you would expect in such a setting, the waiters were immaculately dressed in suits.
We were taken to our table, at one end of the room, which allowed us to see the other diners. There wasn’t a spare table, there was no loud conversational noise or laughter just the occasional clink of a tea-cup or glass. The waiters made the most noise serving from their trolleys. Once again we chose the Champagne Afternoon Tea . Not being a ‘drinker” or, probably should say, not being able to hold my liquor (by the end of my first glass of wine I tend to become more animated than usual and speak a little more loudly with lots of laughter), I vowed to sip slowly and make sure I ate my food before scoffing the champers! Oh and drink my cup of tea…we were sure to be tea-logged before we left the table! I chose a passionfruit and orange tea – which the menu described as having “a truly wonderful taste”.
The top tier servings at the Ritz are more generous than the Shelbourne with more choices. The fingers of club sandwiches also had more variety, the second tier had a choice of plain or raisin scones. When my eyes reached the top tier disappointment reared its head. There were only 6 small morsels (2 each). However I soon realised that the fabulous waiters were wheeling around trolleys containing more desserts, As you completed the savoury items they would arrive at your table and set down another small sweet to try. The last trolley to arrive held several cakes for us to choose from…some people chose a slice of each but I was being good and chose just one slice of chocolate cake. No sense in adding more food when you’re tummy is saying ‘enough already”!! As delicious as all this food was you just have to stop.
The Ritz permits happy snappers like us to take photographs but please do so discreetly (said so on the bottom of the menu).The waiter service could not be faulted – our waiter took our photos for us…..and he didn’t blur the shot. It was a very enjoyable evening.
We would highly recommend both Hotels for a scrumptious High Tea. The Ritz is just a little extra special.
I have only one more comment to make about High Tea or Afternoon Tea before I move on…..and that is…..Why do they serve so many SCONES?? My guess, and probably yours too, if you indulge, is scones are cheaper to make and tend to fill you up quickly, which is so unfair as it’s hard to have room for all the other goodies. In my opinion scones should be served last!
Have I been cured of High Tea? Not at all – love the old world charm of it and now plan to compare them all!!!!! Ty will cringe when he reads that sentence. So let’s keep this next one a surprise! In 2014 we are visiting Paris again and I have my sights set on High Tea at the Paris Ritz however they are undergoing extensive renovations so fingers crossed they’ll open in time for our visit.