Tag Archives: high tea

London Fare: Claridge’s

I finally got my classic British high tea. When you picture Claridge’s, a famous and old London hotel, think quintessential English. The tea room might have come right out of a Downton Abbey episode, and the rest of the hotel, in all of its splendid glory, could pass as the inside of a palace with its sweeping spiral staircase and intricate marble finish. Add three hours, a red-haired waiter, finger sandwiches, and a photograph of the queen and you can pretty much imagine my level of euphoria.



It is not easy to get a reservation at Claridge’s. We had to settle for a Wednesday afternoon, which as it turns out, is just as buzzy as it would be on the weekend. The tearoom is split into two sections, a large and airy, high-ceilinged room with a view of the lobby and a cozier backroom complete with sofas and mood lighting. We were seated in the back, at a small round table near a pillar, adorned with a lamp emitting a soft, buttery glow.



Claridge’s is expensive, but as I found out, completely worth it. I would recommend it for a special occasion. It’s a place to get dressed up for and to take your time enjoying. It was all about the atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong, the food was absolutely stellar, but it wouldn’t have tasted so good if I hadn’t been eating under a black-and-white photograph of Audrey Hepburn cutting a cake in what undeniably was the very room I sat in. There was something about it that transported me back in time, gave me a respect and awe for this historic institution that made its way from the 1800s to today at the height of fashion and respectability. The grandeur of it was enough to make me dizzy.



The highlights of the meal were definitely the seasonal finger sandwich, which consisted of a mouth watering combination of a cheesy scone, the lightest whipped cream cheese I’ve ever had, and tart, braised apples, and the rightfully famous jam, a “Marco Polo gelée infused with Calabrian bergamot and Madagascan vanilla pods.” Trust me, you’ve never had anything quite like it.

I left the hotel full to the brim with all the delicious and well-varied sandwiches, scones, and pastries, feeling very British and intoxicatingly happy.





London Fare: Teanamu Chaya Teahouse

If there’s one thing I was determined to do in London this semester it was to have high tea. What’s not to love? Small sandwiches, scones, sweets—this is the stuff of dreams. I imagined my first high tea would be at the Ritz or some other venerable institution with frilly white tablecloths, three-tiered trays, and waiters in suits. As it turns out, that’s also how everyone else imagines their tea experience, so I wasn’t able to get a spot at Claridge’s, a London institution, until mid-February. After searching through many Buzzfeed posts and “Top 10” articles in local papers, I found an intriguing spot that could seat me and a friend within a few days. Enter Teanamu.


Located in a residential area of Notting Hill, Teanamu is easily missed among its neighboring houses. This restaurant offers a Chinese twist on the classic British experience. You still get your tea, sandwiches, scone, and dessert, but with variations representative of a traditional Chinese tea ceremony.


I decided on a jasmine tea, which the tea master approved of. Apparently jasmine tea, which is actually a white and not green tea, is perfect for a relaxing afternoon get-together. Green tea, he advised, is far too “frisky” for such an occasion. Unusually, the more times you steep jasmine tea, the stronger the tea becomes. It’s meant to be drunk lukewarm, not hot. The actual process of steeping the tea was a bit complicated. Boiling water from a kettle had to be mixed with cold water from a pot, at which point it was then poured into another pot to steep, poured back into the first container, and then each mouthful of tea poured individually into the smallest china cup I have ever seen. I’ll admit, I’m not the best at pouring and transferring hot liquid from one pot to another, but luckily there was a sort of basin at the center of the table with a grated top. As long as you poured over that, it didn’t matter how messy you were about it.


But onto the food! The first two “courses” were dim sum. The first was a lo mai fan lotus leaf rice parcel. It was my favorite dish of the meal. Sticky rice filled with a red bean curd and braised mushrooms, it oozed a sweet fragrance. I had a bit of difficulty eating it with chopsticks, but that has more to do with my chopstick handling abilities than with the food itself. The second dim sum plate were vegetarian dumplings with sze chuan chili oil. The dumplings were filled with a mushroom mixture, so even though they were vegetarian they still seemed nice and meaty. The tangy sauce contrasted beautifully with the umami flavor.





The next course was a take on the finger sandwich. Instead of a traditional egg salad there was an egg mayonnaise sandwich covered in chili-soaked bamboo shoots. Cucumber and cream cheese was replaced with a more flavorful garlic miso-pickled cream cheese (tangy and a little spicy) with thinly shaved cucumbers and schichimi pepper. The “cheese sandwich” was an extremely bold clash of a sweet and spicy ginger and plum preserve with a creamy and salty mature white cheddar. All of the sandwiches were served open-faced on thick slices of wakame seaweed brown bread.


The final course was a dessert tray featuring snow skin marzipan with guava, sze chuan peppercorn and peanut honeycomb (a new addition to the menu), chocolate hazelnut truffles covered in coconut shavings, mango seed cake, and what our waiter somewhat ruefully referred to as “the obligatory scone,” which came with clotted cream and rose petal jam. I don’t much like coconut shavings but everything else was very good. Each item had a unique and interesting flavor profile with subtle hints of Chinese flavors. The marzipan had a texture similar to mochi and the honeycomb smelled of spices when you brought it close to your mouth. By the end of the meal I understood why the scone was only there out of obligation; it was the most boring part of the entire experience, although still a melt-in-your-mouth, biscuit-like beauty.




I left feeling incredibly satiated. Everything about the experience, from the small wooden tables to the wafts of incense and tea had taken a quintessential British experience and turned it into a more lazy afternoon full of chatting, laughing, and of course, good food.



Coach House
14a St Lukes Road
(Lancaster Road)
Notting Hill
London W11 1DP


“Another, Madam?”

I’m not entirely sure why the post I’m about to write was not my first of the summer. It would have made sense, you see, because I’m about to give an account of my culinary adventures in England, and I took a trip there at the end of May. I suppose when I first got back I was far too consumed missing it to actually sit down and be coherent enough to write it all down. Maybe it’s all the fuss about the royal baby, but as of late I’ve been feeling quite sentimental and decided it was high time to tell the story.

Just for some background, I spent ten days in England with my mom. Our main purpose was to go on a week long bike trip through the Cotswolds, but at my insistence my mom agreed to spend a couple days in London before we set off for Oxford, where the biking would begin. My mom loved the biking and the countryside and the all the pub food— the fish and chips, meat pies, all the cakes. I loved the cities— Bath and Stratford and Oxford and most of all, London. I got to go Shakespeare crazy, visit castles and underground cities, even spy on a garden party at Buckingham Palace. I had the most delicious rainbow trout of my life in Oxford, a chocolate and butter bread pudding that nearly made my head explode in Stratford, and several quite memorable meals in London including some rather spectacular Indian fare, a pre theater three course “lunch” complete with a chilled fennel soup amuse bouche, and naturally (and quite typically my favorite) high tea at the Landmark Hotel.

I hope not to sound too overdramatic but fear I will anyway when I say that high tea was an out of body experience. Just try and keep in mind that this is coming from a Harry Potter fanatic, an avid Downton Abbey watcher, someone who used the theme from the Sherlock Holmes movies as floor music. Don’t even get me started on British accents. Talk about melting me. And the logical part of me understands that most Brits don’t sit around every afternoon and sip tea in suits and frilly dresses. But the romantic part of me? Well, let’s just say I have a bit of an overactive imagination and leave it at that. I had a reservation for high tea a week before we left.

We ambled over to the Landmark after visiting 221b Baker Street. The hotel is really a rather beautiful place. That day London was gray, all fog and drizzle, which made for quite the atmosphere but also meant that I was freezing and having a very bad hair day. When we walked into the dining area, I was met by an open room filled with light streaming through a sunroof several stories above. The walls were painted in a creamy, cozy white. There was a harpist on a balcony overlooking the seating area. I swear there was even one diner wearing a suit and holding a pocket watch.

After being seated I decided on the “chocolate high tea” option, as one does, with a white peony tea. The tea came first, then the finger sandwiches: cucumber and cream cheese, smoked salmon, and chicken salad. Each time I would finish them our server would come over with another tray and say, “Another, Madam?” Needless to say, the poor boy was forced to make frequent trips across the room holding that heavy tray on his shoulder because it took me all of thirty seconds to scarf those down and I just couldn’t get enough. After finally having my fill of sandwiches, the quintessential three-tiered tray was served. The top tier held a basket with a mixture of plain and chocolate chip scones. These came with a selection of toppings, which included the freshest butter I’ve ever had, a kind of lemon custard preserve, and strawberry jam. The bottom two levels contained the same four bite sized desserts, one plate each for my mom and me. There was a salted chocolate and peanut butter tart, a spiced chocolate crème brûlée, a chocolate shell filled with a layer of creamy coconut and chocolate mousse and topped with a crunchy caramel crisp, and my favorite, a dense but somehow still fluffy chocolate cupcake topped with chilled lemon icing. I’m not one for putting lemon and chocolate together, but they definitely pulled it off.

I finished first and stared at my mom until she offered to let me finish her sweets. I didn’t even give my customary, “are you sure?” I just smiled greedily and pulled her plate towards mine. After I gobbled up the rest of the food I ruefully reflected that it might have been better to end the trip on this high note. My standards had just been pushed up so far I doubted anything could top this wonderful experience. Lucky for me, or maybe lucky for the British, there seemed to be an overabundance of sticky toffee pudding everywhere, so I can’t say I suffered too much. What I will say is that my phone background is still a cup of tea and my heart is still sitting at a table along with a scone and some butter and jam.