The very best afternoon tea in London

We have just been to afternoon tea at Claridges. And we are, apparently, never going to have afternoon tea again.

That’s not because it was an awful experience. In fact precisely the opposite. It was excellent.

Just because I checked out the various purveyors of tea and sandwiches before we went. And chose the best one. My other half has decided that it would now be a let down to settle for anything less than the best. So what I really meant to say was; we are never going anywhere ELSE for afternoon tea.

If you do decide to choose Claridges, there are a couple of things we would have liked to have known before we went.

How long does it last?

A leisurely afternoon tea at Claridges normally lasts about two hours. But you can stay as long as you like. The service was attentive but not intrusive without even the slightest hint that the table was needed for other guests.

Indeed we were told a story about two little old ladies who arrived for the first sitting of afternoon tea at 2:30 pm. They were eventually waved off on their way home at 1:30 am the next morning by the night staff. They had, apparently, spent the whole time chatting. Which is precisely what afternoon tea is all about.

What if I don’t like what is on offer?

The whole ethos of the Claridges afternoon tea is that you should be able to eat and drink the things you like.

Substitutions are not a problem. If you enjoy a particular type of sandwich, it’s perfectly OK to order a whole plate. If you have a dietary preference, the chefs will ensure that you leave happy and satisfied.

The ‘standard’ selection was excellent, although the substitution for my egg sandwich was even better.

Can you do an Oliver Twist and ask for more?

Of course you can. But please be careful. Don’t overindulge on the sandwiches. It is definitely a good idea to leave room for the scones and pastries.

The light and freshly baked scones are particularly worth saving space for!

What if I don’t like tea?

The short answer is that there are other drinks you can order, notably a specially blended Claridges coffee.

The slightly longer answer is that you may well find a tea or infusion to your taste from the large variety on offer. Claridges have a selection of 23 different teas and infusions. These range from light, white teas to heavier, black teas, green teas and a range of herbal infusions.

Fortunately the waiters are very knowledgeable and will help you pick an appropriate selection.

And if you don’t like a particular tea, you can always try another.


Low cost, long haul flights

I really don’t mind Easyjet

Or Ryanair, or German Wings or any of a host of other no frills airlines. With the one very important caveat that the journey lasts no more than, at most, 2 hours. And a one and a half hour limit would be even better.

The flight, in all these short haul situations, is simply a commodity. You literally pay your money and you take your chance. As long as you are careful when you book and when you show up for the flight, you won’t fall foul of any of the small print.

I’m not so sure about the budget long haul carriers. I’m writing this piece on a WOW Air flight from Reykjavik to New York. The same caveats apply to long haul no frills carriers as short haul. WOW Air have a veritable string of extras from cabin bags to water but as long as you know what you are getting into, there will be no problems.

Take cabin bags for instance. WOW let’s you bring one personal item on board included in the price. I won’t use the word free in this context, as we all know that what you get is included in the price you pay. It’s that pesky free lunch again.

The bag must be no bigger, in inches, than 17 x 13 x 10. That’s the size of a fairly big backpack. We brought two. One is in the overhead bin and one under the seat in front. However the cabin crew police the under the seat in front rule quite severely. Luckily my bag looks quite big and hefty. Well, small enough to get past the carry on rules but big enough to look like it should stay in the overhead bin.

All the other, usual suspects, the coats, the shopping bags, smaller backpacks and other such flotsam and jetsam have been given back to their owners for under seat stowage.

None of which should be a problem as the rules are quite clear if you bother to read them. Something the upstanding citizen in the seat across the aisle clearly couldn’t be bothered with as he puts his back up as soon as the crew members are looking the other way.

The biggest problem with this flight is that I am bored. It wouldn’t be so bad if I was able to sleep but I’m a tall guy and the seats are just not made in my size.

But what a pathetic excuse. Am I really saying that I would have been happier paying more for an airline that lulled me to sleep with movies and punctuated my misery with food? Because, let’s be fair here, that’s about the only difference.

And the flight crew seem just as bored as I am. With very few takers for the food and drink, they don’t have much to do.

There’s not really much to choose between carriers in terms of space when we are talking coach. Maybe next time I’ll book further ahead and add on some legroom.

Maybe next time I’ll plan a bit better and choose a book that makes me want to keep reading. Or download some entertainment for my tablet because the row of seats I am sitting in has a very generous four USB power ports between the three of us. It’s those six Ps. Proper preparation prevents…


Since writing this piece, we have had the pleasure of travelling with another of the ‘low cost’ long haul carriers. We managed to pick up a flight back from New York to London with Norwegian. It was booked relatively last minute, but still came out at a bargain price with just two weeks to go.

Please note, however, that the word ‘pleasure’ in the last paragraph was not meant sarcastically. The flight was a real pleasure. Checkin was civilised. The plane was new, the seats were comfortable and the seat back entertainment system was enormous. We will be back.