When I received an email from my cousin asking if I would like to join her, and other female relatives, to celebrate her forthcoming birthday over afternoon tea, how could I refuse?. She was looking at a few London venues which did include a couple that I have already visited, so I was able to let her know what these were like. I also commented that the athenaeum had won the Tea Guild's prestigious award for 'Top London Afternoon Tea 2012' for its afternoon tea and would be a worth while option. After investigating these options further, I'm happy to say she settled on the athenaeum. As a place I had yet to visit, I was excited to see what the award winning venue would deliver.
So on Saturday we all met at the athenaeum. The outside of the hotel is lovely and green, standing out from the other buildings on the Mayfair street and opposite to Green Park. The reception area is small and I instantly loved the decor, which I would describe as modern chic with a twist of vintage. I particularly liked the pearl button screens and the vases of sunflowers - which reminded me of our hotel in Boston.
Afternoon tea is served in the Garden Room where the modern chic feel continues. Much different to the opulence of the Dorchester, Claridges or The Ritz, but still a lovely relaxed space in which to while away a few hours. Like Hotel La Tour, they also have 'Alice in Wonderland' chairs. There was also the notably absence of a piano & therefore pianist, a first from the venues I have visited.
After being seated we were told that we will be served with two servings of sandwiches, followed by scones and crumpets with home made jam and finally a selection of cakes and pastries from the sweet trolley. I do love this approach as it allows you to enjoy each part and the staff timed each just right. I thought the menu for tea was very ingenious, it was a wooden box with the tea leaves next to the name of each. There was lap sang and early grey ordered as well as lattes. Of course we all started with a glass of pink champagne and toasted my cousin.
The sandwiches included the usual fillings of smoked salmon, egg and cress, cucumber, ham and mustard, and chicken. You could have the whole selection or just the ones that you like. Over sandwiches we all caught up on what was happening in each other lives as it had been a while since we had seen each other.
Next came the scones, and crumpets which is an addition to other afternoon teas I have sampled. I loved that the scones were home made and especially liked the orange scones, which even with jam and cream on them you could taste the orange. They weren't the only things that were home made. The strawberry jam and lemon curd were also home made and utterly wonderful. I found out later, whilst talking to Stuart the Food and Beverages Outlet Manager, that only the Chef knows the recipe for the lemon curd. Both are made fresh at least twice if not three times a week. They were certainly a talking point at our table.
Over much chatter and laughter we nibbled our way through these, but they did beat us, we simply couldn't finish them. This could have been due to the fact that we had seen the trolley of cakes and pastries. As much as Stuart tried to coerce us into eating the last few, we declined. Before the cakes and pastries, Stuart brought out an individual birthday cake which I had organised as a surprise for my cousin.
We all sampled a few different cakes and pastries. I had the Victoria sponge which was so light I didn't feel guilty at all, plus I had a white chocolate tart - there.are.no.words - to describe how good this was. I would hate to know how much chocolate, and therefore calories, went into this little taste of heaven. My mum and a few others had the chocolate and caramel cake which got rave reviews, but was very rich. Also sampled was the champagne jelly and chocolate dipped strawberries.
Before we left I had a chat with Stuart and told him how much we had enjoyed afternoon tea. As we were talking he mentioned that they also have a reasonable lunch time menu that rivals any Michelin restaurant. We popped to the restaurant, which looked very nice, to get a menu, I think I may have to sample this too!
We all agreed that this had been an excellent choice of venue to celebrate my cousin's birthday. Unlike other afternoon teas we left feeling comfortably full rather than over full. I prefer being served, than having everything out at the beginning, it's also nice to have something unique and this was delivered by way of the home made orange scones, jam and curd, as well as crumpets. The service throughout was good and we were looked after very well by at least six different staff, although I would have preferred to have the same person each time. The only thing that was missing was a pianist, which I think would have added to the atmosphere. I would not hesitate in recommending the athenaeum for afternoon tea. For a London hotel offering an award winning afternoon tea at £28.50 or £35 inc champagne, it is exceptionally good value.
Afternoon everyday.......I'd be happy to indulge!
For service, quality of food and value for money
LB rating 8.5/10
Lula Belle x