Piece of Cake
Sapphires or rubies? To tiara or not tiara? The Lanesborough afternoon tea or The Goring afternoon tea? It’s a close run thing, but The Goring steals the crown. It has the stamp of royal approval. Literally. ER is stamped on the top of the chocolate and toffee filled meringue. Plus The Goring, London’s last family owned five star hotel, boasts a garden to turn The Lanesborough green with envy. It’s a spatial rarity for central London and even more so considering Victoria Station is only 300 metres from the front door. Not that you’d ever guess, gazing out at the calm grassy oasis.
“Look out for The Pink Panther’s gloves in a frame in the sitting room. The idea is he has stolen most of the paintings. That’s why there are empty frames on the walls.”
Afternoon tea is served in the darkly atmospheric sitting room and an adjoining gallery-like space lit by windows along its full length. We’re in the latter. The custard yellow walls match the veranda awning and the William Edwards fine bone china and the honey glace and pear mousse to come. A Chinese couple are at the table on one side of us; a pair of Indian sisters on the other. There’s not a Middleton in sight. Afternoon tea by definition is a luxury, floating superfluously as it does between lunch and dinner. Best served with a frivolous glass of Bolly from a jeroboam doing the rounds.
“This amuse bouche is pea mousse, crème fraîche and smoked salmon. It’s unusual and I’m sure it’s good for you. Enjoy.”
We choose The Goring Afternoon Blend tea. It’s mellow Assam and second flush Darjeeling; no milk required. A three tier stand rising from a savoury base to a sweet top arrives. Tradition is adhered to but there are variations. Curried cauliflower finger sandwiches are a welcome surprise. It’s the attention to the most minuscule of details that defines The Goring. Scones in scrupulously folded linen napkins. Perfectly soft miniature rugby balls of Devonshire cream. Sandwiches meticulously laid out in rows of brown | white | brown | white | brown.
“Try something you haven’t tried before. If you would like to change the tea and try another one, just tell me. If you would like some replenishment of anything always ask me.”
Yippee! It’s bottomless, and we mean bottomless, afternoon tea. Utopia, unlimited. Except for the Bolly. Ok, utopia, slightly limited. The Goring lives up to and surpasses its rep as the most quintessentially English hotel in London, starting with the red liveried doormen beyond the reticent Edwardian façade, flowing through the David Linley designed hall and ending with loo humour. The loos. Grey and white marble basins by Drummonds. Who else? Hand lotion by Asprey. Praise be. Amusing Auguste Leraux cartoons lining the walls sadly aren’t appreciated by all. Or at least not by a certain Ted Patton of Kew Gardens. A framed letter expressing his concerns that their allegedly outré content would shock female staff takes pride of place next to the cartoons. George Goring has scrawled on it, “Close your eyes, girls!!” Not so much publish and be damned as post and be damned. Mr Patton’s letter is set to entertain gents going about their business for years to come. As we said, quintessentially English. No wonder The Goring is so popular.
“We cater for around 45 afternoon teas every day. Today we have 49. In June and July it can be 50 or more.”