Whether you love or loathe the royals, our Lizzie’s 90th birthday is as good excuse as any to get stuck into the good old British tradition of Afternoon Tea.
I decided to head to the InterContinental London Park Lane - a residence of the Queen until she was 8 years old - who have curated an especially-regal 'Royal Tea Menu' to mark the occasion. Located in an enviable position on Hyde Park Corner and just a stone's throw from Buckingham Palace, the Wellington Lounge is a timeless piece of elegance, doused with decadent nostalgia. Of course, a classic hotel lounge is a classic hotel lounge, there's no getting away from that; but knowing the history of the place - especially given a young Elizabeth used to actually live there - definitely adds to the experience.
As you’d expect at an Afternoon Tea, there were a smattering of excited tourists (definitely quite a few American accents) and families treating one another to a special day out. This made for a calming-but-buzzy atmosphere of chitter chatter, and of course, a lot of obligatory cake selfies. I’ve tried a lot of Afternoon Teas and after a while, let’s be honest, there are only so many ways you can differentiate one from another, but there was one stand out reason why The InterContinental grabbed my attention, and that was the service.
Our waiter, Luigi, had encyclopedic knowledge of all things royal, flavour combinations and tea history. His enthusiasm and casual charm was infectious and took all potential stuffiness out of the afternoon. Luigi paired our tea with each 'course' and explained why they went with the delicacies. We started with a floral second wash Darjeeling (apparently the Champagne of tea), moved onto a slightly darker vanilla-infused blend and ended on a fresh mint with crushed cocoa nibs tea, 'the After Eight of the tea world'. The food, as you'd expect, completely impressed, compromising classic sandwich flavours with slight twists, including a lobster and shrimp, and coronation chicken with apricot. All delicious. After the obligatory scones, we finished up with cakey loveliness, all decorated with the Queen in mind; including a tipsy hat cake, coffee, chocolate and walnut handbag, and a strawberry and vanilla crown.
For those of you that want some alcoholic tipples with your tea, we were treated to a Pimm's and Champagne cocktail to start, and there is the option of bottomless champagne available at an extra cost.
Three hours later, we were stuffed; full of tea and completely relaxed from the hecticness of the world outside. EU referendum. What EU referendum?
For the extremely reasonable price of £32 (including cocktail, food and tea), the casual-yet-knowledgeable service, and the high quality and vast range of teas available, the Royal Tea at the InterContinental London Park Lane really does stand out from the 100s of others available within a few square miles.
The Royal Tea is available until 30th June and their normal Scents of Summer tea is available for £45.