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Majestic afternoon tea by Buckingham Palace.

by Timea on March 23, 2012

London Hotels Insight recently road-tested the afternoon tea at the Rubens at the Palace – an uncompromisingly “Royal” experience in terms of the views, setting and service

From the moment I arrived at the Rubens at the Palace, the clouds parted from the sky and the sun started shining as if the hotel staff had arranged the weather for my arrival…I later learned that it’s that kind of place!

I’ve visited the hotel before – both for our Free WiFi Touchdown and later to inspect the hotel’s meeting rooms when we managed to get a sneak-peak at the preparations for its annual Burns Night party.  But the hotel’s friendly vibe always catches me off guard (no pun intended since the Changing of the Guard takes place just a short walk from the hotel).  I was here to sample potentially one of the best London hotel afternoon teas.

Check rates at Rubens at the Palace Hotel

The view from my table, which was directly across the street from the Royal Mews

Having been escorted to my table at the Palace Lounge, the view could not have been better – directly across from the Royal Mews!  But then I forgot my own excitement about a possible Royal sighting as I licked my lips at the prospect of the delights ahead (I’d even skipped lunch in anticipation!) – particularly since this hotel is famous for its attention to the tiniest detail.  Having sampled afternoon tea at other Red Carnation Hotels, I noticed a degree of consistency in the selection of teacakes but also some unique items which had their own individual Rubens twist.

Check rates at Rubens at the Palace Hotel

While I was waiting for my afternoon tea, I made friends with the Leopard Champagne Bar’s resident leopard, who seemed just as excited as I was

As I waited for my tea to arrive, I immersed myself in the story of afternoon tea which was featured on the first page of the menu.

Tea was brought over by sailors returning from the Far East in the 1640s.  By 1700 it was popular among the upper classes all over London.  The afternoon tea tradition was begun in 1840 by Anna (7th Duchess of Bedford) who asked for bread and butter, tea and cake to be served in her room to fight off her hunger pangs between lunch and dinner – the latter traditionally served late in her household.  She started to invite friends to partake in this ritual and by the late 1800s hotels had begun to offer it; it became so popular that no upper-class Englishwoman could be considered of high social standing unless she knew how to make and present it.

I was getting lost in the story when I was approached by one of the hotel staff, Csilla, who was an absolute joy to chat with.  Rather than give me long explanations, she invited me to smell each of the teas to decide on the ones I wished to try from the huge variety of flavoursome tea delights.

Check rates at Rubens at the Palace Hotel

The Rubens at the Palace serves twelve different kinds of teas grouped into “traditional”, “herbal infused” and “oriental” categories; with four tempting examples of each type

Csilla told me that the most popular choices among gentlemen were the Traditional English and Signature Earl Grey, while ladies often went for the Jasmine Pearl tea.  I was informed that I could try more than one, but decided to restrict my choice to peppermint followed by signature Earl Grey – although it was a tough choice to make from so many wonderful aromas.

Check rates at Rubens at the Palace Hotel

My peppermint tea was exactly as promised; spicy at first but then infused with a cool and refreshing minty aftertaste

In the meantime, I was informed that The Rubens serves 5 different kinds of finger sandwiches ranging from classics such as smoked salmon and ham and wholegrain mustard mayonnaise, traditional scones and scones with raisins (all with handmade strawberry jam and chocolate and hazelnut paste), together with a mouthwatering variety of cakes.  By now you’re probably as ready to see the photos as I was to taste the delicious treats, so here then are my pics from my heavenly afternoon tea at The Rubens…

Check rates at Rubens at the Palace Hotel

The sandwiches and scones were equally appetising and served on the bottom and middle trays respectively – the dilemma was which to taste first!

I then even got to meet the brilliant pastry chef at this luxury boutique hotel, Sophie, who came to answer some of my questions about the menu.  I discovered that the chocolate and hazelnut cream served with the scones has become one of the hotel’s unique trademarks and is extremely popular, although it is not a traditional afternoon tea item.  Sophie said that one of her personal favourites is the coffee éclair and that Mrs. Tollman, the founder of Red Carnation Hotel Collection, especially enjoys the carrot cake – so I made sure to try both right away!

Check rates at Rubens at the Palace Hotel

The top tray featured the cakes that tasted as delicious as they look…

As I made further enquiries, I also learned that the chocolate macaroon is another big guest favourite along with the cheesecake – often praised for being light as well as rich. And I noticed the shortbread had a buttery, crumbly texture – no surprise I learnt, since they grate and freeze the butter in-house which makes this treat one of the longest to prepare.

After leaving the Rubens, I felt more like royalty than those across the road at the Palace, thanks to the incredibly kind hotel staff.  And if you are a true royalty enthusiast then they even have their own secret Royal Wing

I definitely need to do afternoon tea more often…especially after whetting my appetite with our Pinterest board of top London hotel afternoon teas.

Check rates at Rubens at the Palace Hotel

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Photo credits: London Hotels Insight Blogger Timea.

Disclosure: Timea was a guest of the Rubens at the Palace for afternoon tea.

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