Monday 24 October 2016

Charlotte in the City: Cantonese afternoon tea at Le Chinois, Millennium Hotel, Knightsbridge

It’s the unexpected that makes an afternoon tea memorable, and the doughy BBQ pork buns at Le Chinois, served in place of scones, are what did it for me. Stodgy, sweet and much bigger than bitesize they were the perfect half way point treat. 

The creation of 28-year-old head chef Anthony Kong, it's a fusion of classic cantonese dishes and english tradition. Of course, Chinese tea is recommended, but if that's not your thing, a pot of English breakfast can easily be brewed.

Savouries that graced the table included crispy battered chicken, shredded duck spring rolls, and sautéed prawns coated with wasabi - no finger sandwiches here - but if it’s cake that usually calls you to the tea stand, you’ll be left wanting. The freshly sliced mango and mochi cakes (a chewy rice cake with a glutinous filling) aren’t nearly as enticing as a slice of lovely lemon drizzle.

For those unfamiliar with cantonese cuisine, the waiting staff are well versed. They'll explain the best order to eat everything if you ask, which I recommend, as the ingredients and flavours will compliment each other nicely - and don't drown everything in chilli and plum sauce!

Although the environment is a little corporate, the Sloane Street restaurant has the kudos of a Knightsbridge postcode, but without the SW1X price tag – all of this, plus a glass of fizz, is £25.

For more information about Le Chinois and booking, please visit their website

Charlotte Vowden is a travel & lifestyle journalist who is as happy in the mountains as she is sipping champagne and eating cake. Writing for The Sunday Times keeps her busy but she’s always looking for her next adventure or afternoon tea destination.
Twitter: @charlottevowden

Charlotte was provided with a complementary meal for review purposes, however all opinions are her own!
Prices correct at time of review.

Thursday 6 October 2016

The Afternoon Tea Club Reviews: Tower Ballroom, Blackpool

Blackpool rock, The Illuminations, The Big One - there are many things that Blackpool is famous for but perhaps the biggest one, the one you spot first when driving up from the M55, is the iconic Blackpool Tower. Last month, we took a trip to the seaside to visit this historic landmark for a spot of Afternoon Tea. Cue ballroom dancers, finger sandwiches and something called a Wurlitzer.

Tea is taken in the Tower Ballroom where tables surround the dance floor which is in full swing with couples waltzing away to the Tower’s resident organist - a particularly exciting sight for these two Strictly Come Dancing fans! The decor here is spectacular, the details are so rich and ornate brushed with golds and deep reds, it really makes you feel as though you’ve been swept away to a completely different time. 

The tables are already set with blue traditional style wares and guests are allotted an hour and 30 minutes sitting and a choice of teas or coffee to start, we opted for pots of both. 

There’s something so northern about this experience, the finger sandwiches are simple, laid back, “everyone’s favourite” kind of flavours presented alongside a handful of salted crisps, they’re not super fancy deconstructed creations that you might find in a London hotel, but that’s perfect for this place and set amongst the backdrop of one of the most beautiful venues you could ever hope to visit, it’s already got the upper hand. Flavours include a range of ham, beef and cheese - caution, these sandwiches do go quite heavy on the cheese so if you’re not a fan, it’s probably worth mentioning so in your booking for an alternative. For us, we would have liked some salmon or chicken fillings but there was plenty to pick from regardless. 

Sandwiches are followed shortly by a large fruit scone each, accompanied by individual jams and huge dollop of clotted cream and finally a range of miniature sweets including; chocolate tiffin, strawberry and cream meringue, honeycomb and fudge bite, and a fruit tart. It’s a really pretty and balanced mix of cakes, none of which are too heavy, and our favourite had to be the sweet and light meringue.

We left feeling nicely full and ready to go score some tokens in the famous seafront arcades. Overall, this tea is pleasantly informal and there’s a unique atmosphere to be found here, something that remained throughout our visit with the hall steadily full of people. It’s quite magical to think that every weekend, there are hundreds of people spending their afternoons twirling around in a grand ballroom and stopping to partake in something as simple as finger sandwiches and tea. We’re so glad we got to experience it, and highly recommend that you do too. 

Tea for Two is priced at £50. For more information and to book visit:

Whilst we were provided with a complementary afternoon tea for review, all thoughts and opinions are our own!


Monday 3 October 2016

The Afternoon Tea Club Reviews: Claridges, London

Okay, so I'm a bit late with this one, but better late then never, eh?

If I'm honest I couldn't decide whether to post or not, as my photos were all a little dark. However, I've had a play in Photoshop and they're now at a *reasonable* enough standard to share.

So what did I think of Claridges? 

Cards on the table, I was a little underwhelmed. The room and ambiance were both incredible and exactly what I'd hoped for, with chandeliers, squishy armchairs and a grand piano to boot, but there was something a little disappointing about the food. Don't get me wrong, it was nice enough, but for the price I wanted better than 'nice enough' - I wanted the best afternoon tea I'd ever had!

Perhaps I was expecting too much, or perhaps I've been over-exposed to the many more 'experimental' teas out there, but it just didn't rock my world. I'm usually a bit of a stickler for tradition and love the simple classics, however I found Claridges to be almost traditional to a fault. It's hard to explain, but after sampling Cherish Finden's tea at the Langham a couple of weeks previously, I went to Claridges with similar expectations of delicate showcase sandwiches and cakes.

That said, I wouldn't want you to think that it's not worth a look because I actually had a lovely time. The service was prefect, the food limitless and the crockery, some of the prettiest you'll find in London.

I think if you're looking for absolute tradition or a taste of British quintessence at one of the UKs premier establishments, then you can't go far wrong with Claridges!

Have you ever been to Claridges? What did you think?

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