“When I die,” I said to Carla, as we entered the Hotel Café Royal’s Oscar Wilde Bar, wide-eyed and unattractively slack-jawed in wonder, “I want to be buried in this room.” I wasn’t even joking. Let this blog post be my last will and testament if tomorrow morning my mortal soul is dispatched by a big red bus.
The Oscar Wilde Bar – reportedly once one of the great man’s actual haunts back in the day – is breathtakingly grand. It is gaudy in all the right ways, like an enormous Fabergé jewellery box. There’s a pianist and topless women on the ceilings and more cherubs than you can shake a stick at. My minimalist flatmate James 2, whose bedroom looks like a Muji catalogue, would have had a fit.
Luckily, I hadn’t brought James 2 but Carla Juniper, my tea-swigging, sandwich-scarfing lady friend who had NEVER BEFORE EXPERIENCED AN AFTERNOON TEA. Despite living in London all her life. And loving tea. And being awake at least most afternoons.
I, by contrast, have been to loads, mainly because my mother has recently discovered Groupon and gone absolutely MENTAL over it. And, to be fair, I have been to some very good ones, but none like this.
Obviously the first port of call was the tea. On the extensive menu you’ll find all the usual suspects, plus some special blends. We started with the Oscar, which was the hotel’s own version of my favourite Lapsang Souchong, a smoky blend that tastes of liquid bonfires. Halfway through we switched to the Celestine, a very unusual vanilla-infused tea that was a little too sweet for me (although interesting to try!) We also had a glass of Veuve Clicquot for, you know, variety.
The amuse-bouche was the cryptically-named Low Sidecar Muffin, and possibly one of my favourite parts of the whole day. It was a savoury, topped with truffle-infused cream cheese, and came with a tiny tea pipette of apple juice. I believe an amuse-bouche is supposed to be eaten in one bite, but I savoured that sucker. It was delicious. I could have eaten fifty.
Next came a tower of savouries, a wild boar bun with a little puff of pork that was something in between a Quaver and a pork scratching; a cucumber sandwich; a Marie Rose brioche bun brimming over with fat prawns; and a generously topped smoked salmon muffin with quail’s egg. (Carla lucked out here as I can’t stand smoked salmon under any circumstances – but the things were huge.) My favourite, though, was the chorizo Wellington – a soft, flaky, buttery swirl of smoked chorizo.
And the food just kept on coming. After the savoury course we had a little palate-cleanser (of fruit tea and fancy marshmallow!) and a basket of warm scones, that came, as Carla described it, “tucked up like babies”. (Which probably says more about her maternal instinct that the scones themselves, but you get the idea.)
An of course, scones wouldn’t be scones without clotted cream, homemade strawberry jam and a knockout lemon curd.
And then…then came the cakes. The cakes!
My favourite was the violently green absinthe macaron (especially remarkable considering I ate myself sick on them last month at a macron masterclass), and Carla the fruity wobbler on the left, which was like a cake cross-dressing as a jelly. We both also loved the chocolate orange tart, a small but concentrated flavour bomb that filled our mouths with an intensity that made a Terry’s Chocolate Orange look like a ball of wood pulp.
The whole experience was a bit like being queen of a little kingdom of tiny, delicious subjects, all vying for the attention of our tastebuds. Or perhaps more like Noah, leading his exquisite little animals two-by-two into his
face ark. At any one time it was quite difficult to know exactly what to throw down the hatch – there was the champagne, the tea, the scones and the six (!!!) different pastries. There are even additional cakes for afterwards if you’ve still got room. (Shamefully, by this point we were too full to try them. Perhaps next time!)
Afternoon tea at the Oscar Wilde Bar starts from £42pp, rising to £55pp if you want a glass of sparkles to go with. It’s certainly a lot of food and an undoubtedly luxurious experience, but websites like Afternoontea.co.uk often run incredible deals that are worth looking out for. At the time of writing, for instance, there’s 241 on the Champagne afternoon tea, which is pretty epic value for a couple of hours of such fabulous indulgence.
I was invited to review the Oscar Wilde Bar by the Hotel Café Royal, but, as always, my views are my own. You can find more information, including the menu, on the website. The hotel is just off Piccadilly Circus at 68 Regent St, W1B 4DY.
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.