Never in my days as a girl growing up among cows and pigs and corn did I think that one day I would take afternoon tea at The Ritz London. 1) I didn’t know that afternoon tea was a thing. 2) I couldn’t imagine being in London. (Well, not without Mary Poppins.) and 3) Being served finger sandwiches by a man dressed in tails was something princesses did.
Well. Thank goodness for friends who know better than I do about the finer things in life (and have those things on their England bucket list)!
While we don’t celebrate Easter, we’re not going to turn down an extra day off because of it. As such, my husband was home to enjoy Friday with the kiddo while I ran off to London for a Very Fancy Mom’s Day Out.
My friends and I dressed up, drove to Epping and hopped the tube to Green Park. And there it was! The Ritz London.
Reservations are a must, and afternoon tea is served only at set times (beginning at 11:30). We were 30 minutes early; being mothers of young children, we all were very used to requiring extra time to get ANYwhere. This ultimately worked well, as this extra time allowed us to gawk (at, say the hand-painted murals in the powder room and the fine jewelry displayed here and there) and check our coats.
We were seated beneath the gold fountain behind the massive planter in the middle of the room in the admittedly lousy picture above. The light wells built into the vastly high ceilings provided such lovely light, which glinted off the gold paint trim and silver tea service to give the court a bright, airy feel.
We each received tea in a silver pot, and our server (no kidding, a man in tails [who looked eerily like the older brother of a dear Sicilian friend from high school]) brought us a three-tier stand: one plate of tea cakes, one empty plate for the scones and one plate with three servings each of six kinds of finger sandwiches. (I was too busy trying not to drool to get a good photo! See what I’m talking about here.)
Then our sandwiches were refilled. Then the scones came (good heavens, the jam was delicious!). Then the creme caramel came. Then the fresh teapot came. Then the cake cart came. Then the tea cakes were left. (Well, if you don’t count the sandwiches and scones that we just…couldn’t… ugh.)
There was SO much food! The carrot cake from the cake cart was my favorite, though I was too stuffed to give the variety of tea cakes a fair shot. Needless to say, we were sufficiently fueled with caffeine and sugar to walk the mile to Harrod’s. (If it were cold and raining, we would have taken the tube, westbound on the Piccadilly Line from Green Park to Knightsbridge.)
I avoided looking up anything about Harrod’s before our visit. Which is probably good, because I would have seen no point in visiting a giant department store filled with high-end designer goods and a gazillion tourists. That said, I’m very glad we did make the visit.
Y’all, back on that farm I couldn’t comprehend the idea of clothing or shoes or handbags that cost more than a mortgage payment. And when I’ve been in the vicinity of stores that sell them, I keep walking as I imagine myself knocking over a rack of Very Expensive Things in a way that would cause Very Expensive Damage and Huge Embarrassment.
Now I know I must avoid Those Stores to avoid The Ache that comes from seeing something beautiful and impractical but did I say beautiful? and sometimes INSANELY expensive. And did I say impractical for someone who wears either peanut butter or a baby booger on at least one item of clothing at all times? But… wow. So many luxurious, beautiful things!
Harrod’s is just huge. It’s a maze of pretty, expensive things over many floors, which can be accessed via the Vegas-style Egyptian escalators (that lead to a memorial for Diana and Dodi). And it’s one of London’s top tourist attractions, so you can expect it to be crowded. Then again, it’s London, and everywhere is crowded.
My only regret is that we didn’t have the time or patience to explore the food court more. I’m sure there may have been something decadent and delicious that I could have justified treating myself to. At least the chicken mango wrap I picked up on the way out was tasty. (What?! We had the 11:30 tea slot.)
The day was exhausting and filled with glitzy, unattainable things, and it was a lot of fun to take an afternoon to act like a princess who had been locked in a tower for 30 years. If that sounds like it might be a good time to you, and you don’t mind dropping some coin on a not-exactly-a meal/novelty experience, and you have some friends who think it would be a ball, and you have a babysitter, and want an excuse to wear/buy a dress… you just might have a lovely time, too!