Alexander Hamilton Afternoon Tea at The Lanesborough: Review
Tickets for the sell-out American musical Hamilton are like gold dust, so if you’ve scored any… congratulations! Why not celebrate with an afternoon tea? And if you can’t get them, perhaps the Hamilton-inspired afternoon tea at the Lanesborough is the next best thing.
The Lanesborough, now part of the Oetker Collection group of international luxury hotels, is the former home of Viscount Lanesborough. The distinctive white mansion sits quietly and elegantly on Hyde Park Corner, overlooking the park. Its location, between Mayfair, Knightsbridge and Park Lane, is one of the most prestigious in London. Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Sloane Street and Victoria Palace Theatre, where Hamilton is playing, are all within walking distance.
The multi-award-winning Broadway phenomenon recently opened to high acclaim in London. It charts the life of Alexander Hamilton, from his days as an orphan in the Caribbean in the 18th century, to his life as one of America’s founding fathers. The Lanesborough’s Alexander Hamilton afternoon tea is inspired by the characters, locations and events in the biographical story. It’s created by head pastry chef Gabriel Le Quang and served in the hotel’s only restaurant, the wonderfully ornate Michelin-starred Céleste.
As the Lanesborough is a prominent Regency landmark, it’s only fitting that the restaurant, tucked into the far end of the hotel lobby, is decorated in an opulent Regency style. The conservatory-esque room has a domed glass roof that brings in plenty of natural light, along with sparkling hanging chandeliers to create different moods. It’s spacious and split-level, boasting rich patterned carpets with powder blue walls, mirrors, bas-relief friezes, hand-cut marble, fluted columns and sumptuous furnishings.
There are three champagnes by the glass to choose from, plus a small but carefully selected range of teas. We chose fragrant Earl Grey, but there’s also Darjeeling, Assam and their own signature afternoon tea blend. The tea is poured from beautiful silver pots, and the china cups are refilled throughout the service. Our server began by asking whether we had any allergies or special dietary requirements (as these can be catered for).
First to arrive were regular and vegetarian finger sandwiches on separate plates – a nice touch, and one you don’t necessarily find in other hotels. There are five different classic flavours of each, including refreshing cucumber and mint, lightly spicy aubergine pâté, salmon and cream cheese and coronation chicken. Delicate and freshly cut, these crustless gems are made from a variety of breads.
The savoury course was followed by a dinky little shot glass of palate refresher: mandarin, mango and passion fruit granita – an appropriately tropical prelude of taste of things to come (the Caribbean is a significant location in the musical). When the large cake stand arrived, we decided to work our way up from the bottom. The Lanesborough’s scones are justly famous: the glossy plain and fruit varieties were substantial yet light, fresh and slightly warm. They came with little pots of velvety Devonshire clotted cream and own-made strawberry jam that wasn’t overly sweet.
A dainty lace cupcake was swaddled inside a pretty lace paper crown, topped with a swirl of Chantilly cream that looks like a jasmine flower. The light, moist, close-textured vanilla sponge was infused with mango, banana, passion fruit and lime confit. It pays homage to Alexander Hamilton’s Caribbean heritage, and reflects the lace detailing worn by the Schulyer sisters in the story.
Distinctively shaped blackberry cheesecake looked like a miniature designer handbag, its bright, shiny, purple shell and gold decoration inspired by Alexander Hamilton’s purple uniform with gold buttons. Inside was fluffy, light-as-candyfloss cheesecake mousse – yes, cheesecake mousse! – with tangy blackberry confit and crunchy biscuit base cutting through its sweetness. We loved the contrasting textures.
Grapefruit religieuse is similarly bold and beautiful. Religieuse is a type of round éclair, made by stacking two choux buns on top of one another, held together with a cream or ganache. Here, the pink choux bun with a pink bonnet decorated with craquelin (crackly topping) looked like the miniature overcoat of a fairy tale character. The light pastry was filled with pomelo and Chantilly creams. It’s inspired by the clothing worn by Angelica Schulyer, and the fruit found in the Caribbean. By now we’d had a lot of sweet things, so the sharp, slight bitterness of the citrus was refreshing.
The top of the tier held a pecan pie that was like the classic American pastry crossed with British banoffee pie. Light, biscuit-like pecan dough was lavished with vanilla caramel and topped with pecan Chantilly and caramelised bananas: two delicious desserts rolled into one. Traditional pecan pie can sometimes be dry and dense, but not here – bananas are a clever addition as they cut through the richness and pair so well with the nuts.
The final item was a chocolate star, representing the stars of the American flag and, perhaps, the star of the musical’s logo. Two thin, wafer-like shortbread biscuits with characteristic gritty texture were filled with Caraibes 66% Valrhona chocolate ganache, decorated with a gold star. Yes, it’s a celestial chocolate sandwich.
We were impressed by the sheer variety of pastries, doughs and biscuit bases used, making the dainty confections a lot of fun to admire and to eat. Service from friendly staff was seamless and attentive without being obtrusive. A pianist playing a classic playlist enhanced the mood – though we suggested that perhaps songs played from the musical would enhance the mood even further.
We think afternoon tea – rather than a too-early, hurriedly eaten pre-theatre meal, or a hasty post-theatre snack late at night – is the ideal start to a special evening at the theatre. You can relax and unwind, while time stands still for a few hours and the outside world melts away. If you have time afterwards, you can nip into the hotel’s famous Library Bar for a cocktail, before walking down to the Victoria Palace Theatre. The sandwiches and cakes, though light and little, are filling enough to see you through the next few hours. Truth be told, we greedily devoured every last morsel and didn’t need to eat again until the following day.
Céleste Restaurant at The Lanesborough, Hyde Park Corner, SW1X 7TA.
Alexander Hamilton Afternoon Tea is served Mon-Fri 2.30pm-4.30pm; Sat-Sun 3pm-4.30pm. It costs £39 per person; or £49/ £54/ £64 with a glass of champagne (depending on the choice of champagne).
JOL was invited to review Alexander Hamilton Afternoon Tea at The Lanesborough on a complimentary basis. We retain full editorial control.