It turns out that the Covent Garden is no exception and when we arrvied there were only a few other tables of people taking tea - including a group of about twenty adults and small children who seemed to be there for one of the kids' birthday party. Sorry if I sound like some kind of old fogey here but what's wrong with a trip to a farm? Or pass-the-parcel in the local village hall? Anyway, I digress.
We took our table - thankfully some distance away from the children's party - and ordered the Afternoon Tea. We both went for Assam as we wanted something robust to stand up against the inevitable onslaught of sugar we realised we were about to face. And it turned out to be a wise choice.
Our rather funky (in the cool sense American readers!) cake stand when it arrived was a perfect fit for the hotel. Made of blue tinted glass and steel yet still featuring an old-fashioned three tiers, it pretty much encapsulated the sense of unstuffy specialness that these hotels seem to exude. And what was on that stand was pretty special too.
We had a selection of sandwiches including cream cheese and cucumber and smoked salmon - there were meaty offerings too which we naturally declined; still-warm scones, some plain and some with chocolate chips, which was a first for me, served with a selection of jams and clotted cream; blueberry tarts; chocolate eclairs; fruit cake; brownies; a selection of berries, including some dipped in chocolate; and if all that wasn't enough there were two full sized vanilla cupcakes. It was clearly going to be quite a feast so imagine our surprise when our waitress informed us that we could ask for extra sandwiches or scones. Nonetheless, we managed to work our way slowly through the huge selection of food. Although not as slowly as the two women sitting near us who looked like they might have been planning on moving straight on to breakfast by the time they would be finished!
It really was a good selection, and I particularly liked the fruit which helped to cleanse the palate - and gave a vague sense that your five-a-day wasn't completely out the window. Everything was well made and tasty, the only slightly bum note being the cupcakes which were a bit fluffy and bland for my liking. That's not to say there wasn't enough richness going on on the plates but if you're going to do a cupcake, do it properly. But that certainly didn't detract from the overall experience. It was pleasing that the tea was a good quality loose-leaf variety and there was plenty of it - no namby pamby pot for one here: rather a proper sized teapot each.
It wasn't a cheap afternoon out costing £23.50 a head, but it was very much a whole afternoon. I find that whereas a lunch can easily be over in an hour or so, a good afternoon tea can go on for the best part of a day. So in that sense it represents pretty good value. Also, I personally love the styling in the hotel: bold colours and fabrics; wooden floors; eclectic furniture - it feels young and trendy but still cozy. I also liked the fact there were no tourists there - not that I have anything against visitors, after all I find myself being one on every trip abroad - but it doesn't feel like it's one of those "traditions" that no one actually partakes in except tourists looking for an "authentic experience".
All round, I can recommend afternoon tea at the Covent Garden Hotel, and having had good eating experiences in their sister restaurants I can imagine the others being worth a visit as well. In fact, I notice on their website that the Haymarket Hotel offers a similar afternoon tea for £17 per head. Given that that's even closer to home I may find myself visiting some weekend when I'm at a loose end and need to while away a few hours in a sugary haze. Well, we all need our little bit of escapism don't we?