I have an
eeny weeny penchant for afternoon tea.
What’s afternoon tea? Well typically it’s available in the afternoons (although not strictly so), and consists of various different teas, cakes, and sandwiches, primary features being jam and scones. The name really plays up to the foreign stereotype of British people sitting in a comfortable setting, sipping tea out of fine china and speaking like the Queen. In real life, that couldn’t be farther from the truth – the tea is more likely to be PG tips or Tetley as opposed to Earl Grey, forget the cakes and sandwiches entirely, more like custard creams, Bourbons, digestives and maybe a chocolate hobnob if you’re feeling extra swish. It’s not even called afternoon tea, it’s like a daytime snack. Right?
Anyway, my growing love for it basically got kickstarted after I attended my first ever afternoon tea for a good friend’s Hen do at the Radisson Blu Edwardian just off Leicester Square in 2012. Father God. Fam. Mate. You know when you see the light when you never knew you were in darkness before? It was like that. I’m not going to bother trying describe it. The nigh transcendent experience is best shown through some of the pictures I took at the time – Click here to see the link to them on my Tumblr. That afternoon tea has set the bar ever since in myself and friends’ quests to find the best places to have it in London. Consequently, in this journey to find the best bouji afternoon tea spots, I thought I might as well share with y’all our judgements and reviews.
Keep reading to find out how Thistle Hyde Park matched up.
Thistle Hyde Park
On the uncharacteristically hot Sunday just gone (that was most likely summer yo, I hope you savoured it), myself and a friend went to the Thistle for our afternoon tea booking. How did we know the Thistle does afternoon tea? We didn’t. There’s a wonderful website called Travelzoo and it basically sends you deals every week (mostly travel but sometimes other things) via email. I saw a deal for afternoon tea there on Travelzoo and thought ‘Ay yo. Imma cop that. Let me find who else is on it’. If you like afternoon tea or want to try it, subscribe to that site or download the app. They basically have a deal nearly every week from what I can see. What kind of deals? 2 people for £25 kind of deals where the normal price would have been something very stupid and extortionate. Always. I’ve not had one afternoon tea yet that was worth £35/£40. Anyway, that’s why we were there. Now to get to the nitty-gritty.
I have to say a huge selling point for me in these deals is when I see a champagne reception. I’m like ‘Let’s book it ASAP’ haha. No I’m not an alcoholic or even a closet one, it’s just that aside from very specific cocktails, that’s the only other alcoholic beverage I really bother drinking because it usually tastes nice. Not so much a fan of wine and I particularly despise red wine. No-one should ever get me that as a gift. Ever. The champagne at the Thistle was nice enough:
Myself and S (my partner in crime on this occasion) came to the conclusion that the Thistle afternoon tea deserved the illustrious score of 2.5…out of 10. Or 1 out of 5. Yes. A number of reasons:
- They served us with the champagne and cakes very quickly, but completely forgot about the tea….or so we thought. It appeared their idea of afternoon ‘tea’, was Twinings sachets. I can’t even begin to express how flabbergasted I was by this. About 5 or 6 sachets of Twinings tea (Earl Grey, some fruit ones, Camomile, and other bog standard flavours). I’m sorry, but I’ve had a few afternoon teas now, and never, ever, have I been presented with sachets as my tea options. Furthermore they brought the milk out with the cakes, but did not bring the hot water to drink the tea with until we had completely finished eating and S went to go and ask a waiter for the hot water. Or maybe we were supposed to pour them into the champagne. I don’t know.
- The selection of cakes was the smallest I’ve had yet. On several occasions after that first and (as it transpired later) only platter landed, I asked S if this could possibly be it…she solemnly nodded yes. I didn’t understand. The sandwiches were the regular salmon, cucumber and ham, and were great. But a couple of miniture tarts, a brownie, some other cake and one, ONE scone each? The tarts looked nice, but just lacked the flavour all their bright colours promised. The scones were warm (bonus points), and tasted fab with the jam and cream. And they provided us with either ‘squirt cream’ as S called it, and clotted cream – but I mean, I would prefer more cake than all the cream options in the world. At least give us another scone – what’s with the stingyness!
- The place where we were seated – by the window overlooking Hyde Park – was nice. Especially on such a lovely day…but again, to pay that much for a few cakes I could have got from Iceland? I don’t care if a rainbow is outside my window. I think if we’d not done this using the Travelzoo deal, and having experienced the other afternoon teas that we have, we would really have been anguished.
Obviously this is just our opinion, and it has been conditioned by our prior afternoon tea experiences, so feel free to go and judge for yourself the afternoon tea at Thistle Hyde Park. However, if you’ve been used to the kind of spread in the first link I posted….modify your expectations accordingly.