Monday, 11 March 2013

Rubens at the Palace

Q and I stumbled upon afternoontea.co.uk, and found an offer for Champagne tea for two at the Rubens at the Palace in Victoria, for less than £40. Given that the last time I'd gone for tea it was a £35 disappointment, we figured that this was a pretty decent bet. 

Braving the rain, we made it there about fifteen minutes early, and after being relieved of our coats by the doorman, we were shown to the Cavalry Bar to wait as they readied the Palace Lounge. We ended up being seated by the window, directly facing the Royal Mews, which was apparently the best table in the lounge.


We shared a nice, squashy sofa that was very conducive for sinking straight into, and it set the stage for a lovely, relaxing afternoon as we caught up with each other. Right next to our sofa was this little fellow, standing by the door leading to the Leopard Champagne and Cocktail Bar. It was strangely hypnotic staring at his grinning face, so after a while we forced ourselves to stop. 


Our tea experience was started off with a refreshing lemon sorbet, served on top of a mini waffle cone. Since the Rubens is part of the Red Carnation group, all our crockery was decorated accordingly. It was a nice touch.


With the drizzle continuing throughout most of the afternoon there wasn't much by way of pomp and pageantry. This lone, empty horse drawn carriage was the highlight of our afternoon view. 


The voucher was for the Queen's Afternoon Tea (Usually £39.50 per person), and came with a glass of Guy Cadel Rose each. It took quite a long time before our tea arrived, but since we were in no rush to get anywhere, we didn't mind. I was quite surprised we even managed to make the reservation last night, because the lounge filled up fairly quickly and and was packed the whole afternoon. 


We were rather excited when our three-tiered tea tray was brought out. We hadn't had lunch so the both of us were starving. I'd been for and loved the Berkeley's Pret-a-Portea where you're given free-flow food, but the Rubens only provided an endless supply of tea so I was worried there wouldn't be enough to fill us both up. Happily, my worries were for naught.


There was a small selection of sandwiches. From left: Chicken and almond bridge roll, egg & cress, smoked salmon, cucumber and cream cheese, and ham and mustard. Beyond the roll, it was a very standard selection of sandwiches. Since Q wanted to come for tea because it seemed a 'very English thing to do', it seemed very representative and therefore appropriate. Everything tasted fresh and the bread managed to retain a soft fluffiness even though we scarfed the scones first, so we were fairly pleased with them. 


There was also the requisite selection of plain and fruit scones, with wee dollops of jam and clotted cream. 


The cakes on top very optimistically reflected spring, which doesn't seem to have arrived yet. In the end I was too stuffed to even think about eating my next cake, but Q ate hers and thought it was quite good. 


The tray consisted of a chocolate mousse swan (Duck? Goose) cake, the nest cake, lemon meringue tarts, chocolate egg pieces, a lime ganache chocolate cup and a mango marshmallow cone.

The lovely cake tray
The chocolate mousse and pieces were lovely but unfortunately the biscuit cake base of the swan was rather bland and dry. The mango marshmallow cone was amazing though, but it disappeared all too quickly. 


Obviously, we asked for more cream. Although it was nearly impossible to get anyone's attention since we were in a corner and effectively blocked by a tall potted plant, we got a nice, generous helping in the end. 


The scones were lovely, warm, soft things that still managed to be quite substantial. With two apiece sitting in our bellies there ended up being very little space for anything else. 


I ended up taking some of the cakes home for later, so they boxed our leftovers up nicely for us. 


Just when I thought I could eat no more, they brought out little plates of 'fried eggs', basically an orange marshmallow piece on whipped cream. It was dainty enough, but still we sat there and rested for a bit before picking our spoons up. 


Around this time, our second pots of tea arrived, so we washed all the excess sweetness down. It was a very pleasant way to spend the afternoon.


39 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 0PS http://www.rubenshotel.com/bar-and-dining/afternoon-tea

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