High Tea at the Dorchester

England is the home of high tea – dainty sandwiches, scones and clotted cream and bite sized desserts served on a tiered tea stand.  There are many versions of how high tea came to be.  But a popular version is that one of the ladies in waiting to Queen Victoria was peckish in the afternoon and asked for sandwiches, cake and tea to be brought to her, in ths 17th century as dinner wasn’t served until late.  It certainly isn’t a surprise that it caught on as a trend for her and still continues to be up until its recent popularity worldwide now, not just in England.  In London, ‘the’ place to have it is the Dorchester apparently, in fancy Park Lane.  A beautiful grand hotel with doormen and waiters in coat tails.  You could easily imagine ladies in hooped skirts and hats taking tea in the same place many years ago! 

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The tea is taken in the Promenade lounge in the hotel.  As we went during the week of the Chelsea Flower show, the tea cost £50 per person plus 12.5% service charge, instead of the usual £35.  Effectively A$100.  So expensive :(   Well if they say that that’s where it is, better try it.  I actually don’t know what the extra £15 gets you and it seemed quite like a standard high tea.  If you took the special flower high tea for another £11, you got to take home a small pot plant of flowers as well as a more expensive type of champagne.  Standard high tea for me! 

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I’m not a drinker, so I contemplated substituting the champagne for a softie. But looking at the menu, the champers itself was £15!  It was actually very fruity and sweet and bubbly still, unlike some other venues that have pre-opened bottles without the fizz.   

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I was so ecstatic when the waiters asked if we had any allergies or dislikes.  I actually don’t eat mayonnaise, and the evil white sauce is found in sandwiches the world round, as if there wasn’t such a thing as a sandwich (or sushi in fact!) that could survive without it!  The chefs obliged without any complaint and made them without the sauce for me! And made them vegan for my friend too.  The bread was made fresh and was obviously made in house.  There was a standard cucumber sandwich on caraway seed scented bread, caponata/roast veg on pumpkin bread.  My favourite was the chicken on basil bread, and there was also smoked salmon.  Something I wasn’t accustomed to was the fact that we were asked if we wanted seconds!  Free refills – awesome!  We had both fasted in order to come so we relished another serve of each.

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We were served a pre-dessert then, a white peach jelly with jasmine tea foam.  Wow, the peach was the perfect mix of sweetness with a hint of tartness, and it complemented the jasmine tea foam perfectly.  The foam’s tea flavour was so intense without being overpowering, and the texture – so silky!

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I haven’t actually had clotted cream before, in Australia we often just get double cream or whipped cream.  On the table I actually thought it was butter – wow, now I know why they call it clotted cream – artery clogging perhaps??  We also had some really runny not set strawberry jam (more akin to syrup) and some blueberry jam which was better.

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A sultana scone and a plain scone each.  They weren’t as fluffy as I would have liked, quite flat in fact :(   But they had a good crumb.

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Getting full now.  Which is why it was sort of acceptable that we only got one plate of sweets to SHARE.  I think it was extremely stingy. For $100, we should at least have our own cakes, instead of having to cut these dainty morsels with our knives and making them looked hacked and unappetising :(   We had a total of five cakes to share.  A key lime and basil macaroon (a  bit weird, but luckily the basil is very faint), a rose flavoured mousse on top of a strawberry sponge, a peanut and caramel mille feuille and another friand type cake.  And I forgot what the other one was!  The mille feuille was my favourite, but it looked like a disaster after we cut it.  I wasn’t much of fan of the dense friand cake. For $100 I would have also thought that they could serve it on a plate that had been cleaned of crumbs as well.

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Stinginess aside, the waiter was wonderful.  This is a posh place to go without having to be snooty, and you can tell by the fact that it’s regularly booked out.  I can’t help but conclude that high tea is a bit of a rip off, as I didn’t feel like what we had was worth $100. Especially since I can have a three course meal at three-Michelin starred Gordon Ramsay at Hospital Road for that same price :( (Blog post to come).  Maybe if we hadn’t gone on the Chelsea Flower Show week it would have seemed a bit more worth it.  High tea everywhere is expensive, but at least other hotels give you a sweet each.   I have to say they did look beautiful though. And they were great sandwiches.

4 Responses to “High Tea at the Dorchester”

  1. debbie Says:

    Interesting that the waiters asked if you had any allergies. Very unique. I like tea at the Plaza Hotel in New York.

  2. admin Says:

    I’m so glad they do as well, Debbie. I wish more restaurants were as obliging! It’s a real issue these days though, as kids these days seem to have many allergies that in the old days were considered rare!


  3. Lily Says:

    Are you sure they don’t offer a second round of pastries? I know The Berkeley does – so you can eat as much as you want – AND go back to savoury too!

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