Afternoon tea is the best meal of the day – an extra indulgence that you don’t necessarily need, but one that comprises all the good things in life that are pure enjoyment.
The Palm Court at The Langham Hotel is a large room on the ground floor just opposite the main entrance to the hotel which lies opposite BBC Broadcasting House on Portland Place. The Palm Court has a rich history, and afternoon tea used to be served here in the mid-ninteenth century. The 21st-century Palm Court is bathed in luxury, with glitzy lighting, soft furnishings, comfortable chairs and tables set for tea, which is served every afternoon from 3pm to 5pm. Incredibly civilised, and just the place to escape from the hustle and bustle of the busy world outside.
There are not many places left in London where you can get away from the noise of everyday life. At The Langham you would scarcely believe that Oxford Street is just a few steps away. Here in the Palm Court the only sound you hear is the sweet music from the grand piano as the resident pianist treats you to songs from musicals and films. You might also catch the tinkle of a cup and saucer as another pot of freshly brewed tea is downed by the thirsty customers in between enjoying their selection of sandwiches, scones, cakes and pastries. It is a haven of peace where you can relax to the music while indulging your palate in some delicious teatime goodies.
There are two set teas at the Palm Court, the Wonderland at £33 (or £45 with a glass of Laurier-Perrier NV Champagne) and the Bijoux at £40 (or £57 with Champagne, or £110 for the Uber Bijoux Afternoon Tea for two people which includes a half bottle of the bubbly). If you wish to stay on after 5pm, there’s a High Tea at £37.50 which includes a hot course of croque madame or omelette Arnold Bennett (£50 with Champagne).
However, the Wonderland Tea is a more than adequate meal in itself, with or without the Champagne, although having it with makes it even more of an indulgence. It begins with a selection of dainty finger sandwiches, with the crusts removed, of course. The fillings include tasty mixtures such as egg and mustard cress, Angus beef with watercress, smoked Scottish salmon with horseradish, tomato and cream cheese with chives, and blue fin tuna with pickled cucumber. They’re all intricately and delicately prepared, with two of each type, so you needn’t fight over who has which.
With the sandwiches out of the way, it’s time for the warm homemade scones (plain and fruited) which arrive in their own little napkinned basket. A dish of fresh Devonshire clotted cream and strawberry preserve is supplied to make them even more of a treat – as you can imagine, they won’t last long.
On the tiered display at the side of the table there’s a plate of French pastries and small cakes, including a choux pastry bun with strawberries, a passion fruit and meringue tart, and a chocolate delice – smooth, chocolatey and creamy. You can also tuck in to a cheesecake made from Champagne and elderflower and served in a little glass with citrus jelly. Then there’s also banana bread, fruit cake and carrot cake, if you still have any room left.
Having taken all this on board you may find that you can only share a slice of the most buttery, traditional Victoria sponge cake, the last item on the menu which is brought to the table with a flourish. It is deliciously moist and eggy-tasting, a real toothsome treat to finish the food part of the afternoon tea.
You may have chosen to have a glass of Champagne with your tea, but then there is still the question of which sort of tea you wish to drink. As there are close on forty different types from the Langham’s own blends of Indian Assam, Chinese white and Chinese Silver Needle, through various black and green teas (some of scented) to yellow tea, herbal and flower teas and the uber tea selection of really special teas from India and China.
If the choice is overwhelming, try an English tea grown in the famous Tregothnan estate in Cornwall. They’ve been growing tea there since 1335 and it’s currently run by a descendent of Earl Grey, who of course developed his own famous blend. On offer at the Palm Court is an Earl Grey blend made with Tregothnan’s own leaves plus Assam and citrus Bergama, the bergamot that gives it the scented flavour, the classic tea, blending Assam and handpicked Cornish leaves, green tea, a delicate blend of fine Chinese green tea and Tregothnan green leaves, and the afternoon tea, a light blend of Darjeeling with the Cornish crop. This last is a refreshing brew that goes well with almost anything on the menu, while the Earl Grey has that extra flavour that is most appealing if you favour a lighter, more delicate brew.
The Last Word
Everything stops for tea and to stop at the Palm Court at The Langham Hotel must be one of the most enjoyable ways to call a halt to the day and enjoy an hour or two of pure pleasure.