A few years ago our family decided to do something a little different for Christmas. We were so busy with holiday planning, shopping and shipping, we had no time for the one thing we loved most about the holidays. Being together.
That year, we decided to stop the traditional gift-giving and gave each other something more valuable, the gift of time. Our new tradition took many forms. A sisters’ leisurely lunch out. Tickets to the theater. An afternoon at trapeze school (really!). An elegant, Christmas afternoon tea.
This year, I extended that tradition to include friends. My travel buddy, Siobhan, was leaving London and wanted one last hurrah before she headed Down Under for good. I decided an afternoon tea at the Wellington Lounge was a perfect way to share a few laughs and start the holidays in style.
When I met Siobhan just outside the Intercontinental on Park Lane, the sidewalks were crowded with tourists and shoppers. It was a relief to dip through the front doors, swish past the sparkling Christmas decorations and into the Lounge. Instant Zen.
Vida, our fabulous hostess for the afternoon, showed us to a beautifully set table for two. Heavy white linens and silver-rimmed tea service. Two impossibly tall flutes of champagne. An excellent way to start an afternoon tea and toast the upcoming holidays.
Siobhan and I looked over the menu and asked Vida to walk us through the tea pairings.
We chose the Christmas Unwrapped menu, a culinary journey through Christmas memories: Turkey and stuffing at my mother’s house, making cranberry sauce with my daughters, the scent of cinnamon and apple pie wafting through the house on a dark winter’s afternoon.
Vida arrived with an artfully arranged, three-tiered tray filled with airy stilton and chestnut pastries and tiny honey roast vegetable pies. Smoked salmon rounds, pork stuffing rillettes wrapped with bacon and cranberry sauce, accompanied by a gorgeous, fragrant Darjeeling tea.
The turkey-sage stuffing rillettes did it for me. Home and Christmas, all piled onto a little round pastry. It made me a bit homesick, to be honest.
Siobhan and I tried to pace ourselves through the first course in anticipation of the scones. Spiced scones. With jam and Devonshire cream and something called orange liqueur curd, so delicious it started a (dignified) riot at our table.
We had a subtle spoon war over the curd and Siobhan announced she was ordering more to put in her bag.
Thankfully, she was distracted by Vida, who presented a beautiful cake stand and a glass gift box wrapped in a red taffeta ribbon. .
The gift box was magnificent, a Christmas holiday in miniature. Tiny Christmas trees sat on the top (clearly meant to be eaten first) and plum pudding mousse, traditional Christmas cakes and spiced apple pies tucked beneath the glass.
It was a masterpiece. Siobhan and I sat for a few minutes and wondered if we should undo the ribbon and eat the beautiful sweets or Instagram them every angle. We did both.
We finished the last few crumbs of Christmas cake and stared out the window into the fading afternoon. It won’t be long until Siobhan boards a plane and returns to her family for the holidays. I’ll put up the tree and string the lights this weekend with mine. Oxford Street will fill with eager shoppers, and online retailers will bombard you with Black Friday messages.
The loveliest way to keep the magic alive during the holiday season is to make and keep memories with the ones you love. Give them the gift of your time, perhaps at the lovely Christmas Unwrapped tea at the Wellington Lounge.
Things to Know
The Christmas Unwrapped tea is served until 3 January 2016. Please call ahead to discuss particular dietary requirements. Booking information here.
Wellington Lounge at InterContinental London Park Lane, One Hamilton Place, Park Lane, London, W1J 7QY +44 (0)20 7409 3131 / +44 (0)20 7318 8509 | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Wellington Lounge and the Intercontinental Park Lane are located adjacent to Hyde Park, convenient to the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland and Oxford and Bond Street Shopping areas.
***Siobhan and I were guests of InterContinental London Park Lane. As always, the views expressed in this post are my own. My opinions cannot be bought or exchanged for cake, tea or champagne. I may or may not be swayed by an occasional gin martini. Siobhan’s opinions are another matter entirely, bless her. ***
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