Finding an afternoon tea worthy of your pounds in the British capital city can be difficult. Sadly, the age-old ritual of indulging in Britain’s finest teas and snacks has become a little lost. With an increasing demand from tourists, many places in London now provide nothing more than overpriced, soggy cucumber sandwiches and watery tea. But this isn’t the case throughout the city. Certain hotels, like the quintessentially British Milestone Hotel, still serve an afternoon tea fit for a king.
Set in an austere brick building in Kensington, The Milestone lies on the edge of Hyde Park, directly across the street from Kensington Palace. Ask any Londoner, and he or she will tell you that Kensington is one of the poshest and most well-preserved areas in the city. With new additions to the neighborhood, such as the Ivy Brasserie (of the famous The Ivy in Chelsea) on Kensington High Street and the Design Museum (set to open later this year), Kensington is now also drawing a younger (albeit affluent) crowd. The area is steeped in history, and most of the buildings date back hundreds of years — the Milestone Hotel building was built in the eighteenth century. And it’s certainly not the oldest.
Once a stately private home, the Milestone is now a five-star hotel, which hasn’t lost that homey feel. Arriving inside feels as though you’ve been given a great, big British hug; the interior is incredibly grand and the staff are unnervingly nice — perhaps much needed on a gray London day. It has a myriad of reasons to warrant your stay — individually-decorated rooms, world-class personalized service, and a bar that rivals the interior of the Ralph Lauren Polo Bar — but the real draw is the afternoon tea. It has one of the best afternoon teas in the city, served daily in the grand and cozy front room. The room is welcoming enough to feel like your grandmother’s living room, but posh enough that your grandmother would have to be Lady Violet from Downton Abbey. It has a roaring fireplace, wood-paneled walls lined with books and paintings, and lead-framed glass windows, through which you can see the palace. The tea menu has an array of selections (everything is included), but the “Traditional Afternoon Tea” and the “Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea” come highly recommended. The snacks, including traditional cucumber sandwiches, Irish smoked salmon wedged between two slices of country bread, and an array of French pastries (tarts, gateaux, macarons, éclairs), made by two in-house pastry chefs, are served on tiered cake stands. Earl Grey tea and Lady Grey tea are recommended as accompaniments, but if you opt for the Gentlemen’s Afternoon Tea, you’ll be treated to a selection of whiskeys and ales instead. There are a variety of snacks to get through, but space should be saved for the scones, served with Devonshire clotted cream and homemade jams. The scone is the embodiment of afternoon tea, and at the Milestone, the scones certainly do not disappoint.
The service is impeccable and the staff is truly genuine — if they ask whether you want another cup of tea or a scone to-go, they really mean it. The Milestone is doing what so many restaurants and hotels in London are failing to do: serving a traditional, high-quality Afternoon Tea the way it’s been done for hundreds of years. It’s as simple as that.
Getting to London: La Compagnie is a business-class only airline which offers flights from Newark to London Luton. If you’re staying at the Milestone, they’ll organize for one of their drivers to collect you from the airport when you arrive.