So last Tuesday I met up with on old friend whom I last saw in South Africa over forty years ago (!), and whose two sons (who both live and work in London) very kindly invited us to tea at the Ritz Hotel to celebrate the occasion.
I’ve had high tea before, often, when I’ve been in England, at places like The Pump Room in Bath and at Fortnum’s (to name but two of the snootier places), but never before at the Ritz. Even though I’d once stayed there a couple of days, that was a business trip and there was no time to enjoy the relaxing pleasure of sitting in the Tea Room and having elegant flunkies cater to one’s every need and whim, with no time pressure, no limit (the food and tea are, of course, bottomless) and to cap it all, a glass of their signature champagne.
“More tea, sir? A different tea this time? Of course, sir. And more scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, sir? Right away.”
I know, I know, it’s a bloated plutocrat way of living, but good grief, how I love it. The food is beyond description.
Best of all, though, is that the sheer majesty of the place puts everyone on their best behavior. All around us were people dressed well: jackets and ties for the men, elegant dresses and such for the ladies, no loud chatter or noise — just the murmur of voices, the clinking of silver flatware on china, and in the background, a piano player giving us a tour of the old standards.
And this wasn’t an English Rich White Person event, either; the Ritz has always catered to people from all nations, so it was like 57 varieties in there — but all dressed impeccably, all well-mannered, and all enjoying one of the great treats in life: tea at the Ritz. I have no idea how much it costs (it’s probably online somewhere) and one does have to make a reservation, such is its demand. Whatever, it’s all worth it once you’re there.
Anyone who goes to London and doesn’t do this, at least once, has done themselves a profound disservice.
And my deepest gratitude to Hamish and Andrew for the invitation. I will never forget it.