If having afternoon tea at the Grosvenor House in Hyde Park, London makes me snobby or uppity, my response would be to quote the once beloved but later maligned Marie Antoinette, “Let them eat cake [brioche]!” Which is to say, “I don’t care what you think.”

No matter how you feel about afternoon tea, you must overcome this colonial travesty of the upper crust drinking tea and eating scones with clotted cream while the oppressed locals work in the fields. That is a separate issue than the dining experience itself. When done well, like the Grosvenor House Park Room in London, it is one of the quintessential experiences of what the British has brought forth to its colonies – India, Hong Kong, just to name a couple. However, if legends be told is true, it originated in Portugal, only to be brought to England when Catherine of Braganca married Charles II in 1661. It wasn’t until Anna Maria Russell, Duchess of Bedford, transformed afternoon tea into more of a meal in the afternoon than a refreshment. Of course, many Brits don’t normally take in the afternoon tea ritual anymore, but nonetheless, it is a tradition that’s been well kept, even if the people who partake in the tea now are tourists.

History lessons aside, when the tower of morsels come to the table, one can only imagine what it must have been like to be a Duke or a Duchess back in the 17th or 18th century. The main attraction, of course, is the tea itself. To me, there’s nothing finer than eating a scone/finger sandwich/pastry and washing that down with an English Breakfast blend with the right amount of milk and sugar. That is, I’m told, the proper way of taking tea. And to be even more proper English, to drink and eat from fine china is the penultimate of enjoying afternoon tea.

We definitely got all that and more at the Park Room in the Grosvenor House. For about 2 hours, we embrace that dining experience as much as anything else on our trip. To me, it’s not just that it’s English afternoon tea, but that it has to be properly done. You can’t just throw in any type of tea. You can’t serve it with a Starbucks scone and say you’ve had English afternoon tea, although I am sure many do that nowadays. It’s got to be with fine china, loose leaf teas, finger sandwiches comprised of cucumber, salmon, and egg salad, and an assortment of scones and pastries. That’s the way a duke or duchess would have it. Anything else would be, well, uncivilized.

 

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