REVIEW: THE STAFFORD LONDON’S LUXURIOUS NEW AFTERNOON TEA
Game Bird Soars with its Theatrical Cake and Sarnie Experience
The best afternoon teas should make you feel like a (ravenous) queen. The spread must be so beautiful and so delicious, that you go through the painfully British motions of declaring “crikey, how are we going to get through all this?” before effortlessly doing just that.
The shiny, new afternoon tea at The Stafford London - St James’s luxury, five star boutique hotel - achieves all of the above.
In pleasing, Wonderland style, we sneak through an unassuming alleyway in leafy Green Park, into a timeless pocket of Mayfair, where The Stafford sits.
The hotel’s softly lit Game Bird restaurant is a perfumed riot of emerald velvet, bold floral textiles and (true to its name) stuffed birds in cabinets. It feels luxurious, but welcoming.
Once seated, the waiter provides some bubbly, tableside theatre by wheeling over a beautiful Champagne trolley, loaded with icy bottles of Louis Roederer Collection 243 Champagnes, flamboyantly pulling out a little shelf for our glasses, while he fills them up. Am I a Queen? Yes. Yes I am.
This is followed by another, bespoke trolley, heaving with an immaculately presented selection of shiny cake art, on a gold framed slab of marble. There are raspberry and vanilla white mice; glossy, cherry and coconut mousses; lemon and basil tarts; coffee choux buns; raspberry, elderflower and apple macarons and Earl Grey and honey layer cakes.
We are presented with the Sophie’s Choice of selecting five of these. "Each?!" my companion asks, shocked. The waiter nods. And although we hope for another trolley to wheel us out afterwards - or at least a group of friendly Oompa Loompas to roll us to the station - we manage this with alarming ease.
This is Willy Wonka for grown-ups. The mouse cake is one of the most adorable things I have ever decapitated with my teeth, revealing its delicious, raspberry innards. The glossy, cherry mousse is too beautiful to break, but when we do, we are treated to a delicate cloud of coconut. I could knock back a bucket of the light and creamy, coffee choux buns.
And I usually leave afternoon teas with a box of left-overs, but am ashamed to admit that the elderflower, apple and honey layer cake is the only treat to escape our molars. It’s their famous, signature dessert and even the following day, it’s easy to see why - it’s light, moist, a wonderful mix of unusual flavours and not too sweet.
My dining companion is a human fly, who exists on a diet of fancy sugar, so he works his way through the classic and raisin scone collection with whipped clotted cream and strawberry jam. As a savoury toothed tiger, I am chuffed by the rare sight of a savoury scone offering, in the shape of Westcombe Cheddar scones with soft cheese and chives.
But we are not animals, so we start with the finger sandwiches before devouring all of the above. These include H. Forman & Son smoked salmon with horseradish crème fraîche on granary bread; honey roasted ham and mustard mayonnaise on onion bread, Montgomery cheddar, spring onion and tomato; free-range Coronation sandwiches and my personal favourite, the moreish, truffle egg and watercress, brioche bun.
We wash all of this down with fresh, peppermint tea - a wise choice, after this feast - and a second glass of the Louis Roederer champagne.
The staff are charming, knowledgeable and incredibly attentive - we worry for their dishwasher after so many fresh plates are presented for each cake.
And we leave feeling like full and jolly heirs to the throne, not quite believing we devoured almost the entire trolley - although my zip reminds me at frequent points on my journey home.
The Stafford London, 16-18 St James's Pl, St. James's, London SW1A 1NJ. The new afternoon tea is served daily, 12pm to 5.30pm, priced at £70pp or £87pp with a glass of Louis Roederer Collection 243 Champagne. All cakes and pastries are also available to enjoy individually in The Stafford’s lounge.
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