Afternoon Tea at the Milestone Hotel and Residences
By Mary Noe
With all the excitement surrounding Prince Harry’s engagement to American Meghan Markle, and the upcoming birth of William and Kate’s third royal baby, I felt it was time to reacquaint myself with London’s regal traditions during a recent visit. No better elegant custom than enjoying afternoon tea at the Milestone Hotel and Residences, and no better time than now, after their recent remodel.
A member of the Red Carnation Hotel Collection and a Leading Hotel of the World, the Milestone is a lovely historic mansion set in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Overlooking Kensington Palace and Gardens (the official London residence of royalty including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry), the Milestone Hotel was Voted No 2 Top Hotel in the UK by TripAdvisor’s ‘Traveler’s Choice’ Awards 2018, No 2 in the Best Hotels in London, and No 3 Best City Hotel in Europe by Travel + Leisure’s 2017 ‘World’s Best’ Awards. In the 30th annual Condé Nast Traveler ‘Readers’ Choice’ Awards, all six of Red Carnation’s London hotels won places on the ‘Top Hotels in London’ list.
Having long been enamored with the traditional, elegant British ambiance of Red Carnation’s London properties, I was eager to visit the legendary Milestone Hotel for the first time. The Milestone’s award-winning afternoon tea was ‘highly commended’ at the 2017 Afternoon Tea Awards, and was the perfect spot to channel my inner royal.
For those not familiar, ‘afternoon tea’ is traditionally an elegant afternoon respite that offers delicious sustenance, including several courses of sandwiches, scones, pastries, desserts, a selection of fine teas (or coffee), and is often accompanied by champagne. Far more than a snack, ‘afternoon tea’ has become a special event and is the perfect way to connect with friends or celebrate a special occasion.
Milestone Hotel Afternoon Tea
Begun in the 1840’s by the Duchess of Bedford to stave off hunger between lunch and late dinners, afternoon tea is quintessentially British. Enjoying a leisurely afternoon tea is a celebratory tradition in my family, and I hoped that the reality of the Milestone experience would live up to my expectations. Indeed, the Milestone’s afternoon tea service was enchanting from start to finish, and was a charming way to enjoy one of London’s most refined pastimes.
It was on a snowy winter afternoon that the Milestone doorman, with his gold-banded top hat, cheerfully welcomed me in from the blustery sleet of Kensington Court to the warmth of the historic hotel lobby. There I was greeted by the friendly concierge, who lead me into the Park Lounge, an inviting, elegant parlor with windows overlooking the royal gardens. Feeling like a guest at Downton Abbey, I was seated at a quiet table near the crackling fireplace and was soon wrapped in the enveloping warmth of a proper English parlor.
The Park Lounge is charmingly decorated with muted sage green, cream, and cranberry fabrics, draperies, and wall coverings, and paneled with dark wood walls and trim. Mahogany bookshelves line the walls and leaded glass windows offer a view of the nearby Royal Park. The lovely space looks like a very posh British drawing room, with fresh roses, orchids, and red carnations in polished silver pots. (I was fortunate to visit during the holiday season, and was seated next to a fragrant, fresh Christmas tree decorated with gold and maroon ornaments and tiny white lights in keeping with the decor of the room.)
Traditional Tea Menu
The table was set with fine white china laced with gray and silver details, and I felt immersed in comfortable elegance, especially with a group of English ladies chatting nearby and the well-dressed staff standing at attention.
The tea menu was very traditional and I opted for the Champagne Afternoon Tea, which began with a crystal flute of sparkling Lanson Champagne. There were dozens of selections on the diverse tea menu, and the knowledgeable server suggested I start with Planters’ Breakfast. The silky tea paired deliciously with the hand-cut sandwiches and French pastries that were delivered to my table on a lovely tiered tray.
The signature round chicken salad sandwich dressed with crushed almonds was delicious, as were the selections made with tomato and cheddar, cucumber and watercress, and turkey with cranberry. For me, the stand out was the smoked Scottish salmon and cream cheese sandwich on delicious brown bread. Studded with nuts and seeds, the bread is made from the personal recipe of Beatrice Tollman, president and founder of the Red Carnation Hotel Collection, and author of A Life in Food, a cookbook that is her memoir. Personal touches such as this makes the Milestone tea extra-special.
Creative Sweet Treats
Next came a selection of plain and raison-studded scones served freshly baked and warm from the oven – with Devonshire clotted cream and strawberry preserves, of course. The round, biscuit-like scones were crunchy outside and tender inside. A plethora of sweet treats with a creative twist rounded out the offerings, including delicate pistachio macaron cookies decorated with silver and gold candy balls and stars.
In addition to the regular Afternoon Tea service, the Milestone also offers a Little Prince and Princess Afternoon Tea menu for guests aged 12 and under, with finger sandwiches, freshly-baked scones, desserts, and hot chocolate. With the Milestone Tea Academy option, guests can sample six single estate teas, “appropriately paired with a sweet treat along with an informative guide to the teas you have tasted.”
The Milestone Hotel and Residences truly caters to its guests’ individual needs, with gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, and alcohol-free options available. They are also generous with favorite treats and offer “free flowing top-ups” of your tea or coffee.
If you’re dreaming of enjoying an elegant afternoon respite while in London, the Milestone Hotel afternoon tea is an exceptional experience where you will, indeed, be treated like royalty.
Visit https://www.milestonehotel.com/food-and-drink/afternoon-tea for additional information and reservations.
Contributor Mary Noe is a freelance writer who offers a fresh approach on local happenings, keeping readers current on travel, community, and lifestyle trends.