Spending a few hours at the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition is a great way to work up an appetite, and before long it was time to get our fill of sophisticated finger sandwiches and cakes at The Wolseley. A cafe-restaurant in the high-end Mayfair area of London, The Wolseley holds prime position next to the world-famous Ritz.
A table was booked for afternoon tea, but we’d finished at the exhibition a bit sooner than we’d thought and not wanting to waste the opportunity of being in London, we decided to have a look round the area. We slowly made our way toward The Wolseley, but it really isn’t that far and it didn’t take too long, giving us time to stroll along the upmarket Burlington Arcade, a parade of shops that made me feel as if I was walking down Diagon Alley in Harry Potter. Luxurious – and probably expensive – goods like jewellery, cufflinks, jumpers and slippers filled the windows of the tiny and cute shops – you wouldn’t fit more than about 10 people comfortably in each. It’s quite nice though, as you’re able to see all that is on offer through the huge windows. Window shopping done, we made our way down the road, past a caviar shop, past Fortnum & Masons and the Ritz, and arrived at The Wolseley. Stepping in the door, a curtain blocks the view into the main restaurant. I can only assume this is to protect those inside from prying eyes, but prying eyes we were not and so we stepped through. First impressions count for a lot, and although smaller than I’d imagined, this place has it well covered!
A small bar sits just to the side of the entrance, so after checking in with the concierge we grabbed a spot while waiting for our table to be ready. Treading a fine balance well, the restaurant makes good use of the floor space, but not to the point that the tables are so close you’re basically sharing a meal with those on the table next to you. At the rear of the restaurant are two mezzanine areas, each with two tables. And to my joy, we were to enjoy afternoon tea at one of the mezzanine tables! We had a great deal more privacy than everyone else, with just one other table near us, no one traipsing past us, and a great view over the rest of the restaurant. From our prime position, I could soak up the stunning architectural features of the place: the hanging lights, the huge windows and the funky checked floor. I have no idea what era this kind of place reminds me of, but I definitely felt like I should have had a feather in my hair and a feather bower elegantly draped over my shoulders.
Once we’d been seated at our table, our tea order was taken. I’m not a huge fan of tea, so despite coming for afternoon tea, I opted for a smooth, frothy cappuccino. For the tea lovers, a tea menu is available to peruse. And then came the main attraction – the afternoon tea! For any fellow afternoon tea rookies, the food traditionally comes out on a three-tiered stand, with each tier holding a plate for two to share. The bottom plate holds the (hopefully) delicious finger sandwiches, with fillings varying. On this visit, we were treated to egg mayo with cress, chicken with tarragon, salmon, cucumber with cream cheese and a sundried tomato bread option.
Finger sandwiches out of the way, we skipped the middle tier and went straight for the scones on the top plate. Two fruit scones each, with clotted cream and jam. Depending on where you’re from in England will depend on which jam and cream etiquette you follow and I just couldn’t decide whether the jam should go on first, or the cream. Each of us went for a different method, but I just put jam on half the scone, cream on the other and mashed them together, before twisting to get a real mix. Not how it should be done, but it was more fun, and it’s so nice that our biggest worry was which should go on first! By the end of the scone plate, I was absolutely stuffed. We hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and it was about half four by that time. You’d think I’d be ravenous, but the fancy sandwiches and scones were filling. That just left six, yes six, cakes for my boyfriend to munch away on. They’re only mini, so it’s not as bad as it sounds, but he coped pretty well.
I’d definitely recommend trying the afternoon tea here. The staff were lovely, the food even more so and the restaurant has a really nice ambience. They also offer a cream tea, which is a light version of just tea and cakes, or a celebration tea which is afternoon tea with champagne! Of course, if you’d rather enjoy a full meal instead of sandwiches and cakes, there is also a normal menu to order from.
- As with anywhere, it’s a good idea to book ahead – this place is popular!
- There’s a postcard box as you head towards the toilets – they’re posted free of charge if you want to show off to family & friends where you’ve been!
- The nearest tube station is Green Park, but if you’d like a nice walk there get off at Piccadilly Circus or Hyde Park Corner.If you’d like to make a day of it, there’s plenty of shopping about with Fortnum & Mason, Burlington Arcade close by, and Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square a short walk away.