Afternoon Tea at The Rubens at the Palace in Belgravia
What could be more English than afternoon tea? Originally initiated into British society in 1840 by the Duchess of Bedford, taking tea continues to be a popular way to spend an afternoon in London. And in the historic and royal area of Belgravia (neighbour to Buckingham Palace) is The Rubens at the Palace hotel, where afternoon tea is done the traditional way.
The newest afternoon tea option on The Rubens’ menu honours their Living Wall (a vertical garden boasting 10,000 ferns and herbaceous plants) and is laden with everything you would expect from a tea as well as a surprise or two thrown in. Our table, beautifully set with a collection of flowery crockery and crisp linen, was tucked away in the corner right in front of the window – an idyllic perch to people-watch.
We started with the obvious and ordered our teas: classic Jasmine Pearls with a floral nose and strong tannin aftertaste, and an unusual South African Rooibos, infused with cinnamon and orange, which added punch to the traditionally light and fruity drink. The stand then arrived, with savouries at the bottom and sweets at the top. The sandwiches were perfectly cut into two-finger width and crustless, with fillings ranging from smoked salmon to ham and mustard to chicken and almond, the standouts being the cucumber, with its infallible crunch, and the egg and cress, made with finely chopped pieces of egg folded into creamy mayonnaise.
The scones were light and uniform, with a delightful golden exterior and fluffy interior, perfect for smearing with homemade strawberry preserve and clotted cream. The top layer of the stand was the true tribute to the Living Wall, and first up was the Strawberry Cheesecake, which had a lovely airy texture and crisp biscuit base but needed more of its strawberry flavour. The Honey Cream and Walnut Financier had a lovely soaked sponge and was excellently made, as was the Lemon and Lavender Cupcake, although the lavender in the icing was slightly cloying and overpowering. The final sweet touches were the Violet Chocolate Ganache – wonderfully rich and topped with unexpected popping candy – and a bite-sized Rose Petal Macaroon, slightly dense with a rather large amount of buttercream, but delicious nonetheless.
The Rubens at the Palace is special in that along with a fantastic tea, it offers guests a truly English experience. The hotel itself is steeped in history, the walls are decorated with royals and famous members of British society, and the staff are charming and know exactly when to offer a fresh pot of tea. This is the ultimate spot to get out of the tourist rat race and enjoy a perfectly brewed cuppa.
Photos: Monika Jørgesen
The Rubens at the Palace: 50/60
To book a table at Rubens at The Palace, 39 Buckingham Palace Road SW1W 0PS, call 020 7834 6600 or visit here.