SEARCH:  
Twitter Facebook RSS Feed
No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Friday 23rd June 2006

Claridge's Tearoom


A couple of years ago, the Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Travel Guide to Britain was ridiculed for claiming that the entire nation grinds to a halt when the clock strikes four. "Afternoon tea is a British tradition enacted daily in homes, teashops and grand hotels," announced the guide. Oh how we all laughed. That might have been true of the Britain portrayed in This Happy Breed, but coffee has long since taken over as the national drink.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I arrived at Claridge's at 4.30pm to discover that the tearoom was fully booked. That wasn't merely inconvenient; it was a catastrophe. I'd arranged to meet my wife and children there--and our two-year-old daughter had driven herself into a frenzy of excitement at the prospect of such an extravagant treat. The look of disappointment on her face when the Maitre 'd told us we'd have to wait at least an hour sent shivers down my spine. I was clutching a stick of dynamite and someone had just lit the fuse.

Clearly, afternoon tea is back in fashion. This was confirmed a few days later when a friend revealed that he'd had an almost identical experience at the Ritz. He turned up with his eight-year-old nephew at 4.30pm, having failed to make a reservation, and was openly laughed at by the maitre 'd. He was informed that if he wanted a table for two he'd have to book at least three months in advance. Incredible as it may seem, it's now harder to gain access to a tearoom in one of London's grand hotels than it is to get a table at the Ivy.

Will a new chain of trendy teashops soon replace Starbucks on Britain's high streets? Judging from the customers drifting in and out of Claridge's, I wouldn't be surprised. I was expecting to see a few moth-eaten old ladies, dressed as if they'd just stepped out of the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, but the place was teaming with gorgeous young socialites. It was less like The Lady than the party pages of Tatler. The days when the Claridge's Tearoom enforced a no-jeans/no-trainers dress code are well and truly over.

Fortunately, a table became vacant before my daughter went completely ballistic and we all squeezed on to a large, candy-striped green sofa at the back of the room. From this vantage point, we could survey the entire scene and it wasn't hard to see why afternoon tea has experienced a resurgence in popularity of late. In an ever-changing world, there's something reassuring about the old-fashioned formality of this traditional English ritual. Seeing the waiters tripping back and forth with pots of tea and trays of delicacies was almost like watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.

Needless to say, the tea itself was a little disappointing after all this build-up. My wife and I decided to plump for the most expensive thing on the menu, billed as the "Royal Dom Perignon Afternoon Tea". The sandwiches and cakes were pretty good--and we had no complaints about the glass of vintage Dom Perginon--but the service wasn't what it should have been given that it cost £46.50 a head. Whilst pouring my Earl Gray, the waiter actually put the milk in first, a textbook faux pas. Not only that, but after my daughter had deposited the contents of the milk jug into her beaker--and then emptied it on to her little brother's head--the waiter didn't replace it with a fresh one.

Okay, perhaps I'm being a little persnickity. There's undoubtedly something extremely charming about having tea in a posh London hotel, particularly one as pretty as Claridge's. But if I ever feel like a spot of afternoon refreshment in Central London again, I'll be tempted to confine myself to a mug of PG Tips in a bog-standard greasy spoon.

[ FIXED LINK ] Bookmark and Share





Twitter RT @Jamin2g: Corbyn: “When we celebrate, and it is a cause for celebration, the achievements of Venezuela, in jobs, in housing, in health,…  (44 minutes ago)

BEST OF THE WEB

Is classical liberalism conservative? by Yarom Hazony - jerusalemletters.com
The Implosion of Western Liberalism by Patrick Lee Miller - quillette.com
The Eton of the East End - Daily Mail
The reactionary temptation by Andrew Sullivan - nymag.com
The book that scandalised New York intellectuals by Louis Menand - newyorker.com
To understand Britain today, look to the 17th Century by Adrian Wooldridge - economist.com
The crisis in France by Christopher Caldwell - city-journal.org
A Visit to Michaela School by Patrick Alexander - prospectmagazine.co.uk
Why parenting may not matter by Brian Boutwell - quillette.com
Trump Establishment's Cultural Significance Explained by Michael Wolff - newsweek.com
Branching histories of the 2016 referendum by Dominic Cummings - dominiccummings.wordpress.com
Putin's Real Long Game by Molly K McKew - politico.com
The Flight 93 Election by Publius Decius Mus - claremont.org
How the education gap is tearing politics apart by David Runciman - theguardian.com
What's wrong with identity politics by Graeme Archer - conservativehome.com
Grammars and the grain of truth by Jonathan Porter
Anti-Brexit: Britain's new class war by John O'Sullivan - nationalreview.com
The English Revolt by Robert Tombs - newstatesman.com
Democracies end when they are too democratic by Andrew Sullivan - nymag.com
Human beings really are making progress by Steven Pinker - edge.org
What ISIS really wants by Graeme Wood - theatlantic.com
A society ripe for Submission by Douglas Murray - quadrant.org.au
Beware the soft Stalinists of the campus by David Aaronovitch - thetimes.co.uk
Why I'm a Conservative Teacher by Jonathan Porter - conservativeteachers.com
Corbyn's Inconvenient Truth – He wanted the IRA to win - youtu.be
Corbyn's first seven days - theguardian.com
Corbin's cabinet chaos by Darren McCaffrey - news.sky.com
Why I've become Tory scum by Tony Parsons - gq-magazine.co.uk
Inside Westminster's free school - telegraph.co.uk
Jeremy Corbyn's politics are a fantasy – just like Alice in Wonderland by Tony Blair - theguardian.com
Robert Conquest obit - telegraph.co.uk
Jeremy Corbyn is not an anti-Semite – it's so much worse than that - news.stv.tv
In defence of free schools by Toby Young - standpointmag.co.uk
 

BLOGROLL

Andrew Lilico
Andrew Neil
Andrew Sullivan
Arts and Letters Daily
Bagehot's Notebook
BBC News
BBC Sport
Benedict Brogan
Brendan O'Neill
Bruce Anderson
Coffee House
Conservative Home
Damian McBride
Damian Thompson
Dan Hodges
Daniel Hannon
Ed West
Frank Furedi
Guido Fawkes
Harry Phibbs
Iain Dale
Iain Martin
James Delingpole
James Wolcott
Joe Murphy
John Rentoul
Labour List
Mark Steyn
Matt Drudge
Mehdi Hasan
Melanie Phillips
Michael Wolff
Nick Cohen
Nick Robinson
Nikki Finke
Normblog
Paul Waugh
Peter Hitchens
Political Betting
Right Minds
Rob Long
Rod Liddle
Slate
Sophy Ridge
Stephen Pollard
The Arts Desk
The Corner
The Daily Beast
The First Post
The Omnivore
The Onion
Tim Shipman
Tim Stanley
Tom Shone
 

COLUMNISTS

AA Gill
Aidan Hartley
Allison Pearson
Allister Heath
AO Scott
Boris Johnson
Charles Moore
Cosmo Landesman
Daniel Finkelstein
David Brooks
Fraser Nelson
George Monbiot
Giles Coren
Henry Winter
James Delingpole
Jan Moir
Janan Ganesh
Jeremy Clarkson
Jeremy Warner
Jim White
Jonathan Freedland
Lloyd Evans
Manohla Dargis
Martin Samuel
Mary Ann Sieghart
Matthew d'Ancona
Matthew Norman
Maureen Dowd
Michiko Kakutani
Owen Jones
Patrick O'Flynn
Paul Krugman
Peter Bradshaw
Peter Oborne
Philip Collins
Polly Toynbee
Quentin Letts
Rachel Johnson
Rod Liddle
Roy Greenslade
Tim Montgomerie
Trevor Kavanagh
 
UK Book Cover

  • Buy the book on Amazon.co.uk

  • Buy the book on Amazon.com


  • UK Book Cover

  • Buy the book on Amazon.co.uk

  • Buy the book on Amazon.com


  • Audio Book Cover

  • Buy the audio book from
    Whole Story Audio
  • DVD Cover

  • Buy the DVD from Amazon.co.uk

  • Buy the DVD from Amazon.com


  • IMdb Page on the film