Drinking tea is a popular pastime in the Romanian capital of Bucharest, especially during the cold winters, and the city is scattered with charming teahouses – wonderful spots for people watching from the comfort of a warm café.
A local told me about this tea fascination before I visited the city, so I expected to be inundated with options for afternoon tea in Bucharest. However, I discovered that although you’re spoilt for choice if you’re looking for a cuppa and a slice of cake, finding somewhere that offers a full afternoon tea spread is a lot harder.
The Grand Hotel Continental
After some research I did manage to find a magnificent looking place that offered afternoon tea – the Grand Hotel Continental. Found along the bustling Victoriei Avenue, it was built back in 1886, when the city was known as ‘Little Paris’ thanks to its gorgeous architecture and bohemian outlook. This hotel takes you back to that glamorous era, via its classic furniture, gleaming white walls, tiled floors and crystal chandeliers.
The Victoria Club
Impressed with the hotel’s classical exterior and reception area, we made our way along a white marble hallway to the Victoria Club, where afternoon tea is served from 3-6pm. Although I was expecting a small restaurant-esque space, we discovered the Victoria Club is actually a lounge area, made up of low coffee tables and large leather chairs.
I have to say it’s a very strange setting for afternoon tea. I loved getting cosy in the leather chairs, but although music was playing, the Victoria Club’s wall-mounted TVs were also turned on, so our background soundtrack was lounge music mixed with Ice Road Truckers. Very odd! Also you can smoke throughout the Victoria Club, something that as a non-smoker I don’t enjoy anywhere, but even less so when I’m trying to have a meal.
Sadly our experience didn’t get off to a great start as we caught the attention of a surly looking waiter and explained we were booked in for afternoon tea. Unfortunately there was some confusion, which we later discovered was down to a technical issue with our booking, but after this was resolved we managed to squeeze a small smile out of him before he went to bring us our tea.
I think we’d arrived just as the poor man was about to go home for the day, so forgave him his slightly stressed demeanour (and the fact that he never did bring us the milk we asked for) but he did at least say goodbye before heading home for the evening. In contrast his successor was a very happy, friendly lady, which did allow us to feel a little more welcome.
Afternoon tea at the Grand Hotel Continental
We may have had a slightly mixed customer service experience, but the afternoon tea itself did impress us.
First we were brought out a selection of five organic Julius Meinl teas to choose from and as Justin chose a breakfast blend (my usual choice) I decided to go for something slightly different and picked the Rooibos Vanilla Cederberg Mountains.
Rather than just ordering your tea, here you pick from a choice of individually sealed teabags and then when your pot of hot water arrives you brew your tea to the strength you like. Once I’d decided it had reached the necessary shade of brown (like I knew what I was doing?!) I was really happy with my choice, finding that the vanilla complemented rather than overpowered the flavour of the tea.
There were no menus so we weren’t sure what to expect until we spotted some cards on the tables that advertised the afternoon tea and listed the sandwich fillings. So when our food arrived we were pretty impressed with what our platters.
Laid out on glass plates and beautifully decorated, I was loathe to disturb anything, but it didn’t take too long before my hunger got the best of me. Of all the offerings the sandwiches were the most impressive, deep filled with either salmon, cucumber and cream cheese, beef pastrami and emmental cheese or egg, tomato and salad. Impressive!
Next up were the fruit scones, which were fine but as I prefer plain I was slightly disappointed I didn’t get a choice. Still, after picking out the raisins I happily finished them off, and for sweet lovers there was also a light lemon cake and a tasty fruit tart.
Value for money
As afternoon teas go this was a lighter offering in the sense I didn’t leave as full as I usually do. However, this may have been because I’m a picky eater, so didn’t eat all of the sandwiches and cakes. For this reason I’d have liked to have had the option personalise my order, but for those that aren’t so awkward, you’re likely to leave with a both a full belly and a full purse. This is because, priced at 39 Lei (approximately £7), it’s really great value for money!
My customer experience may not have been perfect and eating in a smoking lounge is far from ideal, but even so, if you’re looking for a cheap and tasty afternoon tea with a touch of old school class, then perhaps you should check this place out for yourself!
Our afternoon tea at the Grand Hotel Continental was complimentary for the purpose of review, but all opinions are my own.