As you know I really love tea. And what’s better than tea? Afternoon tea! Where you get dainty sandwiches, fluffy scones with clotted cream, a selection of irresistible cakes, and of course an unlimited supply of tea.
My most recent afternoon tea experience was at The Randolf Hotel in Oxford.
Approaching The Randolf I notice a grand entrance with a flight of steps leading to the door. Wondering if there’s another side entrance (as is often the case) to allow me to access the building, I see a man carrying a ramp. The doorman/concierge, I’m not completely sure if this man was either or both roles, opened up and laid down the portable ramp. As it was a little on the steep side he offered to go behind me and support my chair as I mounted. Easy.
I actually have a ramp very similar to this myself. Too cumbersome to carry around on the off chance, I usually just take it places I know I’ll need to use it to access (relatives houses etc), and it’s something that many venues could easily offer to improve access to their venue.
Making my way through the spacious foyer and wide corridors I arrive at the tearoom. A comfortable, opulent looking lounge with high ceilings, enormous mirrors and a grand piano, it wouldn’t be out of place in an Agatha Christie murder mystery.
As I wheeled around I noticed that the floor was extremely creaky, it didn’t notice quite so much if you were walking, but in the quiet room everybody knew I was coming. I definitely wasn’t the guilty party of today’s murder mystery, the creaking would have given me away!
Tables and chairs were arranged quite closely in the tearoom, the chairs were also fairly large and luxurious (appeared very comfy), but when people were seated on them I had to ask them to move to enable me to get through. I felt a little embarrassed and rude interrupting their tea, but they were kind enough and didn’t seem to mind. I think on the whole people are a lot kinder than we are led to believe, you only hear people complaining about the bad ones, it’s not often the good ones get praised.
I could tell once I got seated that the table situation would be a mission for me. Even though my chair does lower a little it wasn’t enough, the tables being quite low with large central legs that spanned out at bottom I couldn’t get under, the table leg and my footplates collided. I struggled to get close enough to use the table effectively and ended up eating from my lap as I couldn’t reach.
Like I said the chairs looked really comfy, they were upholstered padded armchairs, however to suit the tables the chairs were also fairly low, they may be a struggle for some people to get up from.
Now for the important part….. food and drink!
A huge selection of loose leaf teas I decided to go for the breakfast decaf. I’ve been cutting down on caffeine for the past 18 months or so, and as I’m an avid tea drinker totting up to 8 cups in my average day, I feel loads better for reducing the caffeine.
Firstly some jugs of what look like hot water arrive, sniffing to confirm it was indeed water and all of us being puzzled at first, a memory strikes me. Being a professional of the afternoon tea and dining at posh hotels at least…. once, before in my life I remember that the water can be used to control the tea, as it comes in a pot you can add water to your cup to reach your required strength. I think!
Out came food, and there was plenty of it! Arranged majestically on elegant cake stands, there was one stand between two people. Now when you first think of afternoon teas you think sandwich, scone, cake, I could devour this easily within minutes. I know I’m a small eater but believe me there is much more to an afternoon tea than you’d imagine, with decedent sandwiches and rich cakes you find yourself feeling full pretty quickly.
This Randolf afternoon tea consisted of 5 different sandwich fillings per person (the smoked salmon being my favourite), 2 sweet scones with jam and clotted cream, and 5 varieties of cake/dessert each! Of course I had to try a bit of everything to have the full experience, vanilla berry panna cotta and custard profiteroles were the yummiest in my opinion! I must say though that the chocolate layer cake was not quite as tasty as it appeared.
Friendly waiters and helpful staff members added to the whole experience. There’s nothing like a miserable waiter to put a downer on your day! It makes such a difference to be surrounded by happy, friendly people. A smile is contagious.
We were seated by a large window with a stunning view of Oxfords superb Ashmolean museum. There were two large windows on our side of the room which on this sunny day cast a beautiful peaceful light.
Drinking way to much tea, before I left for a little window shopping I had to visit the ladies (accessible toilet) which was like a step into the future after my previous 2 hours. You can read about this particular accessible loo in more details here.
Waiting in the foyer for my friend to return from the loo I did some people watching (nothing entertains me more than watching people and eavesdropping!), when I overhear a gentleman by the reception checking in. As he approaches the lady on the desk he says ‘The names Davids’…. I feel as if I’m in a Bond movie!