Nothing sounds better than Christmassy scones, cakes and sandwiches, so when I heard that 116 Pall Mall boasted a yuletide-inspired afternoon tea in the heart of the city, I was pretty excited. Surrounded by London’s Theatreland, Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace, this gem has the perfect backdrop for a seasonal treat - did it live up to expectations? Read to find out.
Taking inspiration from renowned confectioner, John Searcy, this festive afternoon tea (£45 per person with a glass of Champagne) showcased some classic foodie favourites in the iconic Pall Mall location. Once we stepped inside, we were met with Grade I listed interiors, including gold accents, a grand staircase and walls adorned with famous historic faces and royal figures. There was a Christmas tree, alongside a few decorations to get everyone into the seasonal spirit.
After taking a seat in the downstairs room, we toasted some Champers while watching the merry carolers and a talented pianist, which added a lovely bit of Christmas cheer. After a little wait, it was time for the food. We started with the beautifully presented gin-cured salmon. The delicate fish melted in the mouth and was complimented by fennel cream (I’m not mad about the aniseed taste, but the flavours were lovely and subtle). On top of that, it also came with dill pickled cucumber and mustard frills, which added a little tang to the plate.
While quaffing our bubbles, we were onto the afternoon tea itself. First up? The sandwiches, of course. The star of the show was the Portland crab rarebit, as this had a generous amount of scrumptious, yet delicate meat, which paired nicely with the rich cheese. Another contender was the chicken liver parfait that sat on a toasted brioche and boasted a sharp kumquat marmalade. Not normally something I’d go for, but it was well-seasoned. There were also a couple of more basic sandwiches, including an egg and cress, alongside a cucumber and cream cheese, which I was a little disappointed with as they didn’t feel very exciting or festive.
Before digging into the desserts, we had some plain and fruit buttermilk scones, and they were absolutely delicious. These treats had a nice crunchy exterior along with a fluffy centre – faultless. After eating them with plenty of clotted cream and Galloway fruit preserve, we moved on to the pretty sweets. For the chocolate lovers? There was a meringue gateau opera, a layered cake made up of chocolate ganache and coffee buttercream – which was delicate, yet rich. There was also a poached pear cinnamon frangipane tart, which felt far more fitting for the event and had a nice balance of autumnal spices. Last up, was the Searcys signature Victoria, a lovely moist cake made up of cream and strawberry jam, which felt quintessentially British. And as a little extra, there were a couple of mince pies for good measure.
The DesignMyNight Digest
I had an enjoyable time at 116 Pall Mall and it was great to do something a little festive and pretty in the city. However, I felt as though the whole experience would have been elevated by a more seasonal menu. The setting itself was pretty and grand, but felt slightly tired. The carolers added to the experience, although, it would have been nice to have been closer to them.
💰 The damage: £90, excluding service charge.
📍 The location: 116 Pall Mall, SW1Y 5ED.
👌 Perfect for: A traditional afternoon tea.
⭐ Need to know: This venue is also pretty popular for special occasions.