20110428

Megsy- Number 45: High Tea at the Ritz

When I was a little girl, my grandmother would always serve afternoon tea. The dining table would be set (usually by one of my older cousins) with her best silverware and Royal Doulton crockery. The women in my family would take an age enjoying the freshly baked scones with jam and clotted cream as they chatted about people and events. It was the most civilised thing I had seen and I often wondered whether I would ever be old enough to join them at the table for such an occasion. I would at this point turn my attention to whatever I was drawing, as I could typically be found scribbling away on some paper in the adjoining room. 

About the same time, I remember being introduced to Lewis Carol's Alice In Wonderland. I imagined the Mad Hatter and his exquisite Tea Party, somewhere outdoors in England. I pictured little cupcakes with pastel icing and other petite desserts along with quirky teapots and little pinky fingers raised in the air whilst they drank from fine bone china cups.

But what inspired me the most to achieve item #45 was Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. I enjoyed this story on the whole (enough to join the hoards of fans to kiss his gravestone at Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris), but one aspect stayed with me more so than any other...cucumber sandwiches with the crusts removed. It was the most bizarre thing to me, the notion of cucumber slices (which I would often pick out of salads) on bread and that this was apparently a hallmark of the upper classes. I preferred my sandwiches to have cheese or Vegemite. But nonetheless I wanted to try them. It would not have been the same experience to have sampled them at home. If I was to sup on Lady Bracknell's preferred sandwich then it could only be at that quintessentially British institution...The Ritz.

Apparently I am not alone in thinking this. The reservation waiting list for a table on a weekend is 6 months long! It seemed silly at the time of making the appointment but I am pleased that I kept the date. Walking into The Ritz was one of those moments that I couldn't quite believe. Everything is meticulously ordered, opulent and somehow so very British. It was formal; dress codes are enforced (I saw one patron denied entry for not wearing a tie) but staff are exceedingly polite (the same attendant went on to name and give directions for several nearby tie outlets for the man in question to buy one so that he may return). 

My friends Carrie, Cindy and Pat (who celebrated her birthday that day) accompanied me to Palm Court for Afternoon Tea. Our table overlooked much of the room (we sat pretty much where the official photo was taken). Just like the women in my family we spoke about people and events, particularly Sebastian and the 100Things concept. Each of us had always wanted to come to The Ritz for Afternoon Tea and so in essence, we each ticked off one of our 100 Things. We ate a selection of sandwiches, scones and desserts, each presented on a three tiered silver stand by a very charismatic attendant. We drank a variety of tea and champagne whilst a pianist played in the background. The scones were the best I've ever tried (sorry Grandma!) and I wish Paul's would make banana macaroons. But for me, it was always ever going to be about the cucumber sandwiches. Somehow they tasted better than I would have thought...but I still prefer Vegemite!



 Oscar Wilde's grave, Paris



 Palm Court, The Ritz, London



 Eating cucumber sandwiches



Photo - #45 - High Tea at The Ritz achieved!


Ladies who lunch

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