It's my personal belief that everyone should take tea at one of London's grand old hotels at least once in their lifetime. Afternoon tea is one of those quintessentially British cultural traditions that is very easy to overlook as just tea and cake.
But afternoon tea at the Savoy is something altogether more impressive. After our trip to the LV Series 3 exhibition just along the Strand, Antoine indulged me in this special ritual as a birthday treat, and what a treat it was.
I've been to the Savoy twice since it reopened almost five years ago, but I've never been into the Thames Foyer, the heart of the hotel where afternoon tea is served. It's a beautiful setting beneath a stained glass dome which floods the room with light, and dominated by an ornate pergola filled with fresh flowers. We were led to a plush sofa complete with comfy cushions – easily the best seat in the house, if you ask me.
As for tea? First things first: you need to know that afternoon tea at the Savoy is a marathon, not a sprint. It is a leisurely affair, and you should allow at least two hours. Go with someone who always makes good conversation, or it could be a long afternoon.
You should also arrive hungry – or perhaps ravenous – and thirsty. Once you choose your tea (the menu for which is longer than most restaurants' wine lists), it will be topped up continuously until you beg them to stop.
Then begins the first of your three courses. That's right, three. The first comprises delicate finger sandwiches with a selection of fillings, each made with a complementary bread, and both plain and fruit scones along with clotted cream, strawberry preserve and lemon curd. You can have as many as you like. Ask the delightfully accommodating staff (who all just happen to be rather tasty themselves) and they'll top you up with your favourite sandwiches and scones. But don't peak too soon - remember, you still have two more courses to go ...
... the second being pastries. And what pastries! Our waiter suggested I try one of each, and after all, how many times in one's life does one take tea at the Savoy? So I did.
These little delights are works of art, almost too beautiful to eat.
But wait! You have one final course. Because you can't have afternoon tea without cake. "But we just had cake!" said Antoine. "We can't eat any more!" Perhaps not, but I tucked into my Victoria sandwich anyway.
And after one last sip of tea, we reluctantly eased ourselves up from our sofa and headed back out onto the Strand, where it had finally stopped raining. Not a bad way to spend a rainy Monday afternoon ...
To find out more about Afternoon Tea in the Thames Foyer, visit the Savoy's website.