Even though it’s only been in operation since 1991, The Lanesborough is already renowned across London as one of the city’s finest hotels, as well as one of its most expensive. Located inside the circa-1844 St. George’s Hospital building, the stately residence was completely refurbished in 2015, and is elegant, upscale, and very posh. The best way to experience the hotel (aside from staying there) is to have afternoon tea in its Michelin-starred restaurant, Celeste. If there’s a finer afternoon tea in London, we’ve yet to come across it.
First, the space: The dining room itself is located under a massive domed glass ceiling with chandeliers hanging and new Wedgewood-style reliefs at its base. The light blue and white walls help to give the room a bright and airy glow, and the seating is comfortable. Taking your seat to the sound of live piano accompaniment and being poured a glass of Champagne is essentially the mental equivalent of getting a massage, and that’s before the tea even starts.
The selection of teas alone is enough to make your head spin. Anji Bai Cha, Yunnan Old Tree, Dan Cong Golden Stem, Bohea Lapsang Souchong, Darjeeling Jungpana, Chinese Gunpowder, China Kekecha yellow tea, Imperial Pu Erh… the list goes on and on, and is helpfully divided into sections including black, green, rooibos, white, oolong, herbal, and fruit. I opted for one of the Lanesborough Signature Teas, their custom afternoon tea, a blend of black and green teas. My palate isn’t fine-tuned enough to go into details of subtle nuances, but it was definitely a fine cup of tea, any my cup was refilled whenever it got low.
Seeing as Celeste is a Michelin-starred restaurant, the food portion of the tea, crafted by chef Nicolas Rouzaud, was as superb as expected. There was a very nice selection of sandwiches (egg and truffle, Scottish salmon and caviar, ham and aged Cheddar, cucumber and mint, and Coronation chicken); French pastries (pecan cookie, orange steamed pudding, chocolate cupcake, pear caramel sable, passion fruit-mango dome, coffee finger, Rocher, apple tart, cashew brownie); and made-to-order scones with fruit preserves, lemon cream, and clotted Devonshire cream on the three-tiered platter.
Tea at the Lanesborough was extravagant, decadent, and luxurious — so intoxicating that you’ll want to sit there all day in rich splendor. Trust me, I never wanted to leave.