Afternoon Tea at The Wolseley review: Handmade pastries and brilliant service in a stunning setting
The Wolseley has only been open since 2003, but has steadily become an institution on the London dining scene. I’ve wanted to go for years and have heard many friends raving about dinners and brunches. I finally went for Afternoon Tea with a friend recently and thankfully was as good as I hoped.
The building itself features an impressive façade which really stands out on Piccadilly. It was originally a car showroom, Wolseley Motors Ltd, when it was built in the early 1920s, with the architect William Curtis Green taking inspiration from Venetian and Florentine design. Unfortunately, the car business didn’t last long and the building was taken over by Barclays Bank in 1927.
The Wolseley is described as a ‘café-restaurant in the grand European tradition’ and upon walking in, it did remind me of some of the grand cafes in Paris and Budapest I have been in. High ceilings, sweeping staircases, large windows and marble made for a dramatic setting.
I visited recently with a friend for a belated birthday celebration on a Friday afternoon. We were seated at a lovely black wood and marble table, which just about had enough room for our numerous plates and cups we would accumulate during our setting.
When we booked, there were various options of Afternoon Tea, depending on your appetite and if you wanted to add some fizz. We initially decided on the traditional Afternoon Tea (£23.75), before ‘upgrading’ it to The Wolseley Champagne Tea at £33.50 per person when we arrived.
We decided to have the champagne first – perhaps unwise on an empty stomach – which was light and refreshing. For tea, they have a wide choice as you would expect, including their own blend, with myself plumping for Earl Grey. The tea was presented in sterling silver teapots and brewed with tea-leaves, so you’re able to fully taste the flavour and aroma of the tea.
When it came to the food, we were presented with a three-tiered cake stand featuring assorted finger sandwiches, fresh fruit scones and a selection of pastries – all made on site. On the day in question we visited, the desserts were Battenberg, Cherry & Pistachio Cake, Rhubarb Tart, Lemon Meringue, Chocolate Éclair and Vanilla Cheesecake, which were all delicious and presented beautifully. The scones were probably my favourite and I liked the little touches of the silver serving spoons for the clotted cream and jam actually embossed for their purpose. As I’m a pescatarian, I warned The Wolseley ahead of time about my dietary requirements so they were able to give me a good selection of non-meat sandwiches.
As we expected, the service was top-notch. our waiter was very attentive, giving us refills of tea and sandwiches. We were rather leisurely as we paced ourselves with such a lot of food and didn’t feel under pressure to move on. Overall, the food, service and setting were brilliant and I highly recommend it. For those looking for a traditional English afternoon tea, I think you’d be hard pressed to find better.
- The Wolseley, 160 Piccadilly, St James, W1J 9EB. Nearest station: Green Park. Afternoon Tea is served from 3-6.30pm Mon-Fri, 3.30-5.30pm Sat and 3.30-6.30pm Sun. For more information and booking, visit The Wolseley website.
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