London: A nontraditional tea

High teas loom large in the fantasies of many tourists. How is it possible, I was wondering to myself earlier this month, that the only teas I’d enjoyed since moving to London in January were simple cream teas at various country pubs and inns? Most of these cream teas were notably lovely, with scones slathered in double or clotted cream the main event in each case.

But a blow-out high tea had evaded me.

I recently remedied the situation, though in a distinctly nontraditional way, by sampling the Gentlemen’s Afternoon Tea at the Sanctum Soho Hotel in London. Begun in late 2010, the Gentlemen’s Tea turns the typical high tea on its head. The starring item is the tray of three types of Jack Daniel’s whiskey, served with pewter tankards for sipping and a small ice bucket. The three types of whiskey, each of which I naturally felt compelled to sample, include the basic Jack, the flavorful Single Barrel, and the twice charcoal-mellowed Gentleman Jack.

There were other nice things on the menu, all vaguely masculine. There are starches and a lot of meat, with no raw vegetables in sight. Highlights include a fat poached oyster slathered in a sweet relish, seared steak on toasted sourdough, and a Yorkshire pudding stuffed with roast beef and horseradish. All are diminutive three-bite numbers save the gargantuan lamb and potato hotpot, which could do duty as a main course.

Tea (not an afterthought, really!) followed the parade of nibbles and liquor. And then came a cigar as the final “course.” A waitress asked if we’d like to be accompanied to the rooftop to enjoy our cigars.

The tagline of the tea is “The Ultimate Indulgence” and at £50 ($82.50) per person, it is certainly a self-indulgent little escapade.

Other nontraditional teas in London include the Mandeville Hotel’s Men’s and gluten-free afternoon teas, and TeaSmith‘s afternoon TeaSmithCeremony, which pairs teas with various pastries and chocolates.

The author was a guest of Sanctum Soho for the Gentlemen’s Afternoon Tea.

[Image: Flickr | cookbookman17]

Celebrate with high tea for seven pence (11 cents) at Langham hotels

On June 10, 1865, HRH the Prince of Wales (later, King Edward VII) cut the ribbon and officially opened The Langham, London.

To honor the 1865 opening, Langham Hotels is launching a value-lover’s dream: they’re bringing back the original price of afternoon tea to celebrate its 146th birthday on June 10, 2011.

For just seven pence (or US 11 cents), guests of all properties will be able to enjoy the Wonderland Tea, normally priced at £38 (US $62), a signature tea service that includes an array of sandwiches, scones with Devonshire cream, pastries and cakes. The chain has hotels throughout the world, including properties in Boston, Los Angeles, Australia, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and soon-to-open properties in Qatar, India and Thailand.

Of course, if you want to have tea where it all began, you should head to the London original, honored with the Top London Afternoon Tea Award from The Tea Guild in 2010. The hotel is regarded as being the birthplace of the afternoon tea tradition.

To obtain a reservation in London for this event, potential tea-goers must enter an online reservations lottery. Guests will be notified by June 3.