We Shall Have A Ball
It’s been a quarter of a century since our last visit. But still there’s an air of inevitability about it. A case of when, not if. Indulging in afternoon tea at Britain’s most expensive hotel (not forgetting the 15 percent tip), that is. Lavender’s Blue intern Annabel P rocks up wearing half a diamond quarry’s worth of rocks. More (late) breakfast with Tiffany’s than Breakfast at Tiffany’s. All in a day’s work.
Storming past the trompe l’oeiled reception and faux tented lobby, we take
on in the tiered Céleste at The Lanesborough, a glazed roofed internal pavilion looking heavenwards. It’s Wedgwood blue now. A jasperware temple. Regency, just like the building. Last time round, the wildly eclectic gothiental Conservatory as it was then called was flamingo pink. Sometime in between, lurking here for four years was a greyish art decoesque intruder named Apsleys. The hotel has changed hands as well as hand painted wallpaper, but is still Middle Eastern owned. Once Rosewood managed, Oetker Collection has adopted it as an English half sister to Le Bristol Paris.
Christian our sommelier ensures Blenheim Palace Sparkling Natural Mineral Water is on tap. Always glad to support enterprising duchesses. Egg mayo with celeriac sandwiches are a particular hit. Even trumping the cucumber and mint. Although not quite up there with sketch Mayfair’s fried quail’s egg sandwiches (zany has a new). Dominik our waiter refills the plate. Oh! We’ve spotted another firm favourite. No, not the (mother’s) Ruinart. Caviar. Maybe not on the same scale as That Lunch at Comme Chez Soi but an effective enough Russian invasion of the Scottish salmon sandwiches.
A careless magpie’s droppings of edible gold and silver leaf are liberally sprinkled across afternoon tea, even landing in the clotted Devonshire cream. We skip the lemon curd for strawberry preserve on the freshly baked scones (enveloped in pristine linen) but yearn for coloured sugar crystals (a dead cert at Marlfield House) to melt in the coffee. Although technically this is afternoon tea. Pastry chef Nicholas Rouzaud’s celestial array of hazelnut, caramel, chocolate and lemon meringue fantasies arrive. They quickly do a Lord Lucan.
In another quarter of a century a Victorian revival will be due. Brown will be the new black. Or at least the new greige. Expect heavy oak panelling, heavier drapes (again) and half a dead zoo’s worth of taxidermy in the revamped Céleste. It will be renamed Charlotte at The Lanesborough in honour of our newly married princess.