Last weekend I went to Bath, which is about an hour and a half west of London by train. I had a fabulous time there, about which I will write more later.
One of my first experiences there was to go for afternoon tea at The Royal Crescent Hotel. The setting is quite spectacular, with the Royal Crescent of buildings sitting atop Victoria Park.
The entrance to the hotel is in the middle of the crescent, just to the left of the bush, between the facade that has double columns instead of single columns. Once I entered, I was ushered through that building to another building in the back, where the lounges and dining areas are located.
When I arrived in the dining areas, I just stood there while various wait staff walked around, gossiped, did things on their computer screens, etc. Finally, I had to approach one and identify myself and mention that I was there for tea. The polite young man, said something like, "Oh yes, I've arranged for you to sit out here, but if you wish, I can seat you somewhere else."
"Out here" meant in an enclosed foyer, on a hard chair at a glass-topped table. Not my idea of a setting for posh afternoon tea, so I suggested that I would prefer sitting inside, in the lounge, to which he readily agreed. Soft chairs, tablecloths, carpets — much nicer.
The one positive standout from my visit to The Royal Crescent was that for some inexplicable reason, I decided to try Lapsang Souchong tea, which I really enjoyed. My description will not do it justice: it is peaty and smoky-flavoured. I refer to it as "The LaPhroaig of Teas." (I also like peaty, smoky Scotch Whisky). But that was the highlight.
Overall the service was intolerable. I was ignored much of the time, and when things were brought, I felt as if the wait staff was schlepping stuff in a diner rather than serving tea in a "tony hotel".
Furthermore, the sandwiches were dry and uninteresting. There were only four, each the size of my thumb, and I was not offered a refill.
The scones also were dry and cold. It was as if they had been made in the morning. Again, I was not offered a refill.
Finally, the desserts were just plain awful. Dry, unappetizing, and meagre.
I'm not even glad to have had the experience. I would avoid this place if you are looking for a nice, proper English afternoon tea.
Addendum: When the proprietress of the B&B where I was staying asked how I enjoyed the tea at the Royal Crescent Hotel, I pretty much told her what I have said here. She responded that she had heard similar things from others who, in general, thought that afternoon tea there wasn't all it was cracked up to be.