GLC thoroughly enjoys the Conrad St James’ Christmas afternoon tea

The Conrad does CUTE.

The Conrad makes Christmas rather cute without being twee…

I’ve always had a problem with ‘all-you-can-eat’. While for many it would represent a good-value option, my innate greediness means I’ve always seen it as a challenge, and a chance to get as much as I possibly can, like a squirrel storing his nuts ahead of winter.

So, when I discovered the Christmas afternoon tea at the London Conrad St James has bottomless Laurent Perrier Champagne as part of its offer, I pretty much ripped the invitation straight from Lady’s grasp.

This afternoon tea really is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it affair – on offer for just one month from 24 November – 24 December. So I advise you read this in haste and get booking.

A short stroll from Parliament Square, in that corner of St James’s which remains wonderfully untrodden by tourist feet, the London Conrad St James (formerly the Intercontinental Westminster) is a small, luxury-leaning hotel in a superbly smart but unremarkable 1930s brick building.

Lobby view to lounge

Elegantly decked-out throughout the various ground-floor reception areas, myself and my friend Claire were led to the comfortable lounge, and towards a low-set table – cake stand and Champagne glasses ready for action – and its two accompanying wingback chairs.

Over the next two hours we were given quite a treat, as the hotel’s Christmas afternoon tea was presented to us.

Festive setting

Festive setting

A wide selection of teas were made available – we ordered the 2nd filter Darjeeling and vanilla black – both served in tall, elegant pots. Owing to a mix-up we also received an Earl Gray and, as is always the case, the tea we hadn’t intended to order was the standout.

The error with tea was handled with good humour and grace by the waiter.

To begin, the small-bite savouries. A shot of Brussel sprout mousse, turkey ballotine and venison bites. All were well-prepared and presented.

Savouries

Savouries

Sandwiches were traditional in their form – thin fingers without crust with a selection of salmon, gammon and beetroot fillings. Whilst not pushing the boat out in terms of creativity, they could not be faulted in their quality and they certainly delivered on taste.

Orange, cranberry and spiced scones were delivered and dispatched in no time – the lightness of the bake matched and even exceeded by the thick, artery-clogging clotted cream and the interesting and particularly successful blackberry curd.

Perhaps I skip over all these elements quite quickly, but our attentions should be focused on what makes this afternoon tea really shine – the ‘bottomless’ Laurent Perrier and rather sweet (literally and figuratively) Christmas slate of cake and other treats.

Throughout the afternoon our glasses were never empty, the Champagne being brought around regularly and offered with no hesitation. This really did feel like a marked step-up from the standard single-glass of fizz, offered by many afternoon teas.

Snowman & popping snow

Snowman & popping snow

And then the sweets – they looked too good to eat…but that didn’t stop us. A chocolate orange Battenburg, boozy Yule log and meringue snowman set the scene but the real star was the winter berry Christmas tree, with a mousse perfectly sweet and yet still tart enough to make your face screw up ever so slightly on the first bite. Sweet/tart is a difficult feat to achieve – this took on that challenge and triumphed.

I must put in a special, final word for the popping candy in the edible snow. What 30-something doesn’t like popping candy, eh?

And at £45 for the bottomless Champagne option, it represents remarkably good value. And on weekends there’s even the promise of a carol-singing choir. This is a special someone’s Christmas treat, waiting for you to book.

The Conrad London St James can be found at 22-28 Broadway, London SW1H 0BH. Nearest Tube is St James which is just across the road. Ed was a guest of Conrad Hotels.

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Filed under Afternoon tea, Afternoon tea London, Eating, Experiences, Food, Gentleman loves cake, London, The West End

Zomato takes GLC West to experience Hotel Xenia’s Evoluzione

I couldn't find a picture of West London so I've put one of Italy here, hope that's ok!

I couldn’t find a picture of West London so I’ve put one of Italy here, hope that’s ok!

The first thing I have to say about Hotel Xenia is that it’s all a bit random. Mismatching wallpapers, tables, chairs, lighting, a massive wall clock and even the gaudy transparent piano, just don’t really hit my spot.

This hotel, coupled with the fact it was deep into Made in Chelsea territory right on the A4 Cromwell Road, is somewhere that I wouldn’t normally entertain.

But by the end of my first Zomato meetup my gloom had lifted significantly, as stuck to the side of the hotel, inside a rather elegant conservatory, is quite a fine restaurant indeed.

With just a few tables and a dining bar hugging a small serving area (which as we discovered worked well as a  demonstration kitchen), Evoluzione is a really rather pleasant place to spend an evening.

Run by Italian chef Andrea Angeletti, a man well-known to the Michelin guide, Evoluzione is a new endeavour which you get the feeling that with a little time and some fine tuning, has the potential to be a real London fixture.

The first thing to say about the menu we were offered is ‘cheese’ – or more accurately, ‘CHEESE!’

In a six-course tasting offering, half were packed full of the stuff – and what a joy! Ricotta, Parmesan, Pecorino were all there – as stuffing, sauce and even fondue! Angeletti comes from the Marche region of central Italy, which I now dearly want to visit as I imagine it would be endless cow-full-fields and artisan cheese houses.

Chiboust

Chiboust

But I feel the true star of our menu was one with no cheese at all, and right up front as the first thing brought to us – the Ying Yang salmon with ginger and a sphere-enclosed sauce you mixed yourself. Half-cooked, half-cured, it was something I’d not experienced before and really quite joyous.

Ying Yang Salmon with marinated ginger and self shaken zest

Ying Yang Salmon with marinated ginger and self shaken zest

Simply because you’d get bored of me detailing every dish, here is a list:

  • Ying Yang Salmon with marinated ginger and self shaken zest
  • Cheese bread with King Prawn and Pecorino sauce
  • Dry cannelloni stuffed with ricotta cheese, porcini mushroom, veal & truffle dipping sauce
  • Passatelli with parmesan fondue
  • Sea bass cooked in olive oil with cream of potato and taggiasca olives
  • Chiboust

Very good (and seemingly bottomless) wine matching throughout was a bonus!

Passatelli with parmesan fondue

Passatelli with parmesan fondue

Sea bass cooked in olive oil with cream of potato and taggiasca olives

Sea bass cooked in olive oil with cream of potato and taggiasca olives

What I liked most about this evening, which I can’t deny is a perk of being (pretending to be) a food blogger, is that the chef himself was on hand to demonstrate the techniques behind some of the dishes. In his quite charming broken English, this was a definite highlight.

Ok, so here’s what you need to know from this evening:

  • This is a very good restaurant – the food is matched by attentive and well-trained waiters
  • It’s probably even worth going to west London for (and believe me, something has to be really good to get me to go to west London)
  • The people at Zomato are extremely lovely – I urge you to get to know them
  • Meetups like this are a chance to meet fun people who make you feel less guilty about being a greedy foodie – especially on this occasion Olivia, Rajani, Susan, Zori and Alessandra. (Everyone else seemed very lovely, but I didn’t get the chance to speak with them all).
  • Finally…please don’t take my word for the look and feel of the hotel – it does seem very nice; it’s just not for me.

GLC was a guest of Zomato and Hotel Xenia

Some useful links:

Hotel Xenia

Evoluzione

Zomato

TheJoyousLiving review of the evening

LuxuryColumnist review of the evening

Hotel Xenia can be found at 160 Cromwell Road, London SW5 0TL. Nearest tubes are Gloucester Road and Earl’s Court. 

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Filed under Experiences, Food, Gentleman loves cake, London, Restaurants, The West End

GLC’s Indian afternoon tea at the Strand Palace Hotel

Daawat's Indian afternoon tea

Daawat’s Indian afternoon tea

“I’m having tea at the Strand Palace Hotel”, I declared in a faux-grandiose manner to my landlord.

As a gentleman who has known the London arts scene for many a year, he then recounted tales of pre-Perestroika Soviet orchestras staying at the very same hotel during UK tours – making the very most of the buffet breakfast by eating and stashing as much as they possibly could in the hope of saving-up their Pound Sterling per diems as cold hard cash.

A check on the ever-trusty Wiki reveals that it was also popular amongst US troops in the Second World War as a ‘rest and recuperation residence’. With the legends that were created around American troops stationed in Britain at that time, I’m sure the ‘recuperation’ often went long into the night.

I’d say two thirds of the Strand Palace Hotel’s name is correct – it’s on the Strand and it’s definitely a hotel, but gone are the days where it could be considered grand. There’s a good chance that many of the current fixtures and fittings would have been brand new to those Russian musicians.

But though many of the original features and later deco additions are long gone, it is still there, thriving as a hotel in the heart of London and now with a different international feature – the Indian cuisine of Daawat.

I have to admit, I was quite excited at the prospect of an Indian afternoon tea – I fancied I would travel back to the time of the British Raj, fanned by palm leaves and watching exotic wildlife trot past the window.

But as this is a modern hotel restaurant in the heart of London, I had to make do with air con and a couple of pigeons pottering around on the pavement outside.

My friend Claire (with whom I share a wonderfully standoffish relationship) and I took our seats in the initially empty dining room and were soon brought our teas (the fancy Assam / Darjeeling / Chai types) and our stand of savouries and sweets.

Savouries

Savouries

Chicken tikka mini burger and Achari prawn open sandwich stood out, and the Bombay Mix quickly disappeared, before the sultana scones Victoria sponge cake Macaroon and mini fruit tarts were seen to.

Close-up of the savouries

Close-up of the savouries

Nothing brought to us was exceptional, but it was decent, tasty stuff on the whole.

So the food was all perfectly fine, but I couldn’t help feel it could all have been ‘more’ Indian – a braver attempt at doing a themed afternoon tea from a restaurant which, according to Trip Advisor, does seem to do its á la carte offerings pretty well.

It felt a little a little too Anglicised: more Banbury than Bangalore; Chichester than Chennai; Colchester than Kolkata…you get the idea.

Sweets

Sweets

The people at Daawat have definitely got the right idea – afternoon tea is big business and a no-brainer for restaurants hoping to fill that ‘twixt-theatre gap between lunch and dinner. Plus they have a decent shtick.

But instead of offering their current menu at £16.95, they should go the whole hog, or even the whole elephant, ramp up the price to £30 and give their diners a real treat.

I’ll definitely keep this place on my radar but right now it’s not troubling the standout afternoon tea offerings in the capital.

Thank you to Strand Palace Hotel for hosting us.

The Strand Palace Hotel can be found at 372 Strand, London WC2R 0JJ. Nearest tubes are Covent Garden and Embankment.

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Filed under Afternoon tea, Afternoon tea London, Cake, Experiences, Food, Gentleman loves cake, London, Restaurants, Tea, The West End

Falling in love on the road: a tale of very long distance

Have you fallen in love on the road?

Have you ever fallen in love on the road?

I am so excited. Kelly, Rebecca and Emma invited ME to co-host this month’s travel link-up. Yes, ME! LLC does a little happy dance.

November’s post is all about falling in love on the road. It could be with that delightfully warm and gooey piece of baklava in Istanbul (guilty, several times over), an American maths student with crazy hair called John from Berkeley that you met in a hostel then strolled the cobble stones of Paris with for one freezing February evening aged 21 (ok, that was me, we shared some chicken McNuggets in McDonalds as it was the only place open at 1am and I never saw him again~ who and where are you John??),  or a pair of boots that have lasted a gazillion years and never fail to see you through thick and thin (I am still searching for that one of a kind love). Anything goes.

So here I am to tell you all about the one love I still can’t get out of my head and don’t hesitate to drunkenly tell people our story when I can corner them and pretend they’re listening after a few G&Ts. I am now going to corner you.

It sounds obvious but this is about my Mister Man. We met in China 11 years ago. It wasn’t love at first sight; it certainly wasn’t love at first interruptions of me watching box-sets of 24 when he was visiting my flatmate (I hate it when people talk over the tv, drives me insane~). But somehow, after a year in China and two years of him crashing on my couch in London whenever mutual friends were in town, he became the absolute love of my life, someone I hesitate to travel without and someone who was prepared to wait for me while I spent almost two years desperately trying to claw my way back to London from the other side of the world.

Freezing our cheeks off in the Bolivian desert

Freezing our cheeks off in the Bolivian desert

Mr Man stormed into my life one fine March day in a little industrial town called Changzhou. We both attended my neighbour’s birthday party at Changzhou’s infamous Dinosaur Park and that night at dinner he started talking about his trip to Washington DC. Having spent a large chunk of my life there I immediately jumped in and tried to start up a conversation about the city, but got very much dismissed by this charming Brit and vowed never to bother talking to him again (he lived five hours away, I genuinely thought this would be an option).

After a summer where he appeared to always be one step ahead of me on the road and I was constantly hearing tales about his crazy adventures from other expats I’d bump into, he happened to move to Changzhou and was a frequent visitor at my house and the parties we used to throw. He thought of me as annoying (I prefer to think of it as organised and alert~); I just thought he was a 20 something Englishman having the time of his life in a world where the beer was cheap and the girls worshipped him.

Fast-forward two years and we had both been seeing a lot more of eachother on his regular visits to London. We’d both calmed down somewhat and I began to look forward to his visits. About a month before my visa was due to expire and I was due to head to India for several months before settling back in Wellington, I got an invitation to attend a football match in Liverpool with him.

Details can be spared here. But that Everton vs Wigan match sparked something and we had an amazing weekend. The next weekend I found myself back in the North West wondering what on earth was wrong with me. I was LEAVING THE COUNTRY, FOREVER. One week later he was in London for my leaving party.

LOVE

LOVE

I have never cried such ugly tears as when I had to say goodbye to him. We agreed to just see what happens. Six months later, having written to or skyped eachother almost every single day despite being in some random locations during my couch-surfing phase he found himself in New Zealand for a month. As far as I was concerned at that point there was no one else. Despite everyone around us saying there is no way it could work, we kind of knew it would all work out fine in the end.

Six months after that, after an amazing two weeks in Turkey, I discovered that I finally qualified for a Highly Skilled Migrant Visa to allow me to return to the UK (thank goodness all of this happened back in 2007/08 as there’s no way they’d let me in now!). So I applied and got that, resigned from what was my dream job (sometimes these decisions need to be made but I did wonder if it was the right decision for many years), and decided to take the gamble on moving back to London.

Turkey - moments before we crashed the scooter...

Turkey – moments before we crashed the scooter…

We did a 10 week road trip from San Francisco to Buenos Aires. If there’s one way to test a relationship, try not seeing eachother for more than 6 weeks over 20 months then being in eachother’s pockets 24/7.

We didn’t kill eachother, though we may have come close a few times when it involved my map reading or his continued insistence on sharing dinners that were clearly meant for one (he had a point, I ran out of cash three weeks before the end of that trip), and at the end of that moved in together in London.

San Diego

San Diego

London

London

Move along to now, November 2014, eight years after that fateful weekend in Liverpool and here we are. Happy as can be, with a cute little munchkin, another one on the way, and about to pack up everything again to start a new adventure.

Don’t get me wrong, long distance wasn’t without its doubts and heartaches, but I truly believe that if you both really want it to work and believe in it, even if no one else does, then it can work out for the best.

At the end of the aisle on our wedding day in Sri Lanka~

At the end of the aisle on our wedding day in Sri Lanka~

And that was how I fell in love on the road. I can’t wait to read everyone else’s stories! See the widget below to join this month’s travel link-up and don’t forget to add in your own post before the end of this week too!

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Filed under Life in general, Marriage, Mr Man, Travel, Words of wisdom

GLC enjoys a meal of two halves at Archipelago

Archipelago

Archipelago

What’s a suitable word count for a food blog?

I always take a little pride in delivering what I want to say in as few words as possible, but feel with Archipelago I may face my greatest LadyLovesCake brevity challenge to date.

In my short time moonlighting as a very amateur pseudo food writer, I’ve taken a ride on the Orient Express and sat in a brand new Rolls Royce - all without leaving Zone 1 – and for this assignment I donned my beige flannels to head out on safari, in the wild savannahs of Fitzrovia.

I was set to go the whole hog. And by hog I mean…zebra.

Yes, Archipelago throws the beef/pork/lamb/chicken/fish formula out of the window. It serves zebra. And crocodile. And python. And kangaroo. (Although I realise Australasian marsupials scupper my safari analogy). And ok, yes, it does serve chicken and pork, although I imagine they source only the most dandy of hens and pigs for the job.

The Archipelago experience can easily be split into two distinct areas – the theatre and the food. One is distinctly more successful than the other. Mercifully, the winner is the cuisine.

Let’s get the former out of the way nice and quickly.

For as long as I can remember I’ve had a low tolerance to gimmickry with food. Even as a child I couldn’t be won over with a McDonald’s Happy Meal or a Kinder Egg – I’d have happily traded in the choke-hazard toys for more chips or chocolate.

Starter

Starter

Archipelago goes in for this ‘theatre’ in a big way. From pointlessly being given a password to enter the restaurant (eurgh!), to having menus so tightly rolled you need a weight at either end in order to keep it open long enough to read (euurrggh!), to being given a tiny white pellet on arrival, which with the addition of water bursts open to become a hand towel (euuurrrgggh!), to a dining room so cluttered with a hotchpotch of chintz and lit so dimly it’s as if they don’t want you to see what’s going on (euuuurrrrggggh!) – the initial experience is somewhat over-the-top and bizarre.

I can’t deny it – for the first ten minutes of my time at Archipelago I totally had my frown on (much to the annoyance of The American, with whom I was dining).

But over the next couple of hours it got better. Much better. Because once I’d mentally compartmentalised these annoyances, one thing can be said for certain – the food is really something.

As is usual, I had fully scoured the menus online before arriving and had my heart set on the python Carpaccio to start, so was disappointed to learn the snake man had not delivered (apparently it’s not easy to source – although I’m sure they could have found grass snake in the Waitrose Essential range).

Instead I plumped for the ‘Serengeti Strut’ – described on the menu as ‘crispy zebra jerky, boerewors, carrot and ginger fluid gel and biltong soil’. A large pile of lean meat was delivered, both crispy and chewy – delicious when dipped in the tangy carrot and ginger sauces with a dusting of the finely-blitzed biltong. All the flavours put together went to create a perfectly delicious and well thought out dish.

However, it was The American’s vine leaf-wrapped crocodile, with plums poached in honey and tangy picked samphire which really stood out. Deep layers of flavour burst out one-by-one – the acidity of the samphire cutting through the warmth of the honey – both happily accompanying the light and tender reptile.

Duck

Duck

Bison

Bison

Spiced confit duck leg followed for The American whilst my stomach ordered the most expensive item on the menu, a rump steak of bison, delivered wonderfully pink and served with baked potatoes pumped full of blue cheese and a small Caesar salad.

It’s worth noting at this point that ‘traditional’ meats are peppered throughout the menu, as are vegetarian dishes. Oh and bugs. They also serve bugs!

Owing to the size of the savoury dishes, dessert was a one-between-two affair – a chocolate soufflé spiked with cardamom, alongside a scoop of curry ice cream.

Dessert

Dessert

I had a full stomach and a smile on my face – pretty much the two things I hope for from any meal.

The damage was quite damaging – £160 all told (although two glasses of Champagne and a double shot of hard liquor from the slightly odd and pointless ‘what the doctor ordered’ cabinet went some way to adding to that total).

I can’t help but feel Archipelago will be a one-time experience for me. While the food felt like experiencing a wonderful Royal Shakespeare Company production, everything going on around it felt more like Chipping Sodbury Amateur Dramatics Society.

The paraphernalia is distracting and unnecessary, especially when there is someone in the kitchen who clearly knows what they’re doing.

A rapturous curtain call was due, but no standing ovation and no encore.

Many thanks to Zomato, for making this meal happen and generously subsidising part of the meal. 

Archipelago can be found at 53 Cleveland Street, London W1T 4JJ. Nearest tube is Goodge Street. 

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Filed under Eating, Experiences, Food, Gentleman loves cake, London, Restaurants, The West End

Some new London finds through Farfetch’s Discover App

Shoreditch - a part of London covered rather well by Farfetch

Shoreditch – a part of London covered rather well by Farfetch

My friends and I are at an age now where fast fashion doesn’t quite cut it anymore. We’re all at a level in our careers where we’re able to be a bit more discerning about what we buy and where we get it from rather than desperately hoping that skirt has come down from £25 to £10 in the sales. As someone who now appreciates their hemlines staying firmly sewn on and no random threads showing, I consider this quite an adult point in life (among the obvious many other adult points).

This time last year a good friend of mine introduced me to Farfetch, a website that sources its products from boutiques around the world and gives them a portal to sell their wares online without having to compete with huge companies that have the budget to throw at building a great presence on the web. We were impressed mostly with their business model, but I also admired the range of places they were featuring, the simple layout of the site and the fact that there are things in there for a range of budgets (though I will admit, much of it still slightly out of my reach). I kept it on the backburner as a website to follow and come back to when I had a bit more available in my wallet but have enjoyed watching them expand.

The boutiques they source from are mostly in Europe and North America, but they have been expanding to Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Japan and India. I’m sure we’ll also eventually see them collaborating with boutiques in the rest of Asia and Australasia at some point too.

However, that is a bit of a ramble from me. I was recently invited to review their Farfetch Discover App which they launched earlier this month.

This isn’t your usual app created by a fashion company for you to buy clothes on your mobile; it has been designed as a travel app with input from the designers and boutiques they work with along with itineraries by fashion insiders such as New Yorker Leandra, the blogging goddess behind Man Repeller and London-based menswear designer Martine Rose. This isn’t just about finding the boutiques they source their goods from, but about cool little places the travel guides don’t always tell you about. I like that in London they’ve included places to suit a variety of tastes and budgets.

Dennis Servers House

Dennis Servers House

Somewhere I had no idea existed and now want to visit~

Somewhere I had no idea existed and now want to visit~

Featured in here are some great finds – like uber chic Ace Hotel which recently opened in Shoreditch (I had breakfast there recently but forgot any form of camera including my phone so didn’t blog about it, but their pancakes with honeycomb butter were sure-fire winners), The Counter Cafe in Hackney, Claridges, The Hunterian Museum, Serpentine Gallery, Sunday Up-Market, Columbia Flower Market, Dukes Bar, Drink, Shop & Do – all places that I am a huge fan of and adore. They’ve even included Denis Servers House which is still on my London list as it’s apparently amazing. Martine Rose’s itinerary pays special attention to Brixton and I now feel the need to get down there and discover it properly.

It uses Google Maps to navigate for you and though the app’s design is simple, attention to detail isn’t spared, hence why my paragraph above barely scratches the surface of the places they’ve featured.

Brixton

Brixton

I went to look at what's around me and came out very impressed with even more to discover in the East End.

I went to look at what’s around me and came out very impressed with even more to discover in the East End.

The app covers nine cities at the moment and from what I’ve seen so far I’m quite impressed. I’d love to see them do Singapore, Mumbai, Melbourne and Hong Kong as I think city guides made by local fashion and blogging insiders living there in the tone of Farfetch would be fascinating. It has got me intrigued to go back to Paris and New York to see these cities through their eyes and keen to discover Lisbon (home of Farfetch founder Jose Neves) too.

So far so good Farfetch. This is an app that I hope keeps getting updated by city insiders – one to recommend for an upcoming city break (to any of the cities below) or just to rediscover parts of your own city.

Some awesome guides to some awesome cities. Well done Farfetch.

Some awesome guides to some awesome cities. Well done Farfetch.

This post was brought to you by Farfetch – however, all opinions on this are my own and I only collaborate with brands I love and respect. The Farfetch Discover App is free to download on iTunes. 

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Filed under London, Secret London, Shopping, Travel

GLC takes afternoon tea and sinks a cocktail or two at the Strand Dining Rooms

Strand Dining Rooms

Strand Dining Rooms

So here it was – my first ‘solo’ excursion; let off the leash to review afternoon tea on behalf of LadyLovesCake.

The increasing popularity of this fine blog means that more and more invitations have been coming in of late, and Lady herself is a little tead-out. While she’s claiming to be several months pregnant, I actually think the bump may be purely sandwiches and scones.

My assignment, hastily accepted, was to try out one of the most recent additions to the London teatime scene – the Strand Dining Rooms.

Just yards from the Eleanor Cross in the forecourt of Charing Cross Station, commonly seen as the very centre of London, this place certainly has its location sorted.

Interior

Interior

And now open for a couple of months, the Strand Dining Rooms isn’t messing around. This deceptively large space, right in the heart of the capital has clearly had a whole load of work, imagination and cold hard cash thrown at it.

The result is very impressive.

Leather and wood are abound, making for a wonderfully ambient aroma of ‘new car smell’ – I’ve never been inside a Rolls Royce, but I’d imagine it would smell like this. And the fact that it is situated within the ‘Grand Buildings’ lends it an extra sense of pomp.

If you need proof that no corner has been cut, a neat little video on the restaurant website shows its evolution from empty shell to bustling eatery.

Arriving with Polly, my cousin, on an October Saturday afternoon, through the touristy chaos of Trafalgar Square, the Dining Rooms felt like a little oasis of calm - a surprisingly large, open and bright space set to the low hum of London buses regularly filing past.

Cake stand

Cake stand

Shown to a comfortable booth in the front window by the betweeded waiter, we were made to feel very at home.

And so to tea.

The Strand Dining Rooms finds itself in a difficult situation.

With the exponential rise of the London afternoon tea scene over the past handful of years, those looking to entice the limited pool of customers have been forced to up their games; offering extra finesse and interesting new takes on the sandwich/scone/cake formula.

Cakes

Cakes

And while it pains me to say it, (because I am generally adverse to gimmicks when it comes to my food), the Strand Dining Rooms’ afternoon tea is a bit, well, ‘normal’.

Classic finger sandwiches offered egg, ham and salmon; the scones, (though fabulously light), failed to get the heart racing; and the cake selection, though featuring lots of juicy fresh fruit, couldn’t add the figurative icing to the literal.

While not disappointing, it was slightly deflating.

But then, we discovered the cocktails, and everything changed.

The bar had been catching my eye throughout tea. A great hulk of a surface surrounded by grand leather stools, both Polly and I felt it would have been rude not to pull up a pew and get the barman to put his skills to the test.

An espresso martini and negroni were prepared and delivered in some style and these classic offerings were sunk in no time.

Espresso martini

Espresso martini

Negroni

Negroni

Finding a bar at which you can sit is no mean feat in a culture where ordering a drink can be an ‘elbows out’ kind of affair, so sitting here in the heart of London, Nelson’s ankles just visible atop his Trafalgar Square column, was quite the treat.

So, Strand Dining Rooms – yay or nay? Well, it depends entirely on what you hope to find.

If you’re a connoisseur of afternoon teas, this place is unlikely to set your pulse a-racing. But if you’re caught in the bustle of London and in need of respite, this is certainly a location to keep in mind. I would even head back to try their a la carte menu one evening – some of the other patrons’ dishes I gawped at with envy looked very hearty.

I certainly wish the Strand Dining Rooms all the best. Its heart is certainly in the right place and, with time to settle in, could well be a decent option for many years to come.

Strand Dining Rooms can be found at Grand Buildings, Trafalgar Square, 1-3 Strand, London WC2N 5EJ. Nearest tube stations are Charing Cross and Embankment. Afternoon tea starts at £21 per person. We were guests of Strand Dining Rooms. 

P.S. LLC here – this bump probably is just scones and sandwiches! Don’t tell anyone! 

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Filed under Afternoon tea, Afternoon tea London, Eating, Food, Gentleman loves cake, London, London cafes, The West End