Afternoon Tea at the Kensington Close Hotel

A few weeks ago, my friend and former uni housemate Eboni came to visit me for a few days as she’s moving from Iowa to Paris to work as an au-pair for a year! As she had never been to London, we tried to squeeze in a few stereotypically British experiences, including proper afternoon tea (I am happy to report that she’s also now officially a fan of fish and chips and addicted to the Great British Bake-Off).

We decided to opt for the Kensington Close Hotel as it offers a pretty good deal when you book online (£12.00 per person) and is quite convenient location-wise when you’re about and about doing touristy things anyway.

The interior isn’t quite as nice and stylish as the Ampersand Hotel, but you get to sit in an area near the bar with lots of comfy chairs and tables, and it felt fairly relaxed and quiet when we were there.

We ordered our tea and five minutes later were presented with two teapots and lots and lots of food! First up were the sandwiches, which were really classic looking finger sandwiches on white and wheat bread – starting out with an egg salad filling that was almost surprisingly good (I feel like egg can be a bit hit and miss sometimes, but these were great), ham with mustard, cucumber and cream cheese and finally smoked salmon. All found our approval.

Moving on to the scones, we got a very classic looking plain scone, a massive octagon shaped one with raisins and a sort of tear shaped scone with chocolate (and possibly hazelnut?) pieces in it. They were all three really tasty though we both only got through about a quarter of the raisin one as it was huge and we were getting dangerously full at that point.

Finally, we managed to battle our way through the sweets – a little cream & fruit tartlet, a chocolate eclair and a piece of carrot cake. My favorite was probably the carrot cake – not too dense, really tasty frosting and I loved the crunch on top. The tartlet was also really nice and tasted a lot more interesting than I suspected at first glance.

All in all I think the Kensington Close offers a really good deal – the price really only showed in that everything was maybe slightly less dainty and refined, and the tea selection isn’t huge and only includes tea bags – though you do get change your tea throughout if you want! But other than that I think the value is amazing – you get a whole lot of tasty food for a fantastic price while still having the quintessential British afternoon tea experience.

Afternoon Tea at the Ampersand Hotel

If you tend to check out the Sunday Moments posts, you might have seen that my old flatmate Anne came to visit me in London last week. As it was her first time in the city and we got quite lucky with the weather over the weekend, we spent most of Saturday running around town and playing tourists. (Check out this video of our London adventures over at Photographic Memory if you’re interested.) We had a great time, but our feet (especially Anne’s) politely remarked that they would appreciate a little less franticness, so Sunday consisted of a late brunch (featuring bacon & caramelised banana pancakes), soaking up the sun in Hyde Park and then casually strolling over to the Ampersand Hotel for some afternoon tea. (We both agreed that we wouldn’t find it terribly inconvenient if our life decided to make this an every day thing.) Since I love reading afternoon tea reviews over on Oh, How Civilized, I thought I’d give you a round up of our delightful afternoon as well.

The Ampersand Hotel is a boutique hotel in South Kensington, and I love the slightly quirky yet stylish interior design it has going on. (The bathrooms are really cool as well – each door had a different flower name on it and these super pretty patterned wallpaper to match its respective theme. Is it weird to like the bathrooms?) The servers were lovely, and we were in two very comfy red chairs and a table by the window right away. They had a few choices – traditional, a vegetarian option or a special Wimbledon one (have I mentioned lately that I’m really, really happy Andy won?) – though that’s probably a seasonal thing. We both picked the traditional one – Anne had peppermint tea with hers and I went for the afternoon blend, both of which were loose leaf and from Rare Tea Company.

Not long afterwards, three tiers of teatime treats arrived (which made us question our choice of leaving a mere three hours between the bacon pancakes and this extravaganza.) Starting the savoury round with slightly less traditional tartines, we got ham with sauce gribiche, cheese with fruit chutney, smoked salmon with dill & cream cheese as well as coronation chicken. They were all majorly tasty.

Moving one tier up we encountered the scones – a plain and a raisin one for each of us, accompanied by clotted cream and jam – which were warm and crumbly and very, very good. After a short tea-sipping break in the hopes of freeing up some space for the final battle – we had a pleasant conversation about how hard it is to find good servants these days and casually surveyed the other guests (there was a group of four couples a few tables over – an architect, a lawyer, two bankers plus wives who know each other from polo but occasionally also meet up for sailing, according to our analysis) – we tackled the sweets.

The selection included a mini lemon meringue tart, a brownie with peanut honey ganache, a tiny fruitcake, a slice of Victoria sponge, and an English breakfast tea chocolate bonbon. My favourite was probably the lemon tart – it had a really crispy shell and nice contrast between the tart filling and the sweet meringue. The brownie was fairly rich and dense, which is not necessarily a bad thing – though you might appreciate it more when you haven’t just had a meal of epic proportions. I was also a fan of the Victoria sponge – fairly fluffy and not overly sweet.

All in all we had a great time – fancy enough to make it feel a bit special, casual enough to have a nice relaxing catch-up with a friend, plus delicious food and tea. As far as pricing goes, we each paid £21.50, which is in the sort of medium region of London afternoon teas and well worth it if you consider what you get for it.

P.S.: Since I did a bit of filming that day, I decided to make a quick video as well if you’re interested in seeing the whole thing in moving pictures: