Afternoon teas are two a penny in London right now with everything from Japanese to cheese versions on offer. But if you’re looking for one with real wow factor, one for a special occasion, one that your mum will adore – the Rotunda at Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square is the one.
It’s impressive from the very get go. I’d sprained my ankle so was arriving by taxi, although my uber felt decidedly less swanky than the matt black Rolls Royce parked outside. The building is a real stunner, bright white with imposing pillars stretching up into the sky, black carpet leading you up the stairs into the foyer. The carpet inside looked like a watercolour painting and the fresh flower displays were more like works of art than any floristry I’ve seen before.
Afternoon tea is served in the rotunda, a beautiful round room with an impressive domed ceiling. Tables are positioned around a small stage, where the in-house pianist tinkles away in the background.
The Heritage Afternoon Tea was launched this summer and is a celebration of the iconic building’s history. As the headquarters of the Port of London Authority, Ten Trinity Square was once at the heart of global trade and the gateway for the tea routes to enter London. In honour of this, the handcrafted bone china has been adorned with an intricate design by British designer Richard Brendon featuring nautical compass and a detailed map of the shipping routes from China to Britain. Before you load up your plate, it’s worth turning over to take a peek at the clever artwork up close.
We’re treated to a glass of Delamotte Brut Champagne before delving into the tea list. Mapping those historic trading routes, Rotunda’s afternoon tea includes brews from the foothills of the Himalayas with the finest Darjeeling to Earl Greys from Satemwa Estate in the Highlands of Malawi. A selection of Chinese teas include a rare Oolong from Anxi from the coastal Fujian Province, which embarked on the journey to London via the East China Sea. Closer to home, you’ll find herbal teas grown in Cornwall but we settled on the delicate jasmine silver tip with its light floral aroma. Tea is topped up throughout the duration of our stay, with an attentive waiter doing the honours and taking it away each time, leaving more space on the table.
We begin our feast with traditional finger sandwiches created by Rotunda’s new Executive Chef, David Greenhill. The classic flavour combos you might expect have been elevated to a class of their own; egg mayo is spruced up with decadent truffle oil, coronation chicken also contains crème fraiche and flaked almonds, whilst minted cucumber is teamed with a slick of cream cheese. There’s also smoked salmon with dill, tarragon and capers AND beef pastrami with sauerkraut and English mustard). We’re offered top ups but save ourselves for the next course. You might notice that scones are missing from the cake stand, but fear not, they’re bought over separately, so as to keep them piping hot. Served with pots of Devonshire clotted cream, jam and lemon curd, there’s a choice of fruit and plain, and honestly, they were pretty faultless. At one point they come over offering a slice of another lemon cake – you will not leave here hungry.
Back over to the cake tiers, which displayed the most beautiful pastries you could hope for, each served on a gold disc. A perfectly pink strawberry choux contained strawberry crémeux, with delicate discs balancing on top of vanilla cream. Passionfruit ganache was the perfect tart topping for the chocolate sable with chocolate mousse, a dream pairing. Black cherry was the base for a swirl of pistachio cream and lastly apricot and verbena flavours were displayed in a fan like orange creation.
We drain the last dregs of tea and leave our palatial surrounds to hail a taxi, just at the same moment the black Rolls gets himself a parking ticket. Perhaps he said yes to a second round of scones.
Rotunda’s new Heritage Afternoon Tea is available all week between 2pm and 5pm.
The Heritage Afternoon Tea – £35 (VERY good value!)
Champagne Afternoon Tea – £38 (with a glass of Delamotte Brut Champagne) or £45 (with a glass of Charles Heidsieck Clos Des Millenaires 1995 Brut Champagne)