The Kensington Hotel has been recently renovated and looks fantastic. It's only ten minutes walk from the South Kensington museums so it would be easy to combine a morning museum trip with a relaxing afternoon tea here. The hotel is actually four connected grand Victorian townhouses and there are many period features left to admire.
Considering the hustle and bustle at the museums, a visit to Kensington Hotel's Drawing Room is a peaceful and calm oasis.
Afternoon Tea Information
Drawing Room at The Kensington Hotel,
113 Queen's Gate, South Kensington,
London SW7 5LR.
Nearest Tube Station: South Kensington.
Use Journey Planner to plan your route by public transport.
Dress Code: Smart casual.
Reservations: Book online
Photography: Permitted. Staff will help.
Music: Background, lounge music.
The hotel was easy to find and Queen's Gate seemed like a really quiet street considering the busy area.
This hotel really knows about customer service and staff were smart, efficient and polite, and able to accommodate unusual requests. Their welcome was sincere and they took the time to explain how they serve afternoon tea here so we felt comfortable and able to relax.
The Drawing Room
This spacious room has a variety of seating options for different size parties and each area felt almost like a private room; not because of walls but the clever positioning of chairs so no other group was in our eye-line and everyone was chatting as if there was no-one else there. The Persian rugs, English and Chinese paintings and fireplace, with a roaring fire, make the room feel very homely yet the high ceilings and chandeliers keep things feeling grand.
We sat by the window on large, deep red armchairs with a circular marble table but did not feel as if we were in a 'goldfish bowl', i.e. constantly being overlooked by passers-by in the street, as there was a well-positioned window box so those walking by could see the room's chandeliers and the walls but not the guests.
Music was kept to a background level to encourage chatting and the volume rose and the lights dimmed towards the evening.
There are thirteen teams listed in the menu with helpful descriptions. The staff is also able to give recommendations. If tea is really not your thing then you can have coffee or hot chocolate instead. Tea is served in a white teapot and a large pot is available if you are sharing. Tea is a loose leaf in the pot and although it cannot be removed the tea did not 'stew' so the right amount of tea was used for the size of the pot. A swivel tea strainer with drip bowl like the one I first saw at The Wolseley is left on the table. After a pot of Earl Grey, my companion and I got through three pots of White Moon tea! White Moon is very long tips (about 3cm) with a subtle peach flavor.
Afternoon Tea at The Kensington Hotel is served as three courses and not brought all at once on a three-tier cake stand. Sandwiches come first, and serving staff are adept at positioning plates on the table so everything still fits.
Expect stunning, small, square sandwiches in a variety of bread with interesting fillings, plus a spring roll. I needed vegetarian fillings and my dining companion had an allergy but, even though we hadn't warned the hotel, there was no problem. Staff checked with the kitchen and reported back immediately that special options would be prepared right away. All fillings were carefully described and, unusually, pea shoots were used for decoration which was delicious and inspired me to plant pea seeds in my garden when I got home!
Four homemade scones arrived after our sandwiches were devoured, wrapped in a napkin so still warm when we cut them in half. The two plain and two raisin scones each were not crumbly and were very tasty even before I added the cream and jam. Scones are served with Cornish clotted cream, lemon and passion fruit curd, and strawberry jam.
I was still feeling a little disappointed about not having a three-tier cake stand until the sweets arrived on an exquisite miniature cake stand with two tiers of fancies to share. No need for arguments here as there were two of everything. The apple and rhubarb crumble were spicy and yummy and the mini carrot cake muffin was divine. We also enjoyed fruit cake, a fresh fruit tart and darling 1 inch square of Victoria sponge.
We stayed for three hours and I think that says a lot. Would I have stayed so long if I were not enjoying the afternoon tea? Of course not. The Kensington Hotel has every right to be proud of their afternoon tea and their staff are a true credit.