There are not many traditions that ooze “British” than the custom of afternoon tea. Americans are fascinated by it: Delicate finger sandwiches filled with smoked salmon, cream cheese and the smallest amount of cress; Miniature pastries, perfectly formed, whose only job in life is to entice; Scones with crisp crusts and flakey insides, smothered with clotted cream and strawberry jam. And of course the tea. Ones you might never have heard of, like Jasmine Pearls and Jin Shang Tian Hua, that sound foreign, flowery, and very British Empire.
The Milestone Hotel very kindly hosted the BritMums Family Travel Think Tank, where for one afternoon, we were transported back to a modern Victorian England. Recently named Britain’s top hotel in TripAdvisor’s annual Travellers’ Choice Awards, The Milestone is a luxury, Grade II listed boutique 5-star hotel right across from Kensington Park. The decor is warm and Laura Ashley/Art Deco, with stunning handpicked art on every wall. I could easily spend a weekend there, pretending I was Lady Mary (or Lady Chatterley!), dissecting the suffragette movement or the perils of running a country pile.
The afternoon tea service (1pm, 3 pm and 5pm) is very popular, and it’s easy to see why. The service starts with an array of finger sandwiches and pastries, served in a traditional silver cake stand. Think layers of savouries: smoked salmon and cress cheese, Mull of Kintyre Cheddar and tomato, and a round Chicken mayo with chopped almonds intermixed with sweet eclairs, tartlets, cakes and macaroons. The servings are ample (6 sandwiches and 6 to 7 cakes each) and we’re told that many come home in boxes to be consumed later (there’s nothing like getting home and thinking about the Strawberry and Rosewater Macaroon you left behind!).
There’s a wide choice of tea, from a soothing Peppermint to Blackcurrant and Lavender to White Silver Tips (peach in character from the youngest unopened buds, known for its antioxidant qualities, if you must know!).
You could order coffee, but that just seems so un-British! Your individual pot of tea is served in a silver service by an appropriately clad under-butler. I made the butler bit up, it’s a waiter, but if you squint you could pretend it was Thomas from Downtown Abbey.
The freshly baked scones are accompanied by Devonshire clotted cream, which is whiter and brighter than its yellowish Cornish cousin, and homemade strawberry preserves. And of course there are perfectly folded starched napkins, in case – heaven forbid – of any crumbs.
Now you just need to decide: do you put the clotted cream first on your scone, then the strawberry preserve (the Cornish way) or do you go Devonshire-style, jam first then a dollop of cream…
If you go:
The Milestone Hotel and Apartments 1 Kensington Ct, London W8 5DL +44 020 7917 1000 www.milestonehotel.com. Afternoon Tea is served at 1 pm, 3 pm and 5 pm. Little ones can get a Little Prince and Princess Tea (where they can decorate their own cupcakes and sip hot chocolate) and the guys can get a Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea, with mini homemade pork pies and a flight of ale or whisky! Book early for holidays and forget about Mother’s Day, it’s already wait-listed! Starting from £36.
Note: My Afternoon Tea was provided by The Milestone for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own.