We had booked afternoon tea at 11 Cadogan Gardens for the weekend after Valentines Day but I was too ill to make it: I had a cold and had lost my sense of hearing, smell, and taste; so we postponed it. 11 Cadogan Gardens were lovely and very understandable and were very happy to accept my cancellation and book in another time for another day.
Here is my review on our experience when we managed to make it. Situated in Chelsea and approximately 5 minutes walk from Sloan Square tube station it was easy to find with its large sign and Union Jack flag waving above the entrance. Inside the hotel it is a fantastic maze with rooms leading onto other rooms, but the staff are always near and helpful to direct you should you get lost.
Afternoon tea is served daily between 2.30pm to 5.30pm in the Drawing Room and we made sure to book the earliest possible time for Sunday as we knew we would be hungry for such a late lunch.
Lovely décor, comfortable seats, and soft lullaby-like music encouraging you to drift to sleep. It was raining on the day we went so it was lovely walking into a cosy little drawing room with a roaring fire and it was amazing that you didn’t need to speak loudly to hear each other over the other diners. Unlike most afternoon tea places I’ve visited 11 Cadogan Gardens does not cram as many tables and seats as possible and there is plenty of space to move around. Likewise, there is no need to play tetris with the tea pots and plates as the tables are large enough to accommodate all the courses.
For two people the food was able to fit on large plates that neatly stacked on top of each other in just one plate stand. The manoeuvrability of the plates meant you can rotate them like a lazy Susan to access the food you want – the first time I’ve experienced this in any afternoon tea place. The staff were friendly and kindly explained what each food on the menu was.
This consisted of the usual cucumber sandwich on white bread, leek mini tartlet, crayfish and avocado bun, sausage roll with an amazing sauce, and coronation chicken sandwich on white bread. The bread was the freshest bread I have ever eaten in any afternoon tea place I’ve been to, there was a delightful spring with each bite of the bread which I was not expecting. The leek mini tartlet was very mini but still warm, which was unexpected but much appreciated.
For the crayfish and avocado bun the little swirl of avocado at this point was more like guacamole, but I wasn’t complaining, as the crayfish was divine. There was a splodge of amazingness on the teeny tiny sausage roll, I don’t remember what it was but it really made the sausage roll. I think it was meant to be warm but by the time I got round to eating it was cold but the mysterious sauce more than made up for it. The coronation chicken sandwich didn’t taste any different than any other afternoon tea place but I think it was the bread that made it for me.
The middle tier was made up of a plain scone and a raisin Chelsea scone along with the usual clotted cream and strawberry jam; whilst the top tier consisted of passion fruit meringue, possibly lemon cheesecake, lime and juniper macaron, and some sort of chocolate cubed dessert. The savoury tier was so nice we were expecting a lot on the sweet tiers too. The scones were massive and I ended up taking one of them home, the clotted cream and strawberry jam were pretty standard – nothing special.
The passion fruit meringue looked like a fried egg, which I thought was a nice touch, and it was so refreshing and light – by far the best dessert. The cheesecake was ok, I believe it was meant to be lemon flavoured but it was so subtle I could barely taste any flavour. There was a cute chocolate topping on the cheesecake, which looked great, but overpowered the already subtle cheesecake filling.
I love macarons so I’m always happy when they’re on the dessert for afternoon tea, this one was very light and airy but didn’t have the gooey centre I usually expect. I think the macaron was supposed to be lime but again it was so subtle I couldn’t quite taste any lime. I thought the topping on the macaron was meant to be this light and fluffy chocolate buttercream, but it was surprisingly not light nor fluffy and flavoured in juniper, which I had never had before. The topping tasted fine but the texture was so not what I was expecting and it was quite jarring with the light and airy macaron that I didn’t end up finishing this part.
Finally, the chocolate cubed dessert: this looked amazing with a lovely chocolate ganache finish. I was expecting a brownie, but I’m still not quite sure what I ended up eating. There was some sort of base that was heavier and denser, and a lighter almost mousse-like mixture, topped with chocolate ganache all over. Again, not what I was expecting to bite into, the texture was nice and it wasn’t as sickly as other chocolate desserts but the denser base had a flavour that I couldn’t quite swallow.
Lovely space to eat in, with soft lighting and soft music, and not many other diners so just the right ambient and noise level for a relaxing decadent meal. The staff were more than lovely and attentive.
No choice of afternoon tea food, just choice of champagne or no champagne. The selection of tea isn’t vast but definitely has something for everyone, the only issue being the tiny tea pots so not much tea to be drunk. Savoury food was amazing, sweet food looked promising but missed the mark with the too subtle flavours and misleading textures. Good portion size though and I was pleasantly not overstuffed.
I would go again, but perhaps wait a little while for a change of the sweet menu. Verdict: 7/10.