Before you get the wrong idea about me and think I’m a fancy lady, this was a gift from my mother for my 25th birthday, which is like, a pretty big deal because now I can rent a car in America at affordable prices, rather than the astronomical prices for under-25s. Anyway, mom was visiting for a week and because afternoon tea is truly one of my favourite quintessentially British activities, I gave her a list of options to choose from. I did note that Thomas’s Cafe at Burberry has been my favourite overall for atmosphere, service, price AND taste (seriously, the desserts are the best around), but I did also really want to try the Ritz and how could I resist mom’s offer to pay?? I wasn’t expecting to love the Ritz afternoon tea, especially because other options in the £50 range had left me tipping over with tea, but ultimately unimpressed (Sketch, Brown’s Hotel, the Savoy and Mad Hatter’s Tea at the Sanderson were great for the photos, and just okay on the food). As crazy as it sounds that I would ever utter this sentence, it is true: Burberry is my standard, so the Ritz had a lot to live up to.
A T M O S P H E R E
Okay, I suppose if you’re going to do one afternoon tea in your life, or if you really want to do it right, the Ritz is probably the best bet when it comes to ambiance. Everything is pink and gold and dainty and beautiful. Nothing is over the top or avantgarde, your grandma would love it as much as your best friend, and compared to the pink room at Sketch, the lighting here makes for some great photos (gotta get that Insta). There’s a mini orchestra playing lovely music in the background and if that doesn’t scream fancy, IDK what does? I will say there is a bit of an awkward layout for parties of two because they all have you facing one direction and they seat you next to each other instead of facing one another, which I suppose makes sense for the way you are served.
S E R V I C E
The staff dance around you, impeccably dressed and refilling your tea without your notice. They swap plates with three crumbs for new ones so that you aren’t mixing finger sandwich leftovers with Victoria sponge cakes. If you spill anything, 3000 servers come out of nowhere armed with napkins and towels to ensure that everything remains pristine (unless you stealthily knock over your glass of champagne and nobody notices). The servers come up to your table to take your tea order and explain the menu to you, and subsequently resume the same spot to bring in and take away all food and tea over the course of two magical hours. Smiles and curtesies glide by you every few seconds and if you ask nicely, you get some fab pics out of it (that Insta tho).
T E A
I am always overwhelmed by my options at afternoon tea because everyone (except Burberry) provides you with the world’s longest and most exotic tea menu and you’re supposed to be able to choose just one (I’ve ordered different flavours at the Sanderson and Sketch at no extra cost, but wow did that make me extra feel extra full). Seriously, these teas combine the strangest ingredients but all sound wonderful, so I really never know what I’m going to wind up choosing. Mom went for the Ritz Chai and I went for the Ritz Royal English, but had major chai fomo. I think I got about five or six cups out of my pot, and by the time the food was done, I didn’t have room for anything else (there’s a chocolate mint one I’m dying to try).
F O O D
I was fully ready to be a total brat here and told my mom not to expect much out of the food because I have been burned many a time in this area and then grumbled as I had to fork over £50 for mediocre desserts or weird finger sandwiches. The Ritz did it right though and everything was perfect. Nothing was too sweet or too savoury, so we were able to really enjoy it all without ever feeling overwhelmed. The sandwiches were definitely my faves and most notable were the egg mayonnaise and salmon with lemon butter (my fave everywhere). We got a sandwich refill without the opportunity to reject it and tbh, I wasn’t mad at it. The scones were light and fluffy and while a bit dry, they were actually perfect for what we needed between the sandwiches and cakes. The desserts were all super delicious and again, nothing here was too sweet to handle. The Ritz only gave us two of the Victoria sponge cakes and by the time the desserts were over, splitting the other three pastries was actually a good idea. Oh yeah, we also got a slice of two different cakes halfway through the tea and IDK why, but they came up to us, asked if we wanted to try these two random cakes, we said yes and that was it. Again, I think Burberry still beats everyone with their pastries, but the Ritz was definitely good.
V A L U E
Truly, I think the Ritz in London is the fanciest of afternoon teas, both in reputation and through personal experience. I haven’t done the Dorchester or Harrods yet, but come on, what could be more ritzy than the actual Ritz? So while it’s £54/person, I don’t think that’s completely ridiculous for what you get. This is a lot coming from the girl who freaked out when my friend’s parents bought us afternoon tea at the Savoy to comfort us after the worst day at the worst internship (we were in leggings and ordered fries because we wanted “real” food that was “hot”) and I offered to pay (LOL) and then later was like, hmmm wonder how much that fancy hotel tea was and COULD NOT BELIEVE a person would pay over £50 for tea and bread. I digress, the Ritz has a beautiful tea room, the layout is lovely, the staff is impeccable and perfect, the food is great and you get free refills on everything. AGAIN, Burberry’s Thomas’s Cafe is REALLY good and everything is also beautiful/the staff is SO NICE AND ACCOMMODATING, and you only pay £32!!!!!!! But I will say that the Ritz is way fancier and if you have the chance to do it or a special occasion to celebrate, definitely go for it!
F I N A L T H O U G H T S
My biggest piece of advice is to try booking a tea at 11:30 am or 7:30 pm Monday-Thursday because you get special offers, like 15% off a traditional afternoon tea (yes please) or a free glass of champagne, which is what we did because birthday (the SMOOTHEST champagne of my life). Also, the website says that it offers booking availability in real time, which might actually be true, but there wasn’t a 7:30 spot open when I first tried booking online and then I called a week later and we were able to snag it. As far as afternoon tea goes, the Ritz is up there with Burberry and even without the price difference, still sits at number two for food but definitely gets the top spot for ambiance. I’m glad mom chose the Ritz because IDK how many more times she and I will be in London together, so doing a special afternoon tea at the Ritz was the best place for her first time and my 25th birthday. I’m also surprised by how relaxed it was in terms of dress, like when I went to Sketch, everyone was wearing labels and had gone ALL OUT with their clothing choices, but people were a lot more toned-down at the Ritz. I’m sure there were still some designer labels and people definitely dress up, but there were trousers and flats and t-shirts under blazers. My other favourite thing was that there were two women sitting alone, having their afternoon teas, and when my mom pointed it out and felt sorry for them, I was like, mom, these women are living their BEST lives. They get everything to themselves and have zero judgment on how many sandwiches they order. So if none of your friends want to dish out the cash for a Ritzy afternoon tea, just know there are those who do it themselves and are probably happier for it! That’s just my introverted side speaking, but I’m sure it’s also v true. Anyway, thanks mom for a fabulous 25th birthday in London!