Whether 2020 has made you feel super jolly or a Christmas grinch, there’s nothing like a trip to enjoy afternoon tea at The Dorchester. Every year, the iconic London hotel turns into a winter wonderland that’s guaranteed to remove any traces of bah humbug, making it the ultimate Christmas destination for celebrating the most wonderful time of the year.
This year, the hotel transforms into its annual Letter to Father Christmas décor, making your wishes come true. A bespoke stationery room is tucked away in the corner to write their letters, have them stamped and post them in a traditional red post box before they are magically whisked away to the Santa sorting office.
The Promenade is lined with majestic trees, antiqued ottomans and sofas, chandeliers hang from the domed roof and gilded columns, coral walls and rustic mirrors all set the ornate scene. A pianist plays in the background, which means the conversation isn’t limited to a whisper, the aroma of sweet cakes hangs in the air and as I melt into the plush armchair, I know I’ve reached the final destination of my Christmas frenzy.
Afternoon tea at The Dorchester starts with a glass of Veuve Clicquot champagne and we choose the Rosé
Brut to complement the peach-hued interiors. The tea menu is extensive and vibrant – exactly what you’d expect from The Dorchester so choosing isn’t easy, but since Christmas is all about the extra things, we go for the exclusive tea blends such as The Dorchester Rose – a flowery orange blended with dried pink rose petals that release an enchanting aroma and the Ceylon Pedro Pekoe – a single estate black tea grown at an elevation of 5,600ft in Nuwara Eliya, one of Celyon’s finest tea-producing provinces.
You can learn as much or as little about the teas as you wish from the friendly staff, making it easy to lose an afternoon here. The staff – dressed in classic black and white uniforms – are like Santa’s little helpers, swiftly shuffling past tables and offering to take our coats and bring us more fluffy pillows. Although afternoon tea at The Dorchester is pretty straight forward, they make sure to explain every step thoroughly, partly to prepare us for what’s next but mainly to excite us even more.
Before a selection of homemade artisanal sandwiches arrives, our waiter gently dunks a jasmine flower bud into hot water, causing us to focus all our attention on its unwrapping beauty. As the sprout unfolds, the colour of water changes from crystalline to sunset orange, creating a palate cleanser to use between courses.
With the food, there is a little twist on each classic – from baby cucumber with black figs and cream cheese on walnut bread to free-range egg with truffle mayonnaise and chives, we save the best one for the end – a mouth-watering Norfolk Bronze turkey with apricot and cranberry relish on cranberry bread which tastes just like Christmas. As we nibble on our savoury treats, and angelic choir performs traditional carols and tables start to fill up with other guests who just finished their Christmas shopping nearby.
When our scones arrive, we can’t help but to get into the age-old debate of what comes first. Whether you prefer it the Devon way with cream before jam, or the Cornwall way with jam before cream, both the fruity and the plain are crumbling in our hands as we break them in half. There are two jams to choose from – a homemade strawberry and the Dorchester winter jam, both leaving us scraping the bottom of the jar, with lashings of Cornish clotted cream.
It wouldn’t be a festive tea without some wintery classics and so we’re served a buttery mince pie and Christmas slices that are still warm when they reach our plate. This brings back some of my childhood memories when me and my brother used to steal hot cookies straight from the oven before they even had the chance to cool off, making the atmosphere even more special.
The best is saved for last. We find that the festive cakes galore presented on a two-tier stand is the perfect balance and ending to our afternoon. From a Gianduja and homemade spiced praline that looks like a Christmas bauble rather than a cake (also our favourite), an orange and Christmas-flavoured crème brûlée with citrus cream on a milk sponge to a Christmas fruit cake and cranberry and cinnamon slice with hazelnuts.
As the afternoon slowly melts into the evening and the festive fairy lights start to blur into the background, there’s no denying that an afternoon spent at The Dorchester can turn even the grumpiest grinch into a merrymaker. The hotel’s notable position across from Hyde Park makes it a great pit-stop for a London walk, so ask the charismatic staff to box up what you can’t manage to finish and set off for a stroll to admire the canopy of lights that currently decorate Park Lane.
To book a festive afternoon tea at The Dorchester, visit: dorchestercollection.com
All imagery courtesy of The Dorchester
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