Brown’s Hotel on Albemarle Street is how we imagined Bertram’s Hotel (the fictional setting for Agatha Christie’s 1965 detective novel, At Bertram’s Hotel) to be. Indeed, one could well imagine that novel’s sleuth, Miss Marple, sitting in a corner of The English Tea Room, shrewdly observing her fellow guests.
As such, Brown’s Hotel is probably the best place in London to host an Agatha Christie-themed afternoon tea. Its tea room, where Queen Victoria used to dine, dates back to the 19th century and is beautifully clad in original dark wood paneling, antique fireplaces and chandeliers. Shame about the bizarre contemporary art on the walls… completely out of place, we thought. Still, Brown’s is a cosy place to enjoy afternoon tea, and staff encourage guests to take their time – sandwich and cake refills are complimentary (a rarity nowadays), so the length of your stay depends on your appetite.
Sandwiches are good – the best is cheddar cheese, beef tomato and gooseberry chutney – and a little different; salt beef, gherkin and mustard comes in a bagel, and the potted smoked salmon and chives in a brown roll. Scones are served with clotted cream, homemade jam and honey (the latter was Miss Marple’s preference), and are all manner of sizes… we liked the rebellion against uniformity, especially seeing as they were baked so well.
The Agatha Christie theme picks up pace with the cakes – there’s a (dry, unfortunately) orange and poppy seed cake that makes an appearance in At Bertram’s Hotel; an excellent strong black coffee tiramisu as a reference to Miss Marple’s love of coffee; and delicate rosemary macarons with sugar clock faces on top – a play on Christie’s The Clocks, in which one of the clues was a travel clock with the name Rosemary printed on it. Quite a clever connection, but some of the links are a little tenuous – especially for diehard Christie fans. Her Nemesis novel becomes a gloriously fudgy ‘death by chocolate Nemesis with milk chantilly’, and there’s also ‘Miss Marple’s apple pie’ – great pastry, but we’re unaware of any connection between the lady and the pie.
The tea list is extensive, and our waiter was well acquainted with it. We asked for silver needle, and it was his idea to personalise our brew with a handful of whole rosebuds… a lovely blend, and one that even Hercule Poirot would have approved of.
Star of the show: the black coffee tiramisu – ask for one each!
Scone rating: 8/10
Perfect for: Agatha Christie fans, and those with big appetites (remember those free refills)
Price: Agatha Christie afternoon tea, £55; champagne Agatha Christie afternoon tea, £65; Rose champagne afternoon tea £67
By Charlotte Morgan
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