Start the Christmas season off with a bang by enjoying a festive afternoon tea at JW Marriott Grosvenor House. Until January 1st visitors can enjoy an exquisite Nutcracker Afternoon Tea themed around the classic winter ballet.
As regular readers will know, I love a good themed afternoon tea – the most recent being a rock n roll themed afternoon tea at The Gore – but until now I’d never had a Christmas one. This all changed at the start of December, when I headed to JW Marriott Grosvenor House for the very first time to experience their Nutcracker afternoon tea.
Created in partnership with the the Birmingham Royal Ballet – to tie in with its performances of the Nutcracker at the Royal Albert Hall this December – the festive Nutcracker afternoon tea comprises of three acts inspired by the the ballet.
It didn’t take long for me to know my afternoon at Grosvenor House was going to be something special – from the moment the doorman welcomed me the service was exceptional. To be fair throughout our 2+ hour stay the service was ‘another level’, more on par with the luxury hotels I’ve visited in Asia than any recent afternoon jaunts in the UK.
Afternoon tea is held in Grosvenor House’s Park Room, which was delightfully decorated for the festive season. A giant nutcracker greeted visitors at the main entrance, which was also decked in Christmas baubles and pine wreaths. The room’s beautiful central display had cute model nutcrackers of its own and festive table decorations, similar to the ones on our table.
Rare and classic teas
After sitting down with the menu for a short while we were asked what tea we’d like – I’m glad we had some time to decide as the choice was vast. Signature teas included Ceylon, Early Grey and Darjeeling, but there was also a selection of herbal and fruit teas. In addition, for a small premium guests can choose from Grosvenor House’s rare and exclusive tea selection. This included some new discoveries for me, such as Dong Ding; grown on a towering taiwanese mountain and Oriental Beauty; supposedly one of the world’s most prized loose leaf blends.
In the end we decided to stick with two of our faves, English Breakfast and white Silver Needle. Justin loves a proper British Brew, while I went for the white tea as I was looking for a nice light flavour to enjoy as our visit was rather late in the day.
Start with sparkles and sweets
We were also asked whether we’d like a glass of bubbly with our afternoon tea, and well, it would have been rude to say no! There are three choices; Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut, Perrier-Jouët Blason Rosé and Nyetimber Cuvée Chérie. We tried the two former, and found both to be deliciously crisp and sweet.
Once the drinks were ordered our server, the lovely Georgina, checked if we had any special dietary requests. I loved how amiable they were to special requests, because although I didn’t have any massive issues with the menu I’m not a fan of mustard or horseradish sauces, so I asked if it was possible for some of my sandwiches to be served without these. Straight away I was told that was no problem at all and that the chef always makes up some of each sandwich a little differently as they expect such requests from their guests. This was a first for me, and I loved such thoughtful thinking ahead.
The main event – a festive afternoon tea!
The afternoon tea event, which is how it should be known here, started with a surprise amuse bouche. This was a cute glass filled with a sweet berry smoothy topped off with candy floss. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had the stuff, and I actually got a little excited – like a kid at Christmas.
After we’d got over that little surprise Georgina brought us out the Nutcracker afternoon tea on a three tiered tray. We were served one of each sandwich between us, two scones each a one of each of the pastries. I thought that just ‘one of each’ was a little strange, until I discovered that Georgina would regularly come back to check in on us and refill our plates with whatever we wanted. Epic.
And so we cut each of the sandwiches in half and tried them all out. The selection was made up of cucumber and garden mint butter, smoked Oakham chicken, tarragon and creme fraiche, North Atlantic cold water prawns with Marie Rose sauce, Roast Aberdeen Angus beef (mine were without the creamed horseradish) and honey roast Yorkshire ham (again mine were without the Coleman’s English mustard.
My personal favourites were the meaty sarnies – they each had delicious, strong flavours and weren’t sparing on the fillings. I particularly loved the smokey chicken – very more-ish – and the beef. This was perfectly pink and tender enough that the knife slid through it – what more could you ask for!
At this point I discovered – as well as the refillables I already mentioned, you’re also invited to have some open sandwiches – these were foreman smoked Scottish Salmon with cream cheese and Burford Brown Clarence Court quail egg, with mayonnaise and chive. Chilled, fresh and delicious, the highlight for me was the smoked salmon, which was jam-packed with flavour. We were honestly wondering by this stage if we’re make it through the rest of the meal!
Buttermilk scones and oh so many tasty jams
I refrained from eating all the beef sandwiches Georgina had returned with simply to make sure I had room for the next two ‘acts’ – the scones and the pastries. The buttermilk scones (which come on plain and raisin – but I went for a wholly plain selection) came with a tray overflowing with high quality fresh jams, and of course, some Devonshire clotted cream. We had to choose from strawberry, rose petal rhubarb and ginger, gooseberry, raspberry and blackcurrant. The latter two were mouthwatering but for me, the icing on the cake with the gentle sweetness of the rose petal. Don’t miss it!
The scones were perfectly baked – not dense but lightly crumbly, but again I stopped myself from pigging out on them to ensure I could at least taste each of the pretty pastries on offer.
Pastries themed around The Nutcracker
Each pastry was designed around a character from the Nutcracker. The Danish Shepherdess was a mandarin and almond sponge with redcurrant topping, the Sugar Plum Fairy was a plum cheesecake with raspberry gel. The angels were a William pear cream in white chocolate, the Spanish dancers and the Arabian a honey chocolate mouse and finally, the Nutcracker himself was a hazelnut chocolate and Devon Cream tart.
The fruit-based treats had very light delicate flavours, and the mandarin sponge was moist and soft. But for me, it was the chocolate dishes that came out top. The crisp tart paired perfectly with the fluffy chocolate filling, while the intense rich flavour of the chocolate mousse was amazing – as was the fresh honey surprise at its centre.
At this point we thought we’d made it to the end of the epic event, but oh no, dear reader, there was more to come. Once you’ve had your (re)fill of all the offerings presented so far, you’re then invited to try some of the fresh cakes on offer on the main display. Unfortunately we were just too full to appreciate them at that point, but Georgina wanted to ensure we had the chance to try them, so boxed up a slice of each for us to take home. So, a little later, we happily munched on a pretty piece of Christmas cake, and perfectly baked Victoria sponge and moist lemon cake. So much good food!
What we thought of the Nutcracker afternoon tea at JW Marriott Grosvenor House
Without a doubt this is one of the best afternoon tea experiences I’ve had in a long time. Every aspect of our visit was exceptional – the setting, the service and the food itself.
I thought it was brilliant that not just the tea but also the food was refillable and although the afternoon tea is one of the more expensive I’ve seen in London, you do get your money’s worth (if you’re belly’s big enough that is!)
If you’re thinking of doing something special with the family over the Christmas period this is something I’d highly recommend. The Park Room was busier than most afternoon tea venues I visit, and I loved that although the hotel is high end, there was a real feeling of inclusivity, welcomeness and relaxation, especially for families and children as I saw a lot of kids at tables enjoying the Nutcracker afternoon tea with their parents and grandparents. It’s also worth noting that Grosvenor House also offers a children’s afternoon tea so they can really get into the spirit of this special event. Oh, and there’s also a vegan option of the nutcracker tea available too.
The icing on the cake though, was the sweet little touch of the nutcracker who decorates the top of your afternoon tea. He’s actually a Christmas decoration and you’re given this to take home and put on the tree to remember your special day out. How lovely is that?!
A festive afternoon tea in London
So, as you can tell, I highly recommend the Nutcracker afternoon tea. If you’re looking for a special Christmas afternoon tea in London, this is the one to visit. I’m excited to see what they might have in store for 2020 – how could it possibly compare?!
The Nutcracker afternoon tea at the JW Marriott Grosvenor House costs from £55.50 per person – with a tea from the rare and exclusive selection the cost is £57.50. Champagne Afternoon Tea with a glass of Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut or Nyetimber Cuvee Chérie costs £65.50, and with a glass of Perrier-Jouët Blason Rosé the cost is £67.50.