Afternoon tea at the Egerton House Hotel in Knightsbridge is the best London experience I never knew about. This statement borders on the ridiculous, since I lived only a couple miles away for 25 years. Happily, it won’t take you but a few minutes on this page to discover what I had somehow overlooked…until now. This tea time is beautifully bookended by a glass of bubbly to start and an expertly crafted Martini to finish.
Hidden in Plain Sight
At some point, most visitors to London find themselves along that mile-long stretch of road linking the museums of South Kensington to the famous shops of Knightsbridge. They go in search of treasures — from pre-historic dinosaur bones at the Natural History Museum to 20th century decorative ceramics at the Victoria & Albert Museum. They peer at Harrods’ window displays, marvel at the impeccable Food Halls, and poke around a bit in fashionable Harvey Nichols.
The fortunate ones then settle in at an impeccable table in an impossibly pretty room in a perfectly handy location.
Midway along that magnetic pedestrian mile, you want to turn off the busy Brompton Road onto quiet Egerton Terrace, where 19th Century townhouses reflect the street’s residential flavor.
Tip No. 1: You’re headed for the handsome double fronted red brick building where the Union Jack flies. If you’re checking in to the hotel, congratulations on a superb choice, unquestionably one of London’s very best small hotels. If a proper, civilized afternoon tea is the mission, your day is about to improve.
Make Mine a Champagne Tea
It’s not every afternoon tea that starts off with a sparkling glass of Champagne. You’re in the right place.
Tip No. 2: This beautiful and generous presentation was for just one! Do bring a companion and plan on having a light supper.
Tip No. 3: Call ahead to reserve and request this intimate, lovely table for two next to the Drawing Room’s floor-to-ceiling windows, if possible.
Spoiled for Choice
Tough decisions lie ahead. Although you may have a favorite go-to tea, explore the menu to discover something marvelous sourced from all over the world of top quality specialist teas.
Tip No. 4: Browse the informative “History of Tea” section inside the menu binder.
Herbal infusions are created with hand picked and dried whole herbs, flowers, or fruits. They’re packed with flavor and aroma and are caffeine-free. The finest white teas and flowering teas come from Fujian Province in China. A lovely, exotic Chai tea featuring cardamon pods, star anise, and delicate spices comes from Ceylon. Consider green teas and Oolong teas from China as well. Black teas include the classic Earl Grey from Sri Lanka, Assam and Darjeeling from India, and a Chinese Lapsang and Red Dragon crafted by masters.
The JING Experience
Regardless of your choice, tea in the Drawing Room at the Egerton House Hotel is served with elegance, simplicity, and confidence in the JING style of modern tea service inspired by the tradition of great Asian tea cultures. The guiding principle is that tea is not just a drink — it’s an experience.
What’s on the Menu
A selection of house made cakes, macaroons, brownie, tarts, cupcakes, freshly cut sandwiches, and freshly baked scones varies depending on whether you prefer gluten-free, vegetarian, or vegan. Order a Teddy Bear’s Picnic with hot chocolate for the under-12 set.
Doggy Afternoon Tea Menu
Everything is as delicious as it looks, although I cannot vouch for the bowl lickin’ chicken and beef meatloaf and ice cream accompanied by a doggy biscuit and a takeaway treat in a doggie bag, of course. Afternoon Tea service is as pet-friendly as the hotel itself.
Later That Same Afternoon…
What could be more inviting than a cozy, hospitable bar with a perfect Martini as their signature cocktail? Just the other side of the fireplace, a tiny and oh-so-smashing bar resembles a retro movie set.
Bartender Esley provides me with a how-to demonstration. As the hotel advises, “We can make a great martini any way you want – straight, dirty, apple sour, or even chocolate. But for a truly unforgettable drink, we strongly recommend our take on the classic.”
That means shaken, never stirred, and gin rather than vodka. But again, have it your way…just so long as the frozen glass is chilled to precisely 22 degrees below, the classic twist is a Sicilian organic lemon, and it’s filled to the tippy top. Save room for tasty accompaniments: giant olives, honey roasted walnuts and mixed nuts, chili rice crackers.
Tip No. 5: From time to time, the bar offers a Martini Masterclass with complimentary canapés and cheese on toast priced at £45. Check the website before your next London trip.
Uneaten yummy open face sandwiches — Mrs. Tollman’s Coronation chicken from the owner’s personal recipe book; salmon and avocado; mozzarella, tomato and basil canapés — can be so thoughtfully packed up and ready to take away as my midnight snack.
Afternoon Tea at the 28-room Egerton House Hotel is served daily from 12 p.m. until 6 p.m. Due to limited space in the intimate Drawing Room, reservations are suggested to avoid disappointment. From outside the UK, call+44 20 7589 2412 or reserve your table online.
Egerton House Hotel
17-19 Egerton Terrace
London SW3 2BX, England
+011 44 20 7589 2412
Afternoon Tea at £40 per person; Champagne Tea £53; Cream Tea £18; Teddy Bear Tea £20; Doggy Tea £18.
Note: The author was a guest of Red Carnation Hotels for tea. Opinions expressed are entirely those of the contributor involving no payment from Egerton House Hotel or Red Carnation Hotels.