Putting on the Ritz

Putting On The Ritz
A personalized cake turns a Traditional Afternoon Tea into a Celebration Tea. Photography Courtesy of The Ritz Hotel, London.

Reservations made, guests pass by the Head Hall Porter Michael de Cozar. In keeping with the elegant surroundings, there is a dress code in the Palm Court of no sweats or sneakers; jacket and tie is required for gentlemen.

Ascending the shallow staircase into the ornate Louis XVI salon, one passes between two massive Italian blush marble neoclassical columns into a fantasyland of ultimate luxury. Facing the entrance is an immense fresh floral centerpiece that dominates the room.

There are multiple afternoon-tea versions from which to choose: Traditional Afternoon Tea, Celebration Tea, Champagne Celebration Tea, and Champagne Afternoon Tea. So what does it all mean? The classic Traditional Afternoon Tea offers a variety of crustless finger sandwiches, scones, preserves, Cornish clotted cream, and a colorful selection of delicate pastries and pretty cakes. Steaming silver teapots brimming with specialty teas are carefully chosen by tea master Giandomenico Scanu, who travels the world searching tea plantations for the best of the best. (There are 18 choices ranging from Ritz Royal English to Rose Congou and Chocolate Mint Rooibos.) Adding a flute of misty tickle-your-nose effervescent French Champagne to the Traditional Afternoon Tea turns the occasion into a Champagne Tea. Upping the ante with a personalized cake creates a Celebration Tea, and that reaches yet another level with an additional glass of fizzing champagne for the Champagne Celebration Tea.

It is a remarkable fact that in any given year, The Ritz kitchens will prepare and serve 12.7 million finger sandwiches—a marvelous variety that includes ham with grain mustard mayonnaise on sliced brioche; Cheddar cheese and chutney on tomato bread; and chicken breast with parsley, cream, dill, and chives on malt bread in an endless list of delicious options.