Afternoon Tea at the Houses of Parliament

Afternoon Tea at the Houses of Parliament

If you’re looking for a unique setting for afternoon tea in London, what better venue than the Houses of Parliament?

Ever since I’d heard you could partake in tea and cake in these hallowed halls, (well, just alongside them in a riverside room in the Houses of Commons), I’d been eager to visit, so I was very excited to finally take the family along on this special day out.

In order to have afternoon tea at the Houses of Parliament you also need to book on, and pay for a tour, so this was also a part of trip. However, with food always at the forefront of my mind, I decided we should start with the afternoon tea and take the tour after. This way, I thought, appetites would be sated, and we’d be free to take our time exploring once we’d eaten.

Getting into the houses of Parliament – be there early

Visiting the Houses of Parliament is a very disciplined affair; you’re advised to arrive 15 minutes early in order to make your way through security, which in the current climate is understandably tight. In an odd way this makes the whole experience more of an event: you know you’re visiting somewhere particularly important if you have to pass through airport-style security scanners and nod politely to members of armed police before you’ve even made it to the front doors.

A first glimpse of the Palace of Westminster

And once you do, you can’t help but be in awe of the building. You enter into Westminster Hall, the oldest building on the parliamentary estate, which dates back as far as the 11th century. Its size is impressive, so much so that I wasn’t surprised to hear that its beautiful hammer-beam roof is the largest medieval timber roof in Northern Europe (it’s 68 x 240 feet, fact fans!).

Perhaps it may have been better to take the tour first, as we had to wander along a large part of the route before breaking off towards the area restricted to tea-taking guests. But even though we’d caught some impressive glimpses of what the tour had to offer, it didn’t detract from our experience later, when we returned to the Hall and began our audio tour.

VIPs coming through!

But I transgress – back to the afternoon tea. Met by a finely dressed maître d’, we were guided past ‘Do not enter’ signs and down an elegant staircase carpeted in a rich red fabric and looked over by a giant painting clearly hundreds of years old. I have to admit you begin to feel like a bit of a VIP!

We travelled along a maze of old corridors before being directed through a set of double doors and into our final destination – the Terrace Pavilion.

afternoon tea at the houses of parliament | Ladies What Travel

The Terrace Pavilion

This long, heated marquee overlooks the river Thames, with panoramic glass doors that lead out onto the terrace proper. Sadly the British summertime gave us the usual drizzle, so we stayed inside, but even with grey skies, the view was impressive.

We were seated by a window and introduced to our waiter, a smartly dressed gentleman who always had a smile on his face. After leaving us to peruse our menus, we quickly turned our eyes to the embossed cutlery and crockery, oohing and ahhing over forks stamped with the crowned portcullis emblem (yes, little things excite me).

afternoon tea at the houses of parliament | Ladies What Travel

afternoon tea at the houses of parliament | Ladies What Travel

afternoon tea at the houses of parliament | Ladies What Travel

Limited choice

I did feel that the afternoon tea was in some ways sadly limited. For example, the choice of teas was quite small, with eight to choose from, made up of black, green and fruit options. In addition, as the food was pre-made there was no option to request alterations for those picky eater types (that’s me included). Unable to see the menu beforehand, I therefore had no idea what would be on offer until I arrived.

On the plus side however, gluten free and vegetarian options are available if booked ahead, and I liked that they offered a kids version, which looked pretty enticing to little folk!

afternoon tea at the houses of parliament | Ladies What Travel

Image credit – UK Parliament.

 The food

afternoon tea at the houses of parliament | Ladies What Travel

When the afternoon teas were brought to the table, the food was beautifully displayed on a stylish stand, with fruit scones wrapped up in a napkin and the millionaires shots brought out on their own wooden tray.

We delved straight into the sandwiches, which were made up of minted pickled cucumber and cream cheese on rye bread, salt beef with mustard and watercress in a brioche bun, salmon gravadlax with horseradish cream and lemon gel on rye bread, and grilled Cajun aubergine, vegan pesto and oven dried tomatoes on tomato bread.

All of these had good, strong flavours, although I have to say that pickled cucumber may not be to everyone’s taste. I liked that each had a different type of bread, so there was a great variety, but my personal favourites were the beef and pesto; although I have to admit they were a bit too big to be eaten elegantly!

afternoon tea at the houses of parliament | Ladies What Travel

I prefer plain scones so was disappointed that these weren’t on the menu, but after rather uncouthly picking out those dreaded raisins, the scones themselves were quite tasty.

It wasn’t long before we moved onto the final course, mainly because we were eager to try out the millionaires shots, which we’d all agreed to save until last. I particularly enjoyed the chocolate macarons, which had just the right balance of gooey and crunch and a real depth of flavour. I passed on the passion fruit, strawberry and pistachio tart, but was told by the others that it was fine, albeit very gooey.

afternoon tea at the houses of parliament | Ladies What Travel

afternoon tea at the houses of parliament | Ladies What Travel

Finally we’d arrived at the shots, and could enjoy the small glasses filled with salted caramel, crisp white chocolate, chocolate mousse, shortbread and chocolate thins. Before I began I thought they were tiny, but after just a few small spoonfuls I understood why. Delicious but amazingly rich, just a little is enough. The flavours were great and I loved the textures too. A sickly but wonderful end to our afternoon tea at the Houses of Parliament.

Afternoon tea at the Houses of Parliament

Afternoon tea is available in the Terrace Pavilion from Tuesday to Saturday, but availability is subject to change as parliamentary business requires. Weekday sittings are at 3.45pm, with two sittings during the weekend: 2pm and 3.45pm.

The cost of afternoon tea is £29 per adult and £14.50 for children 12 or under, but all visitors must also pay for either a guided or audio tour.

Regarding service, I found all of the servers were all smartly dressed, polite and kind, but I did feel the service was ‘ok’, rather than exceptional. Perhaps because of the setting I expected the staff to go above and beyond. For example, tea top ups were never offered, although when we asked they were happy enough to bring us more hot water.

However, when they did check on us they were always polite and friendly, more than happy to answer any of our questions and have a little laugh with us.

Overall, I would definitely recommend afternoon tea at the Houses of Parliament. The food is good rather than great, but it is the setting that takes it to a whole new level. Can you think of any other venue so rich with history? I know I can’t!

 

afternoon tea at the houses of parliament | Ladies What Travel

 


Our tours and afternoon teas at the Houses of Parliament were complimentary for the purposes of review but as ever, all views are my own.

 

MummyTravels
Wanderful Wednesday | Ladies What Travel
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Keri

By day Co-Editor Keri is a freelance journalist and copywriter, but spends most of her free time either travelling or planning her next trip!  A complete travel fanatic, she has a love of tropical climates, wildlife and afternoon tea (hence the creation of her Global Afternoon Tea Challenge!)

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44 Comments

  1. Ania
    September 18, 2017 / 7:26 pm

    I never knew you could have afternoon tea there – it looks ultra-posh but pretty good value for money! A really interesting place to visit too.

    • September 19, 2017 / 2:40 pm

      It was really interesting Ania. Actually thought the setting for food would be posher believe it or not, but still loved it.

  2. September 19, 2017 / 8:20 am

    I WANT TO DO THIS SO BADLY THE NEXT TIME I’M IN LONDON!!!! I’m a big tea fanatic that I even order in British tea!! #CityTripping

    • September 19, 2017 / 2:41 pm

      Aww bless you! Are you a PG Tips or Yorkshire Tea kinda lady? 😉

  3. September 19, 2017 / 8:53 am

    Well I had no idea that this was a thing! And so quintessentially English. It seems a rather formal affair, so I may leave it until I have a kids free weekend 😉 #citytripping

    • September 19, 2017 / 2:42 pm

      Oh no, kids are more than welcome and they do a funky, fun tea especially for them. You can also get family friendly audio tours with stories that’ll appeal more to kids… K

  4. September 19, 2017 / 11:23 am

    Well there we go, in 16 years of living in London I never knew you could have afternoon tea there!! Looks very elegant indeed #citytripping

    • September 19, 2017 / 2:43 pm

      Ha ha, I know they keep it quiet, right?! I only found out a few years ago myself.

  5. September 19, 2017 / 3:19 pm

    The food looks absolutely divine!! Looks like a great experience!

  6. September 19, 2017 / 4:03 pm

    Would love to do this when we’re next in London. Didn’t know you could have afternoon tea at the Houses of Parliament! #citytripping

    • September 20, 2017 / 11:53 am

      Cool, huh Nicky?! 😉

    • September 20, 2017 / 11:53 am

      Pair it with the guided tour and make a day of it! 😉

  7. September 20, 2017 / 1:22 am

    We went on the tour last year, and loved it… I regret that I didn’t sign up for the tea, but my boys don’t like fruit in their scones either, so maybe it’s for the best Still, everything looks so lovely and it would have been a perfect way to end our day! #citytripping

    • September 20, 2017 / 11:54 am

      Ah shame you missed out on the tea Hilary , it’s really worth it!

  8. September 20, 2017 / 11:33 am

    Wow, what a venue! I didn’t know you could have afternoon tea at the house of parliament! I’m such a bad Londoner, oops!

    • September 20, 2017 / 11:54 am

      You’re not alone Marcella, seems to be a big London secret! 😉

  9. September 20, 2017 / 1:49 pm

    I haven’t heard about High Tea at the House of Parliament! I’m pinning this for my next visit there. I’m always wanted to tour Parliament too 🙂 #citytripping

    Amanda @ Cupcake N Dreams

    • September 20, 2017 / 2:55 pm

      Hope you enjoy it as much as we did Amanda!

  10. September 21, 2017 / 3:58 pm

    I had no idea you could have afternoon tea at the Houses of Parliament! A tour is on my list as I haven’t managed to make time for it but I think this combination would be even better. Probably best without my picky eating sidekick… Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

    • September 22, 2017 / 2:40 pm

      Ha ha, don’t diss the picky eaters! 😉

  11. September 22, 2017 / 12:47 pm

    What a great place to have afternoon tea! It looks absolutely delicious too! #citytripping

    • September 22, 2017 / 2:41 pm

      It was – on both counts Megan! x

  12. September 23, 2017 / 5:48 am

    I didn’t know you could do this at the Houses of Parliament, and since I haven’t done a tour either, I think I have a new plan for the next time I am in London. Since I just showed my daughter the kids’ tea and she went ooooooooooh, I think we can say it will be a hit with her too. Excellent.

    • September 25, 2017 / 4:20 pm

      Oh excellent! Please do let me know what you both think of it after you’ve visited! 😀

  13. September 23, 2017 / 9:24 am

    I’ve never had a proper English afternoon tea experience so having one at the Houses of Parliament seems absolutely lovely! And the food does look delicious judging by the photos although I’d pass on the pickeled cucumber for sure!

    • September 25, 2017 / 4:20 pm

      Yeah I gave it a go Van, but very much not to my taste lol

  14. September 23, 2017 / 2:42 pm

    I am the same way. I prefer plain scones over the fruit ones. Sorry it was so limited. England made me a tea drinker for sure. Great post #FlyAwayFriday

    • September 25, 2017 / 4:21 pm

      Always loved a good cuppa lol!

  15. September 23, 2017 / 4:16 pm

    Wow, okay, guess I’m not the only one surprised that you can actually have tea in the Houses of Parliament!
    After all those delicious photos, now my tummy is rumbling!

    • September 25, 2017 / 4:22 pm

      It’s odd how they keep it quiet Sherrie, hopefully I’m spreading the word!

  16. September 23, 2017 / 7:37 pm

    Love this post! I have visited the Houses of Parliament before but never knew you could get afternoon tea there- will definitely have to sort this out for my next trip to the capital! #FlyAwayFriday

    • September 25, 2017 / 4:23 pm

      Excellent Sheree, hope you enjoy it!

  17. September 24, 2017 / 1:36 am

    Oh, my! This all looks so delicious. How marvellous it must have been (how very British indeed) to have tea time at the Houses of Parliament. Simply splendid!

    • September 25, 2017 / 4:23 pm

      Indeed British to the extreme! 😉

  18. September 24, 2017 / 8:19 am

    What an amazing opportunity!! It looks really amazing!
    #FlyAwayFriday

    • September 25, 2017 / 4:25 pm

      It was lovely Esther, it’s well worth a visit!

  19. September 29, 2017 / 2:49 pm

    I loved the tour this summer but didn’t realise you could have afternoon too – how cool! I do like the big stand presentation and the sandwich flavours sound yum.

    • September 30, 2017 / 11:01 am

      Yup, I do like strong flavours in my sarnies, so went down (mainly!) well! K

  20. October 4, 2017 / 4:46 pm

    Oh my goodness, this looks like such a darling experience that I MUST experience for myself! I love afternoon tea and this place makes it even more magical! Thanks for joining Fly Away Friday – hope to see you again this week! xo

    • October 5, 2017 / 5:24 pm

      Totally do it Kana, it’s a real unique experience – quintessentially British! 😀

  21. October 5, 2017 / 12:00 am

    This looks so good! I love afternoon tea and didn’t get to enjoy this one! An excuse to go back 🙂 Hope to see you at Fly Away Friday this week 🙂

    • October 5, 2017 / 5:25 pm

      Yup, always like a good excuse for afternoon tea! 😉

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