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TRAVEL: A Delicious Ritual

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Afternoon tea in London is something you have to not just enjoy when visiting the city, but really experience … And to have it at the Ritz … well, that is an institution in itself

The experience is just as rich and wonderful as the history. To visit the Ritz for afternoon tea has to be the London equivalent of Breakfast at Tiffany’s − a world-famous brand that captures the essence of each city’s history and culture.

‘Afternoon tea’ and ‘high tea’ are used interchangeably, because many people mistakenly believe that there is no difference. But both traditions are steeped in British history and the differences, subtle as they may be, are a direct result of their origins.

If you ever wondered – according to The Spruce (www.thespruce.com), afternoon tea is a British food tradition of sitting down for an afternoon treat of tea, sandwiches, scones and cake – and it became fashionable in the early 19th century to fill the long gap between lunch and dinner (in a time when dinner was served as late as 20:00). Today afternoon tea is a treat rather than a stop-gap. And while the working lives of many do not allow the time to sit down to enjoy scones and cakes in the late afternoon, so for many, the ritual is now saved for holidays and special treats. Many Brits still make the time to sit and enjoy the propriety and civility of this the quaintest of English dining customs.

And there is no more renowned place in London to find a true afternoon tea that the Ritz. It is so high in demand that it’s recommended to make your booking at least 12 weeks in advance.

From the moment you make (and get) a booking you will understand why this brand is synonymous with exceptional levels of service and care. Every detail is attended to and when the day arrives to enter the Palm Court for a wonderful experience. Everyone is dressed in formal attire – jeans and sportswear are not permitted, and gentlemen are required to wear a jacket and tie – and they look more beautiful as well. This is thanks to the flattering light falling mild and clear from the Palm Court’s frosted glass ceiling and pink-capped chandeliers. It is said that César Ritz always maintained that nothing put

people more at their ease in his hotels than the blandishment of tactful lighting. His widow recounts how the Ritz was absorbed in lighting problems for weeks and for hours and hours at a time she would sit while he and an electrician tried the effects of various coloured shades on her complexion.

A delicate apricot pink was found to be the most becoming colour. And even if you’re not a tea lover, there’s an assortment of 18 types of tea to choose from, so there’s something for everyone. Service really do happen here with a smile and from the moment the delicious crust-less finger sandwiches arrive on beautiful china you’ll be exported to another time and place while enjoying renditions from the resident pianist, Ian Gomes.

Attention to detail is so evident here – with a handbag stand under each table and even the chinaware s exclusively designed for the Palm Court – with gold and pale green and rose.

Everything about enjoying tea here is done to perfection. From the combinations of fillings on the sandwiches to the warm scones served with strawberry preserve and clotted cream. The Ritz scones are baked shortly before they are served to ensure they are fresh. The cakes and treats are as pretty as pictures – and extremely creamy and rich. The head pastry chef and his staff produce a fresh fleet of these cakes every day – from exquisite mille feuilles to creamy chocolate eclairs. And the trained staff will keep your plates and cups full until it’s time for you to leave.

The experience is something you’ll never forget and whenever you plan a trip to London, you’ll set aside two hours to enjoy this unforgettable experience again.

And as one of the guests said: ‘Tea at the Ritz is not only sandwiches and cakes, but an occasion. Thanks goodness there are still places like this for pure enjoyment, even in the modern world.’

For more information or for bookings visit https://www.theritzlondon.com/dine-with-us/afternoon-tea/