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Putting on the Ritz | taking (afternoon) tea | top-tier treats

Sexy and glamorous. Red carpet ready. Did someone say 'rescue fantasy'?

Why afternoon tea might still be the best chill pill going

The Ritz London rolled into Sydney this week, ahead of a national roadshow, with a reminder of just how perfect afternoon tea can be. Flagging the iconic hotel’s 110th birthday celebrations – and a northern summer season of packages that incorporate Ascot, Wimbledon, Highclere Castle visits, and Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday celebrations – the esteemed Ritz (one of giants in the Leading Hotels of the World portfolio) hosted a rose-bedecked gathering of 40 editors, bloggers and fashionistas in the Northern Foyer of the Sydney Opera House.

ritz afternoon tea sydney opera house table overview

Sydney Opera House sets its sails for a Ritzy afternoon. Photo Mark Stanley/Stanley Images

Accompanied by a lively rendition of Putting on the Ritz (performed by the David Jones department store’s legendary pianist, Michael Hope) and against the dazzling backdrop of Sydney Harbour, The Ritz’s Executive Chef John Williams MBE introduced the quintenssentially English tiered finger food fest in which every morsel is perfection.

First the sandwiches: mandolin-fine cucumber (sprinkled with a little vinegar and salt), of course, then smoked salmon, egg mayonnaise with mustard and cress, cheese and chutney, smoked ham, creamed cheese and chopped chives – all luscious, and the bread leaf thin. Middle tier: strawberry jam and clotted cream for the freshly baked scones. Then, permission to sin at the summit: summer berry tarts, mille feuilles, macaroons and chocolate mousse balls.

And will you have Perrier-Jouet Champagne or Earl Grey tea with that?

You’ve got to love Williams’ way of marrying simplicity and luxury. When once asked by the Independent newspaper what his idea of the best comfort food was, he said “creamed potatoes with stew”. Adding of the mash: “The important thing is that you use the same amount of cream and butter as potatoes. It’s a luxury dish.”

Williams has cooked for a who’s who of diners, from most members of the Royal Family to Bill Clinton, Madonna and Rod Stewart. He loves cooking for the ever surprising Prince of Wales.

“He’s been in to The Ritz many times,” he told the Daily Mail Australia this week. “He has a fantastic palate, did you know? I once cooked something for him and he was able to break down the entire sauce and understand it structurally – naming the ingredients in the sauce exactly. Lots of chefs couldn’t do that!”

Helen Simpson’s little book, The Ritz London Book of Afternoon Tea: The Art & Pleasure of Taking Tea, informs us that the perfect afternoon tea has to be rose-tinted.

César Ritz, Simpson writes, always maintained that nothing put people more at ease than the blandishment of tactful lighting. As his widow described in her biography of her husband, “For weeks Ritz was absorbed in lighting problems. And for hours and hours at a time I would sit while he and an electrician tried the effects of various coloured shades on my complexion! A delicate apricot pink was found to be the most becoming.”

In the Ritz’s Edwardian sanctuary, the Palm Court, the idea was that people would look more beautiful than they do in real life.

And it’s also useful to know that if you are a sandwich wanting to be at your freshest and most becoming, you will have your hostess cover you with a clean cloth that has been wrung out in cold water until the big reveal.

From April, taking Traditional Afternoon Tea at the Ritz rises from £50 to £52 (A$96 to $A100).

Photos Susan Skelly and Mark Stanley


Editor. Writer. Traveller. Keeping tabs on all things fab. susan@excessallareas.com.au

'Putting on the Ritz | taking (afternoon) tea | top-tier treats' has 1 comment

  1. March 4, 2016 @ 7:33 pm Susan

    Although I had an absolutely delightful time having High Tea at Raffles in Singapore, I am yet to experience Tea at the Ritz. Hopefully I will be able to cross that off my bucket list soon.
    By the way welcome back. I’ve missed your blog.


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