Review: Afternoon tea at The Capital, Knightsbridge
- Credit: Abacapress/Filip Gierlinski
This classic English affair of delicate sandwiches, well-risen scones and dainty cakes was a treat for the senses
Afternoon Tea is that oh-so English tradition dating back to Anna Maria the Duchess of Bedford.
Legend has it that Queen Victoria's friend was visiting Belvoir Castle and grew peckish in the long hours between a 'light luncheon' and dinner at 8pm.
Her solution was to order tea - Darjeeling - cakes, and sandwiches for afternoon refreshment.
Delighted with the result, she soon began inviting friends to join her at home in Woburn Abbey and voila, an extra meal was invented for middle and upper class Victorians.
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Today it's a staple of posh hotels - filling their chandeliered lounges with exhausted shoppers and tourists drinking oolong or orange pekoe from the best china.
Riffs on the theme include Roald Dahl, Wizard, and Mad Hatter teas; you can do it on a bus, or during an immersive performance, where actors posing as Downton-style toffs serenade you, or you can swap the char for Champagne and cocktails.
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But all agree the core ingredients are scones, fancy sandwiches, cake and tea in a nice setting.
Five star boutique hotel The Capital in Knightsbridge is handily located for a post-Harrods pitstop.
But even if you swerve the liveried doormen hovering at the entrance to the green and gold emporium, there is plenty of people watching on offer as absurd supercars - Swarovski-crystal studded Lamborghinis, fire-engine red Ferraris and gold Rolls Royces declare the presence of Saudi princes and the offspring of Russian Oligarchs with more money than sense.
The international jet set clearly don't feel nervous about London's fearsome parking wardens, since almost every vehicle had a ticket.
The Capital's timelessly elegant yet cosy tea room seemed reassuringly sedate after all that excess.
Afternoon tea is essentially a pampering experience, and the attentive service and ritual of this classic English affair make you feel thoroughly spoiled.
Although far from India or China, Cornwall's unique micro-climate has made it possible to grow tea at Tregothnan estate.
Their Earl Grey, a delicate meeting of bergamot and Assam is an absolute revelation of superior taste and there are others on the extensive tea menu.
While my young companion tucked into two pots of hot chocolate, we put away the finger sandwiches - rare roast beef and horseradish, a moreish smoked salmon and lemon cream, and a generous egg mayo - until the featherlight scones arrived.
Whether you're a jam first (Strawberry naturally) or clotted cream to the fore type, these just-warm well-risen delights plain or packed with plump raisins would not have disgraced the recent Bake Off final.
Luckily the cake selection was restrained - no giant Bruce Bogtrotter gorge-fests here but a circle of well spiced carrot cake topped with piped cream cheese, a Victoria sponge, and a puck of chocolate pastry filled with biscuit and mousse.
My companion might have eaten more, but I was happy and pleasantly full as we strolled out into the sunshine to look for more ridiculous cars.
Afternoon tea at The Capital Hotel (warwickhotels.com/the-capital) is served daily from 2-5.30 pm and costs £35 per person for the traditional afternoon tea. Add free-flowing Prosecco for £42 per person or a chilled flute of Henriot Brut Souverain NV Champagne for £45 per person. Call 020 7589 5171 or email email@example.com