Monday, 7 July 2008
Afternoon Tea at the Cadogan, Sloane Street
I've been to Langtry's, the restaurant at the Cadogan, a couple of times, and have had a pretty good experience each time. I'm not quite sure why I haven't written about it yet; probably because I want it to remain my little secret and not have it spoiled by the world. But also - and here's my inherent British pessimism showing - it could be that I'm waiting for them to mess up one day, and I will finally understand why the place is always empty and be able to give it the inevitable low score. Until then, I'm withholding my final appraisal.
But this isn't a review of Langtry's, the Cadogan's fine dining restaurant (£22.50 for 3 courses at lunchtime - try the prawn cocktail). This is Afternoon Tea, which you take in the Drawing Room, a pleasant wood-panelled space served by smart waiters in dark suits, some of whom look old enough to have served Lily Langtry herself. There's a lot of history at the Cadogan, not much of it immediately obvious until you do a bit of research. Oscar Wilde, for example, was arrested in his room here in 1895 (room 118, apparently - we were tempted to try and put down this number on the bill when it arrived, but thought better of it. I do want to go back, after all), and Lily Langtry, 19th century beauty and mistress to Edward VII, continued to live here for many years after her house was adopted to become part of the hotel. How nice it must be to have your house converted into a hotel around you and to be able to carry on living in your own bedroom, only with room service. I can't think of a better way of enjoying my twilight years.
The food itself is pretty much a secondary consideration to the pomp and furnishings, as with any afternoon tea. Sandwiches were nice enough, with fresh ingredients and crusts cut off. The complimentary champagne was Perrier Jouet, and one of our party, being t-total, had a non-alcoholic cocktail made up for no extra cost (it had mint and elderflower in it and was lovely). Scones were the highlight - warm and fluffy with a huge dollop of clotted cream, although the jam was bought-in and not up to the standard of Brown's homemade offering. Finally, pastries were pretty good, with mini-éclairs, strawberry tarts and coffee cups making up what turned out to be quite a generous amount of food.
It all added up to a very enjoyable afternoon. The Cadogan is unmistakeably a five-star hotel, but is unstuffy and relaxed in a way that, say, Claridge's or the Dorchester aren't. Staff are chatty and accommodating without being overly "matey", and it feels very comfortable and homely, like you're kicking back of an afternoon in your rich auntie's front room. This atmosphere was even further enhanced by the fact that we were one of perhaps only 4 or 5 tables taken, and as I mentioned earlier on previous visits to the restaurant next door we have found the place similarly and pleasingly tranquil. So I will not hesitate to recommend the Cadogan, with one proviso - that you promise not to tell too many of your friends. Deal?
I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.