Strùpag. Balacum. Cupan math teatha.
Gaels love tea. There are almost as many Gaelic words for tea as there are for love. We also have mad afternoon tea skills – though we don’t tend to give it such a fancy title. My grandfather was a crofter and almost every memory I have of my grandparents house involves him pottering outside, working on the land. He sported boilersuits long before the catwalks deemed them acceptable outerwear (his in iconic “standard blue”) and some fetching green wellies. And every day, between 3pm and 4pm, he was called in for his tea which was always accompanied with whatever my gran had baked that morning.
We celebrate with tea and mourn with tea and rouse ourselves in the morning with tea. Tea and the colour black – they never go out of fashion.
So when my dad got invited to accept his OBE at Buckingham Palace, there seemed to be only one way to celebrate.
We hopped in a black cab following the Investiture at the Palace and the One-Who-Thinks-He-Knows-Everything commanded we went back to our hotel in Bayswater. With some slight of hand and misdirection I managed to tell the taxi driver otherwise.
Everything about London is utterly magical. Each corner and building and monument is iconic. (If I had bottomless pockets I would move there in a heartbeat). But pulling up to The Ritz was special. These doors have opened for some of the world’s most famous historic figures, including Sir Winston Churchill, the Queen Mother and Judy Garland. There is such a sense of history and occasion about The Ritz. It seemed the perfect choice for our own little celebration.
Afternoon Tea is taken in the Palm Court – a space that is a triumph of art deco architecture. If Jay Gatsby himself had walked in and taken a seat, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. The Menu included various choices of tea and featured the usual protagonists of a feast of this kind; crustless finger sandwiches, scones with cream and jam and miniature treats and goodies. I had the Earl Grey which was delightfully fragrant and robust, but delicate enough to not require any milk. My brother’s Mint Infusion and parents’ Ritz Royal English seemed to have gone down a treat as well. But here’s the best bit: there were seconds. And thirds. And fourths. A top up of hot water for your tea? No, no. We’ll fetch you a fresh new pot. More of the egg sandwiches? How about another plate of each? And then the dessert tray was wheeled around with a further choice of two cakes. This is a place where dreams are realised. That is if, like me, your dreams are mostly about desserts.
The service we received was impeccable and the waiters treated us as if we were royalty. The pianist was a delight – particularly when he played “Celebration” and my dad was presented with his personally inscribed cake. The whole day was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Though it’s unlikely that I’ll be invited to Buckingham Palace again anytime soon, I look forward to returning to The Ritz again someday. Someone’s got to eat all those sandwiches!
Booking a table for a Celebration Tea can be done online but they fill up very quickly and often weeks in advance. Find out more about available packages here.
Our package includes a cake which can be inscribed with up to four words. This was organised prior to our arrival following some helpful correspondence from an employee at The Ritz, who was kind enough not to question what a strange name Coinneach is!