Afternoon tea is very much in vogue these days, so why wouldn’t you have a traditional afternoon tea in London, the capital of European tea-drinking? If you are going to the trouble of visiting London then you want to enjoy afternoon tea at its best and that’s just what Hyatt Regency The Churchill offers.
This striking hotel can be found just a couple of minutes’ walk away from Oxford Street, one of London’s most popular shopping thoroughfares and a magnet for those seeking therapy of the retail sort. The Churchill has views over the gardens of Portman Square, the sight of which sweeps one back to a gentler age when this open space echoed to the sound of the clip-clopping of horses rather than the roar of Mercedes horse power. It’s not only the hotel in general with those stunning views: the Montagu restaurant in particular boasts windows to this quintessentially London scene. It is named after socialite Elizabeth Montagu and her husband Edward, grandson to the first Earl of Sandwich, whose home occupied part of this site. Black cabs, tourists, office workers now create a moving foreground to the lush vegetation.
The Montagu seats up to 130 guests in contemporary but stylish comfort. Its dark wood, crisp linen, muted taupe walls are bathed in light from huge chandeliers and the aforementioned windows. It contrives to be both traditional and modern and it works. Yes, indeed there are classic elements to this restaurant but they are marvellously contrasted with a bar sporting a bank of horizontal wine bottles (practical but very chic), and the most open of open kitchens.
We have all seen them, those open kitchens. They are often no more than a slit in the restaurant wall and showing nothing more of the chefs than their white-clad shoulders and perhaps a daringly coloured bandana or two. The Montagu kitchen, however, is part of the restaurant. One can watch the theatre of food preparation by staff who, I guess, must be well-behaved at all times. Perhaps that’s the reason why such an arrangement would never do for some of Britain’s more “animated” celebrity chefs.
The Chef’s Table gives a few visitors the opportunity to take an even closer look at proceedings. Once again The Montagu has gone the extra mile, this time in order to give a close but civilised view of chefs in action. The concept of eating at the chef’s table has been around for a while. Other restaurants might have a cramped table for two between the dishwasher and the swinging kitchen door, with the diners’ eye-level being waist-high to the chef, allowing a view of just a profile of a stock pot and lots of blue flames. Here the guests are seated at a raised island with vistas of the whole kitchen. The Chef’s Table seats two to nine people on high stools and is available for lunch or dinner during the week. It costs £75.00 per person for five courses including matched wines, or £95.00 for eight courses including matched wines.
It was springtime in London. Cold and wet and I was looking forward to the comfort of an open fire (yes, dear reader, there is such a thing to hand) and an afternoon tea with all the elegance and charm that notion conjures. As a member of the Tea Council’s prestigious ‘Tea Guild’, Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill sounded like an ideal spot for a cuppa and some sweet and savoury delights. I was not disappointed – they presented the most iconic and relaxing of afternoon teas.
Even from a distance The Montagu Afternoon Tea looks like the real thing. Its elegant three-tiered stand carried a selection of those very British finger sandwiches with no sign of a crust. The choice is different every day but be assured they will be delicious and filled with a variety of cheeses, meats, smoked salmon and probably some cucumber on a mix of white, brown and flavoured breads. These are surprisingly substantial but one can feel refined if one cuts a corner and nibbles. This isn’t a race. Eat slowly and unwind, but save some room for what’s to follow.
After the sandwiches I was drawn to the next tier up. The one piled with still-warm fruit and plain scones. Two per person was a generous helping and these were served with the usual accompaniments of lashings of strawberry jam and clotted cream. It might be predictable but it’s been that way for generations for no other reason than that it’s just right.
The top tier held my attention and the cakes. This was a tempting and attractive spread of little fancies as well as some fresh strawberries to make one feel noble. A miniature fruit tart, glossy and dark Opera cake, pink and frilly iced cupcake, Viennese shortbread and some chocolate macaroons were all irresistible. The Montagu Afternoon Tea is served with a selection of teas including Sapphire Earl Grey, Darjeeling 2nd Flush, Organic Bohea Lapsang, Organic Silver Needle and Hand-rolled Jasmine Pearls. I chose the Silver Needle for its light fresh flavour which was a foil for the cream and sugar I had already consumed in the guise of dessert. It was one of those occasions when a cup of coffee just would not do. American cousins take note. For an extra treat, one might order a glass of Pol Roger Champagne which is said to have been Winston Churchill’s favourite. This particular Afternoon Tea is therefore called the Churchill, in his honour.
Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill is a setting for a memorable and fine traditional afternoon tea. The Montagu restaurant is a calm oasis with welcoming staff and a refuge from all things hectic. Ask for a table overlooking the greenery of one of London’s most stylish squares, and while away a couple of unhurried hours. It’s accessible 5-star luxury.
Afternoon Tea is served every day between 3.00pm and 6.00pm. The Montagu Afternoon Tea is available at £21.50 per person and The Churchill Afternoon Tea with a glass of Pol Roger Champagne is £27.50 per person.
For reservations please call 020 7299 2037 or email: email@example.com.
Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill
30 Portman Square, London W1H 7BH, UK
Phone:+44 20 7486 5800
Fax:+44 20 7486 1255
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018