afternoon tea at the wolseley
given the number of starbucks all over london, it's easy to forget the english tradition of afternoon tea which was created by anna, the seventh duchess of bedford, in the early 1800s. londonders were first introduced to tea back in the late sixteenth century when it was imported from china by the east india company. tea was consumed only be the elite until 1784 when heavy excise duties were removed by the government. today, a hot cup of tea is still a cure-all for many londoners. and afternoon tea served at the ritz, clardiges, fortnum & mason is a much sought after outing for londoner and tourists alike.
my mom is visiting and i was keen for her to experience a typical english afternoon tea at one of the above mentioned establishments. however, even though i tried to make a reservation two weeks ago, the ritz and claridges were booked till the end of the year! whatever. so i asked around at work for other recommendations and a colleague suggested the wolseley on piccadilly. luckily, i was able to book a table for sunday afternoon.
the wolseley is right next to the ritz on piccadilly and a few blocks from the flagship waterstone's. we arrived fifteen minutes early and were aksed to wait at the bar. h ordered a champagne (quelle horreur) but my mom and i were looking forward to the tea so we just nibbled on a what looked like muffins but turned out to be chocolate covered custard cakes. that nibble of sweetness put us in just the right mood for a cup of hot tea.
the main restaurant at the woseley is located in an impressive hall with high ceilings, thick columns, gigantic chandeliers and funky marble floors, all of which give the place another century look. the staff were super friendly and throughout the afternoon we must have been served by four or five different people, all intervening at just the right moment to ensure the tea pots were refilled with hot water, fresh scones were brought to the table or a fallen fork was replaced. it made you feel very well taken care of.
i ordered a full serving of afternoon tea - a big pot of earl grey, vegetarian sandwiches (cucumber and butter on white bread, cream cheese and tomato on sun-dried tomato whole wheat), an assortment of pastries (chocolate eclair, walnut cake, lemon cheesecake) and several scones. clotted cream and gooey strawberry jam on hot scones was what i enjoyed the most.
the only disappointment was the selection of teas. i didn't find a single unusual tea on the menu so had to stick to my regular favourite, earl grey. it was just the usual selection of jasmine, earl grey, green, lapsang souchong and a wolseley afternoon blend.
in summary, i'd say that experiencing afternoon tea at the wolseley is all right if you can't get into one of the popular places like the ritz or claridges that are supposed to treat this event much more ceremoniously.