Reviewed by Emma Rogers
Christmas is synonymous with family gatherings, maybe church going, eating out and celebrating the most festive time of the year. Westminster Abbey have incorporated all of these Christmas elements in a new Christmas afternoon tea at their Cellarium Cafe and Terrace, right inside the Abbey.
This is the first year that they have made a specific one for Christmas, although they do have afternoon tea all year round. The specially created, Christmas themed courses are typical afternoon tea, with sandwiches (Norfolk turkey coronation, cucumber and capers, smoked salmon and celeriac and a Brussel sprout and onion mini-tartlette) followed by scones (with cranberries and sultanas, topped off with cranberry conserve) and four exquisite cakes (gingerbread star, mince pie, orange tartlet and iced Christmas cake). There’s a choice of all the usual teas, which is an unlimited amount, and for £3.50 extra, there’s a glass of prosecco included too.
Upon entering the cafe, there are two floors for guests, as we were taken to the top floor, where there’s a glass roof and entrance to the terrace. The views over the abbey are spectacular, especially on cold, clear days when you can see the towers against light blue skies. Sitting at our table, the cake stand is carefully decorated with Christmas decorations and the waiter brought out the selection of plates. They cater for dietary requirements too, just as long as you give them enough notice. The cakes and sandwiches on offer aren’t unlimited, but we found that we couldn’t eat all of them anyway, so we were given a box to take them home!
The sandwiches are a nice twist on the usual theme. Instead of just cucumber, the addition of capers makes them far more interesting, and instead of coronation chicken, the turkey turns it into something more festive. The sandwiches, scones, cakes and even the Brussel sprout and stilton tartlet are all made in-house, and it shows because they’re all so fresh and have that homemade texture. I especially liked the scones, which would have been perfectly acceptable as just sultana scones, but to add the cranberries, and then the cranberry homemade conserve, made them feel extra special. The cakes are also handmade and again, have that slight Christmas twist. The gooey orange tartlet has a clementine confit, but I think my favourite is the crumble-topped mini mince pie, which is filled with just the right amount of mince and some very delicate pastry.
Someone has really thought out and planned the Christmas afternoon tea menu and it shows. You won’t find a nicer afternoon tea in any of the London hotels, especially for the excellent price of £21.50 (£25 including prosecco) and there’s no hurry to move you along in a time frame, plus, you get to view the Abbey from the outside but in the warmth of a lovely cafe with as many cups of tea as you can drink!
Westminster Abbey, Dean’s Yard, London, SW1P 3PA | 020 7222 0516