The traffic in London was unbelievable. Honking horns, hand gestures and heat dominated our slow progress in the cab. Eventually, dressed to impress, we smoothed down creases as we unfolded ourselves from the car. Greeted by the doorman with a polite ‘Good afternoon’ we ascended the few steps and were ushered into a world of calm.
As soon as we set foot in the foyer of the Ritz, all the noise and chaos of London melted away. The plush carpets, high, elaborately decorated ceilings and courteous staff were just as I hoped they would be. (I suspect expectations are routinely met and indeed exceeded at the Ritz.)
My husband, in-laws and I were shown to an intimate little table at the side of the room (by and immaculately turned-out waiter) just perfect for people watching. The place was filled with ordinary people in their finest clothes, just like us, celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and any number of other special occasions. The salon where afternoon tea is served is a truly beautiful space, where natural light spills onto the sumptuously glazed cakes. There were of course many other items in the room, but it was the cakes that caught my attention. Being the only vegan in the group, it is all too rare an experience to be offered sweet treats anywhere when eating out, never mind somewhere as posh as this. After champagne was served, I was assured a selection of vegan sandwiches was on its way and indeed moments later they were presented with a flourish. My sandwiches, like those of my companions, seemed inexhaustible in their supply. A yummy hummus filling, tomato, veg and of course cucumber, were sandwiched between light, fluffy bread (with the crusts cut off, naturally.)
I was suitably impressed by the cakes too. There was a rich fruitcake, an iced sponge and a gloriously glazed wonder of chocolate with a melt-in-the-mouth interior. My two little vegan scones were cute, scrumptious and served with quite the most delicious preserve I’ve ever tasted. All this was to say nothing of the tea. Now I’m not a tea drinker as a rule (the very occasional cup of green tea is normally my limit) but this, blended especially for the Ritz, was something else. It needed no additions and I’m afraid it may have ruined all other tea for me, rendering them bitter and commonplace in comparison. Like wine waiters, the tea waiters would top up your cup when required, employing individual silver teapots, dinky tea strainers and tea strainer holders (which was a new one on me.)
All in all the experience was an incredibly pleasant one. I had e-mailed the dining manager via a handy link on their website a month before, requesting a vegan afternoon tea, and was told by return that it wouldn’t be a problem. Having read mixed reviews of the Ritz London ability to cater for vegans, I wanted to be sure everything would be right, because as any vegan knows, all too often we can be thoughtlessly sidelined. When we visited however, on 25th September 2014, everything went without a hitch. Highly recommended.