Afternoon Tea

Christmas at Claridge’s

“When I pass through the revolving doors into the glamorous lobby of Claridge’s in London, I always feel a thrill. You enter a world of sophistication and wonderful service… Claridge’s is my ultimate treat.” - Lulu Guinness


Visiting Claridge’s is always special, but during the festive season it takes on a certain kind of magic. 


One of London’s most glamorous and longest-established hotels, Claridge’s started life as a single house ran by William and Marianne Claridge.


They ambitiously bought the adjoining five buildings in 1854 and the hotel was transformed into the art deco masterpiece that it is today. 


Favoured by Royalty and distinguished figures of every generation including Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Bing Crosby… The Queen! In 1945 Winston Churchill and his wife Lady Clementine moved into Claridge's penthouse suite during the war.


The interior is opulent and grand. More so at Christmas. The art deco revolving door takes you inside to the legendary black and white marble lobby with the famous sweeping staircase, once a turning area for horse-drawn carriages. 


An open fireplace and the stunning Christmas trees capture the magic of the festive season. 


Each year Claridge’s ask a famous designer to design the Christmas tree, putting their own unique mark on it. Chanel's genius Karl Lagerfeld was entrusted with creating the 2017 masterpiece.


His version is an inverted, 16-foot-high tree with silver gilded roots, topped with a mirrored star and hung with traditional icey lametta and snowflake decorations. It's been a huge hit and is surely the most Instagrammed Christmas tree of 2017. It's worth a visit to see this alone. 


But I had an even better excuse to visit.... I took my mum for Festive Afternoon Tea. A special Christmas themed Afternoon Tea complete with festive treats, Champagne and Christmas pudding.


We were shown through to the Foyer where Afternoon Tea is served. A pianist and harpist played gentle Christmas carols over the clinking of bone china and peoples appreciative “oh’s” and “ah’s over the cakes being served. 


Champagne was poured overhead while we deliberated over our choice from over 24 different tea leaves. I chose ‘White Silver Tip’, a precious white tea from the mountains of Fujian in far eastern China.


Mum went with ‘Cloud,’ a black tea from the LaKyrsiew tea garden in the forgotten forest region of Meghalaya.


Our finger sandwiches arrived, each and every one as delicious as the last, so much so we accept the offer of a second round.


All made to precision the Claridge’s way, perfect equal lengths and the filling accounting for one third of the sandwich width. 


The scones were warm, light and golden. Just the right size. 

While we contemplated how we would survive the final round, a flaming Christmas Pudding surprise arrived. Extinguished by a rich brandy sauce.


Then the cakes….


Roasted plum frangipane tart.


Kalingo dark chocolate mousse.


Golden bauble macaroon.


Yorkshire parkin. 


Service was exceptional and carefully orchestrated, the theatre of Claridge's is provided by the staff, ever attentive but equally discrete.


You only have to raise your eyes for a nanosecond to catch their attention. Our waitress, Renata, was perfect, nothing was too much trouble. 


Claridge’s is very careful about respecting and protecting its tradition. Everything is done just so. The fire in the lobby is lit at 6am sharp, the Christmas puddings are made in August to a century-old secret recipe. The hotel apparently has the oldest working lift in the UK. Installed in 1896 it is the only lift in London still operated by an attendant.


In the increasingly competitive world of luxury hotels, success depends on the aptitude of the business to evolve to meet new challenges. Something Claridge’s has done for over 150 years.  

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often” - Winston Churchill

Claridge's sets itself apart by excelling in customer service. Anything is possible. Imagine a world where no request is too outrageous, the word "no” doesn't exist. Even the “Ladies Room” is a place of art, complete with a lady who turns the taps on for you and passes you your hand-towel.


Dame Barbara Cartland was a regular at Claridge’s, rumour has it that when she was on her way for Afternoon Tea the hotel would have her secretary confirm whether she was in pink or turquoise, so they could lay her table in matching colours.

A Japanese pop star once booked into the penthouse, costing nearly £7,000 a night, for a whole month. Four days before arriving her team demanded her suite have a Jacuzzi. “It doesn’t have one,” replied General Manager Thomas Kochs, “but it will.” The next day the bath was removed and a Jacuzzi installed.


Claridge’s isn’t just a hotel. It’s an experience. A wonderful one at that. You’re made to feel like the most important guest while you’re there and you leave feeling utterly special. As Spencer Tracey said, “Not that I intend to die, but when I do, I don’t want to go to heaven, I want to go to Claridge’s.” 

The Festive Afternoon Tea runs until 1st January 2018. 

Bubbles and Berries, Cloud 23

“Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year. The morning of the first September was crisp and golden as an apple.” - J. K. Rowling


Last weekend I returned to Cloud 23 to have afternoon tea for my birthday. You can read my previous review of Cloud 23 here.

This wasn’t just any ordinary afternoon tea. Cloud 23 has recently launched a new afternoon tea menu called “Bubbles and Berries.” 

Served in the Zeus Lounge on the 23rd floor of the legendary Beetham Tower, with stunning panoramic views across Manchester, Bubbles and Berries is an Autumnal taste experience.

Glasses of Champagne arrived on a chunk of tree dressed with foliage, and the food was served on a stand with berries and twigs tucked away inside, all adding to the autumnal theme.


My friend and I are both vegetarian so a few of the options were substituted but here is the standard menu.



Mini bagel with cream cheese and beetroot cured salmon, caper berries

Caviar blini, pomegranate pearls

Ham and redcurrant croque monsieur

Butternut squash and manchego cheese quiche, plum chutney (v)



Chocolate dipped strawberries, freeze dried strawberry

Pink Champagne and blueberry jelly shot

Berry burst frangipane slice

Bellini curd part



With raspberry jam and Kir Royale clotted cream

£35 per person a glass of Champagne, plus unlimited tea and coffee

Our favourites were the vegetarian croque monsieur and the butternut squash quiche with plum chutney. 

We were also given the option of sipping on a hot chocolate rather than the usual tea or coffee, perfect with the dainty warm scones. 


We dined at 4.00pm, giving us the opportunity to watch a fantastic sunset from our elevated spot up in the clouds. 

“And the sun took a step back, the leaves lulled themselves to sleep and Autumn was awakened.” - Raquel Franco


Not quite ready to move on after devouring the afternoon tea, we asked our lovely waiter to fetch us some more bubbles, which arrived in a puff of smoke.


I’m not sure if it was the dry ice or the bubbles but we left feeling like we were floating in the clouds. 

Service was excellent throughout, our waiter explained to us that some days Cloud 23 serves up to 180 afternoon teas in a day. No wonder they do it so well! 

Bubbles and Berries is the tastiest and cosiest of ways to ease yourself into the crisp autumnal season. It is available until 12th November on the 23rd floor of Manchester’s famous Beetham Tower - 301 Deansgate, Manchester M3 4LQ.


Book in advance and make sure you ask for a window seat, the views really are incredible. Cloud 23 is an experience you won’t forget!

“It is better to have your head in the clouds and know where you are… than to breathe the clearer atmosphere below them, and think that you are in paradise.” - Henry David Thoreau

Prêt-à-Portea, The Berkeley

The most exciting of English rituals that I adore is that of high afternoon tea. Even though I am not English, I love it and always try to find some time to have a proper tea-time once in a while. You must respect it and indulge in the full ceremony of it.” - Manolo Blahnik

The Berkeley's Prêt-à-Portea is an afternoon tea designed with fashionistas in mind. The menu features sweet treats to reflect items shown at London Fashion Week. The Berkeley's chefs even attend the catwalk shows for inspiration.

Prêt-à-Portea has recently marked it’s 10th birthday. To celebrate, Pastry chef Mourad Khiat has chosen 10 of his favourite creations from the past decade.

If you love fashion and sweet delights, this is the ultimate dining experience. The menu includes edible replicas of fashion classics, from the Burberry trench to Jimmy Choo shoes.

On a very wet and windy Saturday afternoon, my friend and I scuttled along Knightsbridge towards The Berkeley. The doorman spared me my blushes and averted his gaze as a gust of wind blew my dress up, à la Marilyn, right in front of the large glass facade of the hotel. 

We skedaddled in through the revolving door to find a roaring fire and two cosy armchairs crying out for us to sink ourselves into. Not wanting to be late for our reservation, we resisted and were shown to our table in the Collins Room. 

This room is beautiful with a contemporary decor of silver and greys. Petal chandeliers add an air of glamour while cherry blossom motifs with quirky birds have been playfully dotted around the room.

Having selected our teas from the menu, a silver three-tiered cake stand arrived and our afternoon tea began.

Starting with a selection of finger sandwiches on a variety of freshly made breads, including onion which was delightful. We sipped on Laurent Perrier Champagne while devouring the savoury section. Then onto the cakes…

Moschino Sugar & Chic Sponge Cake Bag - blood orange Victoria sponge ‘Yellow M’ handbag encased in quilted red chocolate

Jimmy Choo Praline Pumps - velvet praline cream cake with gold hazelnut croquant and sweetheart chocolate bow.

Jason Wu - The Catwalk Coconut Cherry Compote with a playful pink skirt and a cancan leg for good measure. 

Dolce & Gabbana - Blackcurrant Bavarois Star Anise Pannacotta, topped with a Chocolate Owl.

Burberry Tea Trench Biscuit - classic trench coat chocolate biscuit with creamy royal icing. Guests staying at The Berkeley will also find a Burberry trench in their room.

Charlotte Olympia Bootie Biscuit - a dramatic cinnamon biscuit boot with black and red icing.

Monolo Blahnik Biscuit - designed with the most iconic of Monolo’s shoes in mind, the Hangisi. It comes in an array of colours and has glitter decorations. 

Lanvin - Draped Honeycomb Delice - almond sponge with honeycomb mousse and a light meringue ruffle. 

Simone Rocha Salted Caramel Eclair - tulle dress vanilla éclair filled with salted caramel crème pâtissière with sugar flower decorations.

Nicholas Kirkwood Pearl Pump Sachertorte - layered with raspberry, chocolate ganache and Valrhona crémeux topped with delicate silver pearl decorations. 

This was possibly the most colourful and picturesque afternoon tea we’ve ever had. It was interesting to compare the cakes to the photos of the fashion items from the catwalk (presented on a stand on the table). We had a lot of fun taking photos. Not only did the food look fantastic, it tasted incredible too. 

We couldn’t quite finish all the food so were given a doggie bag to take home. Don’t be fooled by “dainty cakes", this afternoon tea is plentiful so go hungry! Our lovely waitress even slipped in a couple of extra cakes for the journey home. 

We also purchased a book which has been released to showcase a collection of over 20 secret recipes and baking techniques from Mourad Khiat, to recreate at home. 

After our afternoon tea, we visited the hotel’s Blue Bar, the perfect place to enjoy a sophisticated, colourful cocktail or two. The cocktails are inspired by the bold colour of the room and are categorised into green, yellow, red and blue. Each one denotes a different potency of mix.

Feeling suitably full from the food and merry from the cocktails, we headed back to our hotel. But not before having a little rest in those comfy chairs by the fire. 

The afternoon tea menu at The Berkeley changes every six months to reflect the changing fashion seasons. So there is always an excuse to return to see the new offerings from the Prêt-à-Portea team. 

“There is nothing more English than a hat, except perhaps high fashion tea served at The Berkeley” - Philip Tracey

Afternoon Tea with Mary Berry

“Cakes are healthy too, you just eat a small slice” - Mary Berry

After our gastronomic adventure with Raymond Blanc last November, mum and I were eager to book another magical train journey. 

On a quick search of the Belmond site, we discovered that Mary Berry was hosting an afternoon tea on board the Belmond British Pullman.

In case I have any extraterrestrial readers, let me explain. Mary Berry CBE is one of the UK’s best-known and respected cookery writers and broadcasters. She has appeared in countless television series and has written more than 70 cookery books to date. After winning the hearts of millions with ‘The Great British Bake Off’, Mary now has two new TV shows in the pipeline for the BBC. 

To celebrate the launch of her latest book, Belmond asked Mary to host a special afternoon tea on board the sister train to the Orient-Express. 

We were overjoyed to see that there were two tickets left… only to find that they were at opposite ends of the carriage. Not quite what we had in mind. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet a national treasure and so, regardless of the fact that we wouldn’t be seated together, we booked the last two remaining tickets. 

We travelled down to London ready to leave from London Victoria Station at 3.10pm. We were directed to the Belmond Pullman lounge where The Spitfire Sisters were greeting guests as they arrived.

Having checked in, we scanned the room to find our host sitting in a corner signing books for passengers. We joined the queue and it wasn’t long before we met Mary, dressed in fuchsia pink with lipstick and nails to match.  Hello Mary, Berry nice to meet you!

Once we had had our books signed, we walked over to Platform 7 ready for departure. 

We hopped on board our vintage carriage and found our respective seats.

I was quite self conscious sitting alone so busied myself reading the menu while sipping a glass of vintage Balfour Brut Rose.

The menu included some of Mary’s favourite cakes.

Coconut Panna Cotta

Coconut Panna Cotta

Cherry & Almond tart

Cherry & Almond tart

Strawberry Mille-feuille

Strawberry Mille-feuille

Opera Slice

Opera Slice

Chocolate Eclair

Chocolate Eclair

Lemon Drizzle

Lemon Drizzle

Served alongside traditional afternoon tea finger sandwiches and ginormous baked scones (Mary’s own recipe.)

It wasn’t long before a lovely couple sat opposite me. They kindly offered to have mum sit with them so that we could be together. 

Mum joined me and we finally began to relax into our elegant surroundings of the Art Deco 1920s carriage. 

Each of the Pullman carriages is named with a unique story to tell. Some have been used extensively by the British royal family and Heads of State. Two were part of Winston Churchill’s funeral train. The oldest carriage, Ibis, dates back to 1925. Audrey and Vera survived bomb damage during air-raids over London's Victoria Station in 1940. 

Our carriage, Zena, was built in 1928 as a First Class parlour car and was subsequently used in the 1979 film ‘Agatha’.

Being on board is a very special experience. It is a fantastic way to travel and reminds you how special train travel can be when you have the luxury of time… and delicious food. It takes you back to a more glamorous era, when travel was much more than to simply arrive at a destination. 

“Focus on the journey, not the destination.” - Greg Anderson

During the journey The Spitfire Sisters serenaded us with classing 1940’s music, including one song that they’re written especially for Mary (containing lyrics about soggy bottoms).

The song is available on their website:

Rather fittingly, they sang us a song about cocktails…

The train took us on a three hour round trip through the Kent countryside. Before arriving back into London Victoria, Mary appeared briefly in our carriage to ask us if we’d enjoyed the experience.

After a quick photograph, she was whisked away before we’d had the chance to ask her all the questions we had been planning. The most important of which was whether she will do another bakery program with Mel and Sue?!

And just like that, our adventure was over… until the next one!

Belmond Luxury Trains


Manchester House, Manchester

Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.” ― Jim Davis

People often talk about getting healthy in the New Year. Not me! I believe January should be about easing into the new year as gently and comfortably as possible, not depriving ourselves of life’s pleasures. With that in mind, my first post of 2017 is… a very indulgent afternoon tea. 

Lovely Sarah recently turned 30 so we decided to celebrate with tea, cakes and bubbles!

We opted for the plush Manchester House in Spinningfields, high up on the 12th floor of Tower Twelve. The Lounge at Manchester House is sleek but has a welcoming ambience with incredible views across the city. I visited late last year for cocktails and promised to return for afternoon tea.

I’ve experienced afternoon tea in many places but there’s undoubtedly something very special about dining in a restaurant with floor to ceiling windows enjoying panoramic views of a city.

It was lovely and quiet when we arrived on a Friday afternoon at 3pm. It felt like we’d escaped the hustle of the streets below. We were shown to our table, all of which are positioned looking out across Manchester, and began settling into our decadent surroundings.

Everything is displayed in a contemporary style, there isn’t a lace tablecloth or vintage china in sight. That being said, afternoon tea lovers won’t be disappointed. The obligatory delicate finger sandwiches, cakes and pastries all feature. 

The food was delivered on a two-tier chunky wooden stand. It was beautifully presented with a modern twist. We had three of everything so there was no fighting!  I had vegetarian options and my other friend, who has a nut allergy, was also well catered for. The birthday girl was more straightforward and ate from the usual afternoon tea menu. I was very impressed that we each had our own selection (well done Manchester House) and they all tasted amazing!

We started off with the bottom layer of sandwiches. I was happy to see that we were given a good variety, on different types of breads and wraps. We cleared these in record time before moving onto the scones, discovering which of us opted for Devonshire (cream on the bottom and jam on top) and which of us chose Cornish (cream on top and jam on the bottom). 

Next came the cakes! Few people could be disappointed with the selection of on offer. Macarons, chocolate fancies, Eton mess and an incredible eclair each.

We enjoyed our Champagne while watching the sun set over Manchester, leaving only the lights from the Christmas trees twinkling around us. 

The clock struck 5pm and the bar began to fill with city slickers, keen to enjoy a cocktail or two in one of The Lounge’s four heated outside terraces. We made room for them and continued drinking downstairs in the bars of Spinningfields. 

As if our day couldn’t get any better, we stumbled upon an outdoor bumper car track where we challenged each other to a race. The next day our various aches and pains proved that we’re no Lewis Hamilton behind the wheel but it was certainly a great way to end a memorable day. 

I definitely recommend Manchester House for a special occasion, the staff were all excellent and even left a birthday card on the table for Sarah, which was a lovely touch. Even if you don’t have an occasion to celebrate, still get dressed up and treat yourself. The perfect way to cheer yourself up during this cold and dark January.