I ended up being in London on Monday 20/11, the very first day the Dorchester hotel started serving their Festive Afternoon Tea. After a fantastic “Dali’s tea time by Alain Ducasse” at Le Meurice Paris (a Dorchester Collection hotel), I was expecting The Dorchester London afternoon tea to be as good as its Parisian equivalent. I stand corrected: it’s even better.
The Setting ★★★★★
The hotel sits on the corner of Park Lane and Deanery Street, with Hyde Park on one side and Mayfair on the other. The façade does not look as grand as some of London’s ancient hotels but the exterior looks quite stunning at night, and especially so with the Christmas decorations.
In many aspects, it shares many common traits with its Parisian sister hotel: it has a rich complicated history; it was intended to be a pioneer of hospitality since its inception; it hosted many personalities (artists, writers, politicians, military men…); it features a 3 Michelin-star restaurant under the helm of world-famous chef Alain Ducasse, and, last but not least, it’s a symbol of excellence in the world of hospitality.
Joseph Damer bought the land in the 18th century and ordered the construction of a large building which would eventually be renamed “Dorchester house” when Damer obtained the title of Earl of Dorchester.
Sir Malcolm McAlpine and Frances Towle purchased Hertford House in 1929, with the intent of transforming it into the “perfect hotel”. t The Dorchester London opened up in 1931 and quickly earned a reputation as a luxury hotel. The hotel was very robustly built and was declared “bomb-proof, earthquake-proof and fireproof” by Sir Malcolm McAlpine. While that may not have been entirely true, the Dorchester London became the residence of choice for many political and military figures in wartime London such as Lord Halifax (Foreign Minister), Oliver Stanley (Minister for War), Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal and even General Eisenhower, who established his headquarters in the eponymous suite in 1944.
The Dorchester retained both its reputation and its prestigious clientèle after World War 2. It was eventually sold by the McAlpine family to a consortium of Brunei businessmen and bought by the Sultan of Brunei himself in 1985. It is now a member of the Dorchester Collection, which owns several luxury hotels in Europe such as the Meurice Paris.
The hotel was extensively renovated from 1988 to 1990 by Bob Lush of the Richmond Design Group, for a total of a hundred million dollars. The interior is a tasteful blend of many styles as several other designers brought their personal touch to the decoration (William Curtis Green, Oliver Ford, Alberto Pinto, Oliver Messel, Thierry Despont, Bruno Moinard…). The distinct gold leaf and marble decoration may seem excessively lavish but the overall design is closer to an English country house than a palatial five-star hotel. You may notice the strong contrast between the classic decoration of the Lobby & Promenade Lounge and the Grill restaurant, which features a hand-blown Murano glass chandelier and chef Alain Ducasse’s personal copper pots collection (fifth picture below).
Executive chef Henry Brosi’s and his team crafted both the inside and the outside of the Dorchester hotel out of gingerbread. The structure weighs 150kg and is made of over 8000 pieces of gingerbread. Notice the tiny guests having afternoon tea in the second picture below? Make sure to take a good look at this masterpiece if you visit the hotel during the festive period.
The Promenade Lounge ★★★★★
Afternoon tea is a long and glorious tradition , having been served since the hotel’s opening in 1931. The Promenade Lounge is a long corridor which leads to the bar, where the piano is located. You may want to request a table at the end of the Promenade if you fancy live music.
There are many chairs and divans arranged against the walls or around floral urns. The overall design is very clever as it guarantees both comfort and privacy. This exclusive hushed atmosphere is extremely relaxing. It reminds me of the Salon Proust at the Ritz Paris, which is also one of the best afternoon tea venues in the world.
Guests may enjoy the sound of piano on weekdays as well as a children’s choir on weekends during the Christmas period. I wasn’t fortunate enough to listen to the choir but our pianist was a true virtuoso.
The Tea & Beverage Selection ★★★★★
The Teas ★★★★★
The beverage selection is comprised of 34 teas and infusions (mainly sourced from the East India Company) as well as other beverages such as the Dorchester hot chocolate, coffee or matcha latte. Each guest may choose 3 teas with their afternoon tea so choose wisely and try to order a different one to share at the table!
The tea selection is excellent with lots of delicious teas to choose from, including two rare teas. Each tea is brewed at the proper temperature and the quantity of tea leaves is just right. My only regret is that the tea might become too strong towards the end, as there is no way to stop the infusion.
The Dorchester breakfast blend is an excellent way to start the afternoon tea: I like to order a strong black tea at first in order to wake my body up before moving on to more subtle and/or daring flavours.
For those of you who enjoy an extraordinary drink, these two teas are a must-try: the Karak chai tea (an Indo-Pakistani drink made from milk and spices) and the Dalreoch smoked white tea (grown in Scotland at the Dalreoch plantation in Perthshire)
32 classic teas and 2 rare teas from the East India Company (black, green, white, oolong and infusions)
3 choices of tea per person excluding rare teas (extra £10 for a pot of rare tea)
Brewing method: Brewed in a teapot brought to the table; infusion cannot be stopped.
The Champagne & Cocktails ★★★★★
The Festive afternoon tea is served with a glass of Laurent-Perrier Champagne or with the “Under the Mistletoe” mocktail (Pomegranate, gingerbread and lime garnished with mint and redcurrant).
The teetotaler in me couldn’t resist the appeal of the Christmassy mocktail and I wasn’t let down: it’s sweet, beautiful and it pairs really well with the food.
The Food: Festive Afternoon Tea & Christmas Carols Afternoon Tea
The Festive afternoon tea will be served on weekdays until 01/01/18 and on the weekend on 30-31/12/17 while the Christmas Carols afternoon tea will be served on weekends until 24/12/17.
The food and beverage selection is exactly the same but the Christmas Carols afternoon tea features a children’s school choir, who will interpret festive songs and other Christmas favourites.
It is also possible to enjoy a Champagne afternoon tea in the “Spatisserie” (The Dorchester London Spa) but I wasn’t able to review it. I do hope to go someday as it must be quite a unique experience!
The Savouries ★★★★☆
The afternoon tea starts with a selection of 5 festive sandwiches:
- Turkey in a Cranberry bread ♥ ♥
- Ham with Chardonnay mustard
- Crab, citrus, basil and mayonnaise ♥
- Egg and Truffle
- Brie with Kumquat
The turkey sandwich is the best: the combination of cranberry and turkey is not just appropriate for a festive afternoon tea, it’s also delicious.
I couldn’t resist ordering an extra plate of my favourite sandwiches (crab and turkey) but make sure to save some room for the sweets!
The Scones ★★★★★
The scones are brought on request so they will be perfectly warm when you start eating them. I know I must have written this a great many times but I wish every hotel would do so.
The plain and raisin scones are served with traditional clotted cream, homemade strawberry jam and a seasonal jam (rhubarb).
I’m normally very partial to rhubarb but that strawberry jam is one of the best I have ever had with an afternoon tea. It is made with whole strawberries and is a textbook example of jam perfection.
The Cakes & Sweets ★★★★☆
Even though some of the sandwiches definitely qualify as “Christmassy”, a festive afternoon tea is all about the sweets:
- Orange and Passionfruit on a Biscuit
- Coconut and Litchi mousse
- Peanut and Raspberry present-shaped Cake
- Pineapple cake on Parsnip base and with a Christmas-tree shaped black chocolate ♥
- Mince pie
The sweets are both pretty and scrummy: each cake is designed to conjure the typical symbols of Christmas (snowflakes, presents, Christmas trees…). Even though they appear to be quite rich, I actually consider these to be pretty light so you won’t have to force yourself towards the end.
The festive afternoon tea ends on a classic note, with a mince pie and a fruitcake. You just can’t beat the traditional Christmas treats!
The service is impeccable, as expected from a five-star hotel of this calibre. The team strikes the perfect balance between professionalism and friendliness.
A very special thank you to our Italian waiter Luca, whose stellar service made our afternoon extra special. Below is a video of him detailing the contents of the festive afternoon tea:
Conclusion & Overall Mark ★★★★★
The Dorchester London is one of your safest bets for a festive afternoon tea this Christmas. The atmosphere is grandiose, the beverage selection is perfect and the food is as gorgeous as it is delicious.
Priced at £68/person on weekdays and at £85/person on weekends, it is among the city’s most expensive “Champagne afternoon teas” but I assure it is well worth the money!
+: The festive decorations
+: The Promenade Lounge
+: Brilliant tea selection
+: The Christmas mocktail
+: Delicious food
+: Gorgeous Christmas cakes
+: Excellent service
-: Only 3 choices of tea per guest
-: Premium price (£68-£85)
Reminder: The Dorchester London hotel’s festive afternoon tea will be served on weekdays until 01/01/18 and on the weekend on 30-31/12/17 while the Christmas Carols afternoon tea will be served on weekends until 24/12/17.
Phone: +44 (0)20 7629 8888