I initially reviewed the Mandarin Oriental London Saké & Teamaster’s choice afternoon teas in 2017. Here I go again 2 years later, to update this article and review the two newcomers: the Beer afternoon tea and Alsatian wine afternoon tea – Article updated in June 2019
The Setting ★★★★★
The hotel is located in Knightsbridge, just one street away from Hyde Park. It sits in a historic Edwardian style building and was originally opened up as the “Hyde Park hotel” in 1902.
Now a Mandarin Oriental property, this gorgeous hotel had to be renovated twice in a row due to a fire that occurred last year. The damage was minimal but the property had to close for a little while until the repairs were completed. Now that both façades have been completed, the interior is also blessed with plenty of natural light (unlike 2 years ago).
The inside of the hotel is gorgeous and I encourage you to take a stroll around the hotel if you have the time, especially so if you’re a flower enthusiast.
The Rosebery ★★★★★
The afternoon tea is served in the Rosebery, one of the best venues I ever had the pleasure to visit. It is very tastefully decorated, with designer metal trees decorated with amber mandarines (see pictures below) and gorgeous pieces of contemporary art by Orlanda Broom.
The tables are very cleverly placed and give out a much-appreciated sensation of privacy.
There are plenty of mirrors and chandeliers that contribute to the brilliant atmosphere. I’m especially fond of the smell: the combination of precious teas, the infused oshibori towels and the many flowers blend together for a true olfactory delight.
On a downside, there is no live music and it is quite a stroll to the lavatories, so I hope you don’t mind taking a little walk during your afternoon tea. Parties can stay at their table for 2-3 hours and may be required to vacate their table on busy days, which is pretty standard in London.
The Tea & Beverage Selection ★★★★★
Saying that the Mandarin Oriental London 1920’s afternoon tea offers plenty of choice beverage-wise would be an understatement. Between the non-alcoholic drinks (teas, ice-teas, coffees, chocolate…) and the alcoholic drinks (champagne, beer, saké, wine, cocktails…), you’ll end up being overwhelmed with options and maybe even tipsy if you go with one of the Mandarin Oriental London’s boozy afternoon teas.
Due to the special nature of these afternoon teas, I will add a paragraph with each of the three courses to detail which tea or alcohol is paired with which stage of the afternoon tea, as well as give a quick opinion about each drink.
The non-alcoholic drinks: Tea, Ice-tea & Coffee ★★★★★
Now, this is where the Mandarin Oriental London hotel truly shines, with the beverages. The Rosebery Lounge’s hot drinks selection is among the best I have ever seen. If you don’t fancy tea, you can always order coffee, hot chocolate or even the ice teas and summer specials ♥
Most of the teas are from the very reputable “East India Company”, while some of the rare connoisseur teas are sourced individually from independent suppliers, such as “Canton Tea”.
The quality and attention to detail are on par with the Ritz Paris, if not better. I often visit hotels who source their teas from excellent suppliers but end up ruining it with improper brewing, something that never happens at the MO London: the tea sommeliers are on watch.
Each table gets a visit from Dominique and Isabella, the Rosebery Lounge tea sommeliers. I haven’t seen that level of passion for tea since visiting the Fairmont Hamburg and the tea drinker in me is really pleased to meet people who go the extra mile to educate their guests on the art of tea tasting.
I’d say that my favourite of the lot was the “Eight Immortals Dan Cong”, which may even be the best Oolong tea I ever had. Otherwise, there is no point in me issuing any further recommendations on this aspect. Simply trust the in-house experts as each of her pairing choices were spot-on: recommending the pu’er Mini Tuo Cha to open the palate (a sort of “tea amuse-bouche”) was a brilliant idea. I just love to sit back and tell the staff “I trust you, bring me whichever tea is the most appropriate!”
24 Classic teas (10 black, 5 green, 2 white, 1 yellow, 3 oolong, 2 pu’er & 11 infusions);
7 Connoisseur teas for a surcharge of £5-15 (1 green, 2 white, 3 oolong, 1 pu’er)
Brewing method: Brewed loose-leaf by the kitchen team then transferred to another teapot to prevent over-brewing (best technique)
Choice of coffee, smoothies, ice teas, summer specials & cocktails
The alcoholic drinks: Beer, Alsatian Wine, Saké & Champagne ★★★★★
If you fancy your afternoon tea with a bit of alcohol, the Mandarin Oriental’s got you covered: you can choose to have your afternoon tea with a glass of Ruinart Champagne or you can have a tasting of three Sakés, Beers or Alsatian wines. Just as with the teas, these alcohols are designed to accompany the food and thus each course (savouries, scones, sweets) comes with a specific drink that has been expertly paired by the team ♥
Each drink is carefully selected: you can tell that a great deal of research has been put into the sourcing of these beverages. Overall, I have a slight preference for the Saké Afternoon tea over the Beer and Alsatian afternoon teas though that’s more a matter of personal taste 🙂
The Savouries ★★★★★
The sandwiches are magnificent; each of the six savouries is delicious and light. The most memorable sandwich is marked with a heart (♥):
- Roasted chicken shawarma, pickled turnip, lettuce
- Finest Cotswold egg with black truffle
- Confit tuna, spring onion, piquillo pepper, green olives, oregano
- Teriyaki salmon, asparagus with pickled ginger
- Portland crab, wasabi tobiko, crayfish, miso, coriander with yuzu
- Braised beef, watercress and horseradish ♥♥
I’ll get straight to the point, these are amping the tastiest and most original savouries I have ever had in London. It even beats the Connaught’s excellent sandwiches on the originality front, while equalling it in terms of taste.
The savoury bites are paired with:
- Darjeeling Second Flush Tea ♥
- Golden Larger, Austria, 5% (A full-bodied beer with a gentle bitterness brewed using indigenous ingredients, wonderfully refreshing and very agreeable
- Riesling, Grand Cru Saering 2014 (A classic Alsatian Riesling with distinctive elegance and power, tremendous amounts of freshness and complexity
- Akitabare “Shunsetsu” Honjozo (Spring Snow) Languishingly dry with rarefied flavour notes that impart a declasse elegance
The Darjeeling tea and the beer are light flavoured, which goes very well with the subtle aroma of the savouries. The wine is very refreshing and opens the palate quite well, while the Saké’s floral fragrance makes it perfect for the fish-based savouries (e.g. the Crab).
The Scones ★★★★☆
The Rosebery lounge staff will serve the scones after you’ve finished the savouries unless you ask otherwise. The plain and raisin scones are served warm and on request, which is usually a very good sign.
There are four toppings to choose from: clotted cream, lemon curd, rose jelly ♥ and strawberry jam.
The scones are tasty and the toppings generous. I especially love the rose jelly jam, which I remembered very fondly from 2 years ago.
The scones are paired with:
- Lapsang Souchong
- Partizan Porter, England, 6.0% Roasted caramel and coffee notes in the aroma move into the taste with some dark dried fruits.
- Gewürztraminer, Grand Cru Kessler 2014 Bright golden yellow colour with notes of sweet peaches and rose petals ♥
- Dewazakura “Oka” Ginjo (Cherry Bouquet) Delightful, a flowery bouquet with a touch of pear and melon.
I’m not a massive Lapsang Souchong fan so I had my scones with the “Amber Mountain” Yellow tea. The “Partizan” dark beer (odd name for an English beer!) is quite strong, like a sweeter/chocolaty version of the Guinness so those of you who don’t enjoy strong flavours should stay away.
The Kessler wine and the Sakés fruity aroma do go very well with the scones, especially that lovely rose petal jelly, whose flavour is reminiscent of a Spring day in Japan (or is it just my imagination going wild?) :p
The Cakes, Pastries & Mignardises ★★★★★
The MO London afternoon tea is a sweet tooth’s dream come true, with 5 pastries and 3 mignardises to boot:
- Apricot and verbena ♥
- Cherry and pistachio streusel
- Espresso dome ♥♥
- Apple Tatin
- Raspberry and coconut Pavlova
- Wild strawberry Religieuse (puff pastry) ♥
- Chocolate éclair
It’s obvious that a lot of effort was put into designing and imagining these sweets, as this selection is a tribute to originality and imagination. No macarons, no cupcakes, no fruit tarts… Just creativity at its best.
The Mignardises are a nice touch towards the ends, they are less sophisticated but much lighter on the stomach.
The pastries and mignardises are paired with:
- Oolong Mi La Xang ♥♥
- Tynt Meadow English Trappist Ale, England, 7.4% Clear, bright deep red to dark brown in appearance with a beige head ♥
- Gewürztraminer, Grand Cru Kessler 2014 Bright golden yellow colour with notes of sweet peaches and rose petals.
- Ume No Yado – Aragoshi Umeshu あらごし梅酒 Sake based plum wine with rich fruity flavour from its blended pulp. This plum wine promises you a refreshing taste and texture.
I absolutely loved that Oolong tea and the Trappist ale (it’s quite amazing to think that monks still make beer in this day and age).
The wine and saké’s sweet notes might feel a bit redundant with such a whopping quantity of sweets so watch out for that sugar rush 😉
The Service ★★★★★
This is probably the best service I have ever experienced in England, not only because of the tea sommeliers but thanks to the Rosebery Lounge team as a whole: it’s like clockwork. The staff is polite, efficient and passionate. They’ll happily share their expertise about saké, tea or the afternoon tea itself.
Whether it’s Isabella (the tea sommelier) or Mathieu (our waiter) everyone was at their best and took great pride in their work. The staff is also very proactive and made sure I had everything I needed throughout the whole afternoon.
The booking policy is the only downside, guests are required to book with a credit card (it’s becoming more and more common in London) and may be charged if they cancel less than 24-72 hours in advance. Booking online is easy and the reservation team is highly responsive via email.
Below is a video detailing the contents of the afternoon teas. Bon appétit!
Conclusion & Overall Mark ★★★★★♥
The Mandarin Oriental afternoon tea is still my favourite in the UK in the luxury segment, much like the Crillon Paris is my personal favourite in France (both are probably ex aequo). I am sorry to see that the Teamaster’s choice afternoon tea has been discontinued but the two newcomers, the beer and Alsatian wine afternoon tea, along with the renewed Saké afternoon tea are a delight for boozy afternoon tea aficionados (full confession: I’m normally a big teetolater so my opinion on the alcohols should be taken with a pinch of salt).
It’s not just the excellent quality of the food and beverages. There is a feeling of passion and expertise that resonates among the whole team and this makes the overall experience feel extraordinary. Therefore, I’m (once again) awarding the Mandarin Oriental London with this website’s “Golden Teapot”, an award only meant for the best afternoon teas in the world.
The Mandarin Oriental London afternoon tea is a must-try for any tea lover who’s willing to spare £56 and bear with the slightly restrictive booking policy. Let me assure you it’ll be worth every penny!
+: The Rosebery lounge atmosphere
+: Excellent tea & beverages selection
+: The boozy options (Beer, Wine & Saké)
+: Delicious food
+: Gorgeous cakes & mignardises
+: Brilliant service
+: Value for money
+: Long service hours
+: Best luxury afternoon tea in London
-: Short-ish seating times (2-3 hours)
-: Restrictive booking policy (credit card bookings)
-: Premium price (starting at £56 + 12.5% service charge)
Click here to read the initial review of the MO London Sak& & Teamaster’s Afternoon Tea:
Phone number: +44 (0)20 7201 3828