Rupert Parker steps into the footsteps of the Royals when he visits the InterContinental’s Wellington Lounge for Afternoon Tea
Standing outside the InterContinental Park Lane, you’d be hard pressed to find a royal connection. After all, this is a modern building with no hint of a glorious history you might think. However you’d be completely wrong as this is the location where Queen Elizabeth spent her early years. During WW2, German bombs knocked it clean out of existence, but fortunately she’d already moved to Buckingham Palace by then.
Like many hotels, the InterContinental has had reduced occupancy because of Covid travel restrictions but that hasn’t stopped it restarting their Royal Afternoon Tea. The menu reflects British classics but also takes inspiration from the countries of the commonwealth, visited by the Queen over the last 70 years.
We arrive early and there’s just one other family taking tea but, over the course of the afternoon, the place fills up. The Wellington Lounge’s luxury is pleasantly understated, the brown and beige tones complementing the comfortable leather armchairs. The walls have a tree trunk design, inspired by those outside in the park, and the plates stylishly reflect this motif.
We start with a glass of champagne whilst we negotiate the mammoth tea menu, which includes green, black, and white versions and various infusions. Of course the choice is obvious – it has to be their bespoke No. 1 Park Black tea from Sri Lanka, flavoured with vanilla. Our waiter tells us that it’s designed to complement the sweetness of the cakes. A tall plate stand is positioned by our table and the sandwiches start to arrive.
First up is an open granary roll topped with Scottish lobster, radish and mustard cress in a saffron aioli. It’s like an up-market prawn cocktail and very good it is too. Next come the finger sandwiches, all on different breads. There’s ham with salted truffle butter on simple white, butter-poached chicken supreme with coronation dressing on tomato bread. Then classic cucumber, mascarpone cream and mint on granary
bread and finally smoked salmon, citrus and dill cream cheese, with wild watercress on Champagne bread.
They go down easily and so tasty that we ask to try the vegetarian option. The breads remain basically the same but the fillings are different: egg with coronation dressing, avocado with hummus topped with pumpkin seeds and an exotic Middle Eastern Mutabal. Simply roasted aubergine, tahini, garlic and lemon seasoned with salt and olive oil with sun dried tomato and it wins our top vote.
Next come the buttermilk scones, plain and raisin, light as a feather, just asking to be coated with clotted cream and homemade raspberry and strawberry jams. We pause for a moment and order more tea before plunging into the cakes created by newly appointed Head Pastry Chef Radoslav Georgiev.
These are delicate sculptures on the plate: passion fruit and wild raspberry cake, Malibu coconut delice, organic cherry and Tonka bean slice and pistachio and seasonal strawberry opera. This last is a beautifully layered creation, the nuts complementing the sweetness of the strawberry and a great hit.
Throughout service has been attentive and explanations copious and the Queen would be proud. But it’s not ove
r yet – as we get up to make our way home, we’re presented with a large bag containing a delightful chocolate creation. On the menu it lists it as the Queen’s favourite chocolate biscuit cake but there’s no sign of a crunch anywhere. It’s delightfully light and airy and, obviously, someone’s taken the biscuit.
The InterContinental London Park Lane Royal Afternoon Tea is served Thursday to Sunday in the Wellington Lounge between 12.00pm and 5.00pm. £48.00 per person or £65.00 with R de Ruinart Champagne. A vegetarian version is also available.