I’m a bit worried people – Gentleman loves Cake is getting rather comfortable on my blog. But how could you not like him when he writes fabulous posts like the one you’re about to read? As a thank you for covering my “maternity leave” from this blog back in April/May I asked him to be my guest while I reviewed Dukes Hotel for the High Tea Society. He puts my own review to shame. Enjoy his turn to write it up below.
So it finally happened. After months spent patiently twiddling my thumbs, and only the very occasional nudge in the right direction, I was handed a Lady loves Cake golden ticket – an invitation to afternoon tea.
And I have to say, I think I got particularly lucky.
I was given instruction to meet Lady at Dukes, a small boutique hotel on a back street at the westernmost edge of St James’s, just a stroll from Green Park and London’s most famous purveyor of afternoon tea, The Ritz.
First to arrive, I was shown to the demurely decorated lounge, a veritable rainbow of pastel, where tea was being served. Our table, a low-set affair accompanied by a two-seat sofa and wingback chair, was set in a small alcove. This felt like the best seat in the house.
Taking my place on the sofa, I was unsure whether to sit back and make myself comfortable or to lean forwards, just perched on the edge of the seat. I opted for the latter, yet in doing so made myself feel slightly edgy, as if I was waiting in the slightly formal drawing room of a large country manor house, waiting to be entertained by a mad, rich great aunt who is holding auditions to see which family members she should pass her estate to.
But then Lady arrived and all thoughts of being written into old ladies’ wills soon disappeared.
Put simply, Dukes is wonderfully good. The surroundings are formal yet relaxed and the service just the same.
The sandwiches ticked all the right boxes – salmon, ham and cucumber all obediently present – yet with a Coronation chicken wildcard; a fitting nod to the fact it is 60 years since Her Majesty donned the Coronation crown.
Where the sandwiches got things off to a solid start, the cake stand really upped the game. Scones were simple yet so good that I wouldn’t be surprised if they had kidnapped Delia and chained her up in the kitchen. Mini doughnuts oozed sticky jam and the small tower of chocolate mousse was softer than a pillow full of kitten dreams. But the star of the show was the rich, teeth-coatingly sticky carrot cake, which had both Lady and I channelling our inner Oliver Twist and pleading for more.
The tea itself was particularly tasty, with us both choosing Dukes’ own blends – ‘Rose’ and ‘1908’. I’m no expert in these matters, but it was hot, brown and we both seemed to drink gallons of the stuff.
At £29.50, afternoon tea at Dukes is a full £15.50 less dear than at The Ritz. This, combined with the really quite fabulous food, means I would thoroughly recommend eschewing the more famous option.
Also, unlike its shouty neighbour, Dukes Hotel (yes, there really is no apostrophe) exudes an air of nonchalant calm. If this hotel were a character from fiction it would be James Bond, which is fitting as Ian Fleming used to drink Martinis in the bar here.
But contrary to Commander Bond, this tucked-away little slice of London’s high life left my taste buds more stirred than shaken.
Dukes Hotel can be found at St James’s Place, London SW1A 1NY, United Kingdom. Nearest tube is Green Park.