Glass raises a glass at the Gin Afternoon Tea at Conrad, London

THE growing variations of afternoon tea in London make it hard to differentiate between marketing gimmicks and genuinely brilliant experiences. When offering something so quintessentially British, it’s important to find that balance of new and old, as there’s nothing worse than something overshadowing the true beauty of something as simple as enjoying some tea and scones in the afternoon.

The Conrad London have mastered the art of afternoon tea for quite some time now. Their Broadway Afternoon Tea is themed around the address of the hotel (22-28 Broadway) along with celebrating some of the globe’s greatest Broadway musicals in dessert form. It’s familiar, bright, sweet and classic. 

I was interested to see how they incorporated the gin into the experience, as I feared it might not mesh well with the ritual of hot drinks and tasty treats. 

The tier stand of pastries, scones and sandwiches.

The Gin Afternoon Tea is located in the bright and spacious Emmeline’s Lounge, which is named after the British political activist Emmeline Pankhurst. As I made myself comfortable and waited for my guest to arrive, I noticed a couple of American tourists in the corner posing for a picture while clinking their teacups. I looked at their table and it occurred to me how theatrical the whole experience of afternoon tea is. The sweet and savoury treats sit, dressed up in the tier stand as they watch the tea being poured and the milk being swirled. The whole thing is an opportunity to enjoy decadence in all forms. 

I wondered how the gin was going to make its debut in our afternoon tea when our waiter came over and explained it all. He suggested that we first enjoy some tea with the savouries, before moving onto the gin with the cakes and scones. 

Selecting a tea is a difficult task at the Conrad London. If you are at all a tea lover, you’ll find yourself in a tricky dilemma with their selection of international tea. Lists of classic and heritage teas are available to order, along with a page of speciality teas which are only available at the Conrad London. One tea in particular caught my attention as it’s description mentioned that the leaves were aged using a similar process used in whiskey. Another came from Assam, the famous tea region of India. I opted for the lemon verbena tea to accompany the savoury nibbles and finger sandwiches which arrived shortly after the tea.

Finally, my table also acquired a tier stand and it was clear that afternoon tea was in full swing. As I enjoyed a selection of mini quiche, bruschetta and finger sandwiches, I wondered what the second half would bring. 

The Gin Afternoon Tea

As the tea and savouries are cleared, our waiter came over and explained the three gin cocktails we’d be having along with a friendly warning. “They’re quite strong,” he told us with a smile before placing three small delicate glasses down, each with their own garnish and colour. They looked beautiful and harmless. 

Alongside the gin was a selection of cakes, pastries and scones which are all created by the hotel’s executive pastry chef, Diana Sedlakova. Diana paired each of the desserts carefully with the gin to create an experience that gives the letters G&T an entirely new meaning. 

The gin comes from the City of London distillery, who make an award winning selection of gins which are inspired by the gin craze that happened in the 18th century.  As a self confessed gin fanatic, it was pleasant to see such an array of gin being used so creatively. 

Wasting no time, I took a large sip of the first gin cocktail which consisted of the Square Mile London Dry Gin and it immediately occurred to me why the waiter warned us. The gin was the most present ingredient in the glass as it was only lightly infused. If you were to judge by its yellow colour, you’d assume the glass held some sort of sugary component, but instead the drink is much more similar to a gin gimlet or martini than any other sort of cocktail. After this realisation, I knew to take smaller sips and enjoy the full botanical flavours of the gin.

The selection of gin cocktails

After finishing the first drink, I looked at the three little glasses in front of me in a different light. They look innocent, but in actual fact are meant for real gin drinkers. Each drink allows you to experience the different gin blends without the distraction of overpowering additions. 

Accompanied with the sweet and sour flavours of the cake and pastry, the flavours of the gin thrived alongside its British counterparts and the pairing of the two seemed unquestionable. 

If you want to experience the luxury of afternoon tea with the addition of alcohol, then the Gin Afternoon Tea at Conrad London is a seamless gateway into enjoying a great British traditional whilst sampling some of the best gin in the city.

by Katrina Mirpuri

Prices for Afternoon Tea start from £35 per person with the Gin Afternoon Tea Monday-Friday and from £39 at weekends. The Gin Afternoon Tea with a glass of Mumm Cordon Rouge Champagne or with three “G&Tea” cocktail tasters start from £45. Gin Afternoon Tea for two with a bottle of Mumm Cordon Rouge Champagne start from £100

Nightly rates at Conrad London St. James start from £317 on a room only basis. For reservations and more information please visit this link or call 020 3301 8080.