As soon as I got engaged, I knew instantly who I’d have as my best women, and I also knew that I wanted to ask them in person and make a celebration of it. If there’s one true perk of wedding planning it’s that it creates so many more opportunities to spend time with friends and family and makes endless celebrations totally acceptable.
The four friends who are helping me through the tricky terrain of wedding planning and will be with me on the day to keep me calm and tell me if my lipstick has smudged, are truly friends I’ve had for life. Three of us went to primary school together, four of us to high school together and all five of us spent our youth getting up to no good in the same haunts. We’ve remained solid through our Uni years, through those early career days and despite us now all living in different postcodes are still the same friends we were all those years ago. I’ve been bridesmaid for two of them already and set to be again this year for another, and for me there was no one else who I’d want with me on my own wedding day. Before I ventured up North to see my two Scottish dwelling besties to give them the news, I arranged a meet up with the rest of my southern crew to talk wedding ideas, the proposal story and of course best women duties. The idea of afternoon tea somewhere lovely seemed fitting and a little invitation to The Rosebery, inside the stunning Mandarin Oriental Hotel couldn’t have come at a better time.
Set in the middle of Knightsbridge, The Mandarin Oriental Hotel is everything you’d expect from a delux London abode – it’s grand, stylish and has the – take your breath away – wow factor. But, and here’s the thing that really sets it apart and made it in my opinion one of the best afternoon tea experiences I’ve had, it’s also incredibly welcoming, friendly and un-stuffy. I myself have been known to shy away from the more well known of London’s fine Hotels, worrying that I won’t quite live up to their expectations or don’t have an outfit suitable enough, but this was never a worry with The Rosebery. A quick email confirmed that there was no dress code and they welcomed everyone in a friendly and laid back fashion which couldn’t have been more true. The minute we arrived we were greeted by one of the hotel managers, who had taken the time to remember my name, why we were there (lots of congrats were given) and what was in store for the day. Our jackets, rucksacks and bags full of wedding paraphernalia were taken for us at no extra trouble and we were given a comfortable seat in the light room and with a view from the large bay windows to boot.
The Rosebery is just one of the dining areas within the Mandarin Oriental and plays host to breakfast and afternoon tea, before being transformed into a stylish champagne bar come evening. Its tall ceilings and contemporary decor make for a light, bright and inviting space, while the comfy sofas and abundance of fresh flowers keep it warm and cosy.
If I had to pick one thing that really stood out about an afternoon at The Rosebery (aside from the food of course which I’ll come to in a second) it would be the service. From the greeting we received, to the almost expert tea knowledge of our rather dapperly dressed waiter, to the unconditional, bend over backwards approach which ensured we couldn’t have possibly asked for anything more than what we were given. More tea? Oh go on then. Another bottle of champagne? Well we shan’t say no. Another round of sandwiches? Well we did skip breakfast. Veggie or gluten free options? Why thank you. A selection of sponge cakes to accompany the tray bakes? We couldn’t possibly fit anything more in, or could we?
We would step out to the bathroom only to find our napkins perfectly folded for us upon our return, before we even realised our teapots had run dry, we were being brought a re-fill and an offer of a different blend and those delicious bubbles just kept on coming, seeing us through three delightful courses and some. We truly felt like movie stars, and considering that a real life mega movie star was sitting at the table next to us (tis’ true I promise – we had to use all our might to remain non chalant and pretend such things happened to us everyday) the fact that our service (three giggling Scottish girls who perhaps got a little too excited over the fact that a tree held up our cake stand!) was so impeccable was even more commendable.
Aside from the celeb spotting of course, the main reason to visit The Rosebery’s afternoon tea above others is without a doubt because of the food. There’s often a certain formula that comes with an afternoon tea and it usually goes a little like – teeny tiny sandwiches that don’t really fill you up, followed by a single scone with jam and cream before leading on to a round of fancy eclairs and coloured macarons in strange flavour combos. Now while The Rosebery certainly stuck to the traditional set up (they are also currently offering a special Paddington Bear tea which sways more to the unconventional if you fancy something different) the offering was unlike any afternoon tea I’d had before. I only need to say ‘Portland crab and crayfish fondue on brioche’ or ‘Manjahri chocolate pave’, fresh orange, lemon verbena’ to convince you that this is no cucumber sandwich and pink macaron affair. Little sandwich parcels of cured ham, smoked salmon and slow roasted chicken were set alongside those tasty crab brioche’s and a multitude of different vegetarian options too.
The list of teas available was endless, catering to both the traditional types – breakfast, earl grey, darjeeling and even caffeine free roobios – as well as the adventurous – Nepal spring white, Bombay Chai and Pedro Pekoe. And don’t forget that true novelty of a tree being brought to your table so that your cake stand can be dangled above your head and reached by everyone on the table – genius.
Our scones were kept aside until we were ready to indulge, with our waiter telling us they were ‘best served warm’, something I wholeheartedly agree with. And not only did we try those warm scones with a dollop of strawberry jam and clotted cream, but also with homemade lemon curd and rose petal jelly.
After two rounds of sandwiches, two scones each, at least two pots of tea each and a good few glasses of fizz, we were almost all but defeated. But then came the cakes. Oh boy the cakes. From a green tea flavoured eclair to a passionfruit fondant sponge and creme brulee tart, it was the perfect sweet end to a delicious meal that most certainly filled us up and didn’t feature a single strange flavour combo.
Our oh so enjoyable afternoon was topped off with a celebration cake and a candle – a truly sweet and personal touch that made me love this place even more.
Dining at The Rosebery definitely isn’t an everyday occurrence, after all you might get sick of bumping into Spice Girls in the loos and sitting next to movie stars all the time (ahem), it’s a true treat for the eyes, the stomach and the soul and if you’re looking for somewhere a bit special to take friends, family or your other half that really says WOW then this is the place.
It might not be the most affordable of tea options in London, but by far holds itself against some of the finer establishments and boasts, in my opinion, a much better offering for a much better price. The food alone would have won me over, but I can’t help but love somewhere that compliments good food with great service and an inviting atmosphere. Besides who can resist crockery as pretty as this!
A huge thank you to the team for having us, spoiling us and generally putting up with us – we will certainly be back again!
The Rosebery at The Mandarin Hotel
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We were guests of The Rosebery and kindly treated to this afternoon tea for review purposes, but as always the opinions are honest and I wouldn’t gush if I didn’t truly mean it!