Known internationally for its historic cafes and decadent cakes I was very excited to check Budapest off my Global Afternoon Tea Challenge list. After some mouth-watering research into the best places for tea and scones in the city, I decided to go for afternoon tea at the Four Seasons Gresham Palace.
The Four Seasons Gresham Palace
Overlooking the Danube and Budapest’s iconic Chain Bridge, the Four Seasons Gresham Palace is just a short walk from the Hungarian Parliament Building, a gothic-revival masterpiece that epitomises the city’s beauty.
Now a stylish art nouveau hotel, the building was original built as a neo-classical palace back in 1827. Bought up and redesigned by the Gresham Life Assurance Company, it then became an insurance office and apartments for the senior members of staff, followed by a barracks during WWII.
Falling into disrepair over the years, it was bought by the Four Seasons chain back in 1998, which renovated the hotel, restoring it to its former palatial glory.
Opened in 2004, the hotel greets you with a beautiful wrought iron entrance that leads you into the beautiful lobby, the floor of which is made up of two million mosaic pieces. A massive, glass leaf chandelier is the centrepiece to the lobby, hanging down over the centre of the Peacock Passage, which was originally used as an entrance for the socialites who arrived by horse-drawn carriage.
Herend afternoon tea at the Four Seasons Gresham Palace
The Four Seasons Gresham Palace offers a special Herend Afternoon Tea – Herend being luxury hand-painted Hungarian porcelain.
Our table for four was already set when we arrived in the lobby lounge, so we quickly settled ourselves in and started to think about our first decision: which tea to have.
A great selection of loose-leaf teas are on offer, ranging from white and black teas through to Asian green, herbal and fruit teas. While the men both played it safe with a classic English Breakfast, I went for the White Blossom while my friend tried the house blend, which happened to be mildly flavoured with peach and pear. It was a winner!
The Herend Afternoon Tea is a set menu. Brought out all together, at the time I visited the sandwich bites were made up of smoked trout with apple and horseradish, Pick salami puff pastry with baby pickles and goat cheese tramezzini with tomato and cucumber. As a picky eater I wasn’t very keen on the trout option, so was very relieved to discover that when asked they are more than happy to personalise your tea and kindly left out the trout for me, replacing it with extra portions of the salami puff pasty. This made me very happy, as these were just mouthfuls of crumbly deliciousness.
Scones to die for
After enjoying the sandwiches it was time for me to move on to what became the highlight of my tea – the pumpkin scones. At first I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t any classic plain scones (I’m not a fruit fan!) but when my knife cut through the warm crust and slide through the tender, moist centre and that freshly baked smell hit my nose I was instantly won over. Within seconds I had slathered on some clotted cream and was devouring the scones, which may have been the best I have ever eaten. The mix of crunchy crust with that fresh, warm centre was just divine. So much so that (not really liking cranberries) I managed to barter with my fellow dinners – i.e. I pulled the big blue eyes trick on the beleaguered other half – and swapped my cranberry scone for his pumpkin, so I could enjoy this baking masterpiece all over again.
These scones were part of the ‘classic savouries’ tea selection, which also included blackcurrant macarons. Crisp in the right places, which then become goo, these super sweet sweets had a wonderfully strong, yet not overpowering blackcurrant flavour, making a change from the often flavourless macarons I’ve experienced at home.
For me personally, nothing could beat the amazingness of those pumpkin scones, but my fellow tea takers did enjoy the final dishes of the day; the Hungarian sweets. These were made up of a Hungarian walnut cake, a chestnut mouse with white chocolate cream, a five spice chocolate tart and, finally, a flodni – a jewish sweet pastry pie layered inside with poppy seeds, walnut and apple cream.
The spice flavours came out too strong in the cake for my palette although the others loved it, but the white chocolate cream made it up to me, even if it left me feeling slightly sickly (I shouldn’t have been such a glutton!). I left it there, but the others powered on for you, dear readers, so you could know that both the quirky flodni and the moist walnut cake were equally delicious ways to end the meal.
With the piano man playing us off as we left, Gresham Palace really did make me feel like royalty. The service was impeccable; the staff welcoming and overall ambience topping off an absolutely wonderful afternoon of tea and cake in a luxurious art nouveau setting.
I definitively recommend Four Seasons Gresham Palace for afternoon tea, and I can tell you the next time I’m in the city I’ll be heading back to have more of those delectable pumpkin scones!
Afternoon Tea at the Four Seasons Gresham Palace is available every day from 3-6pm. It costs 5,800 Florint (approximately £15) or for an extra 3,000 Florint (roughly £8) you can add a glass of Sauska Brut sparkling wine.