My family have a tradition of celebrating each other’s birthdays over a meal at a restaurant. It was my mum’s birthday recently and I wanted to do something different, but choosing a venue to suit all of the Gouldman clan was always going to be a challenge.
On an earlier visit to The Goring I had been impressed by the courteous staff, the air of calm efficiency and very quintessential Englishness of the hotel, and decided this was the place to bring my mum.
I’m delighted to say that, true to its reputation, The Goring was a big hit with everyone. From my sister, the self-confessed tea addict and guru, to my vegetarian, bohemian brother who enjoys nothing more than eating in silence - and preferably alone.
The Goring is the only hotel in London that is still owned and run by the family that built it. It was the first hotel in the world to provide central heating and a private bathroom for each bedroom.
Upon arriving at the charming 71-bedroom property, which is located in the very heart of London, one is transported to a bygone era.
A friendly butler wearing a morning suit greeted us before promptly showing us to our table on the Goring Terrace, overlooking the neatly trimmed private garden.
The airy room , the Terrace, was relaxing and cheery in predominantly yellow tones. From the sunshine yellow walls, to the bright yellow chairs and couches, yellow draped curtains and not forgetting the delicate yellow fine-china. Mum’s face lit up and I knew she was sold.
As we sat down, I noticed a guest reaching for their mobile phone. This resulted in a gentle reminder that this was a phone free, computer-free zone where guests are encouraged to ‘sit back, relax and unwind’.
Wow, I thought, what a treat! This was going to be a truly relaxing tea.
After eyeing the sumptuous afternoon tea menu, I explained that some of our party were vegetarian. Our courteous and friendly waiter couldn’t do enough to help.
The lobster and mango appetizer was promptly swapped for a tasty and refreshing non-alcoholic fruit cocktail.
Next came the most difficult decision of the day; which tea to select from their wide range of fine tea, which included green and white teas as well as hand-picked herbal and fruit teas – each of which is tasted weekly by the Goring’s very own designated ‘Tea Master’.
We chose The Goring Afternoon Blend, a blend of Assam and second flush Darjeeling and the Fortnum and Mason Royal Blend, first blended for Edward VII in 1903. This blend of Assam and Ceylon is characterised by a smooth and honey-like flavour.
No sooner had tea been served than a three-tiered silver stand laden with finger sandwiches, homemade scones and delectable, colourful pastries was placed on our table. Each delicacy was described by our waiter.
Meat sandwiches had been swapped for a vegetarian cauliflower and celeriac alternative. This unusual combination made for a delicious blend of flavour and texture.
As we made our way up the platter, we were offered ‘top ups’ on several occasions. Meanwhile our tea cups never seemed to be empty, with an attentive yet discreet waiter constantly on hand.
The fruit and plain scones were served with Devonshire clotted cream plus strawberry and raspberry Tiptree jam, in individual jars. The pastries included bite-sized battenburg cake, victoria sponge and chocolate éclairs. Everything was freshly made and delicious.
As everyone happily tucked in, I reflected on the 102-year history of the hotel, which has long been a favourite for the royal family.
Just last year, Kate Middleton famously stayed on her last night as a single lady. It has since been added to the London bus tour as tourists seek to get a glimpse of the property.
Queen Elizabeth used the Goring’s pastry chefs to bake Prince Charles’ christening cake. During her coronation the hotel was used as an annexe to its neighbouring Buckingham Palace, where foreign royalty could stay.
Going back a few years the hotel was frequented by Queen Mary, who would come to tea with her lady in Waiting, according to reports.
Despite its rich history, the hotel is in impeccable condition and it is clear that the owning family view their hotel as a ‘unique treasure.’
It recently underwent a £20 million renovation which included upgrades of the public areas – as well as the bedrooms.
After squeezing in one too many pastries, the waiter re-appeared with a tray laden with shot-glass trifles - what a way to polish of afternoon tea.
Despite the typical dreary London weather upon our arrival two hours earlier, as we left The Goring with lifted spirits, the clouds had cleared making way for yellow sunshine.
Afternoon tea at The Goring costs £35 per person. For more information visit www.thegoring.com.