Find a cup of festive cheer at the Hotel Café Royal

It can be found just off Piccadilly, possibly one of the busiest streets in the capital, but, inland Hotel Café Real, there is a quiet environment that gives a feeling of serenity, even though it is in the heart of the city. In the entrance hall, a fire is lit and clouds of festive flowers set the tone for an elegant scene unfolding.

At this time of year, there is only one place to head, and that is the white marble floor and the iconic grill room. It is a feast for the eyes as well as the appetite.

The jazz pianist is playing old standards from the 1940s, the low chairs are made of crimson leather and velvet, and candlelight flickers in the steamed-up mirrors. Above you, the resplendent ceiling is made of intricate rococo gilt and sumptuous period details – it’s almost too much to take in. With its gilded cornices, dancing cherubs on the oil-painted ceiling murals, and glittering disco lamps, dining here is like finding yourself. in an ornate jewelry box. It is simply exquisite.

Dating back to 1863, The Grill Room at the Hotel Café Royal is not only famous for its resplendent surroundings. It has long been home to the great and good – Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley sat here. Arthur Conan Doyle, HG Wells, George Bernard Shaw and Rudyard Kipling are just a few more names who frequently occupied tables in the luxurious room. Princess Diana, David Bowie and Mohammad Ali were also regulars. There is a story to tell for everyone.

Bursting with history through its walls, the Grill Room is perhaps just as famous for its afternoon tea, served in what is perhaps London’s most glamorous and intimate lounge. In addition to the secret alliances and whispered conversations that no doubt happened here, each year Hotel Café Royal puts a twist on its traditional Afternoon Tea offering with a uniquely festive version.

You can opt for a glass of bubbles to start, a heady mix while being served a small appetizer of pumpkin spice panna cotta. Then the best tea sandwiches are served. These are an upgraded take on the classics, with an egg sandwich taken to a higher “taste level” with decadent Clarence Court Burford brown eggs topped with truffle and mixed with Lincolnshire poacher cheese. Simple cucumber sandwiches are ‘lifted’ with star anise, mint cream cheese and clove-marinated cucumber. There’s also a hefty book of teas to choose from, whether it’s Earl Gray with orange spikes, a delicate Chinese green tea, or traditional English breakfast (all served in bone china teapots and cups).

Keeping with the tastes of the season, a pear and gingerbread sorbet is served, as a palette cleanser, followed by Christmas cake scones, which come with citrus marmalade, spiced vanilla and clotted cream.

If you have room left after that, then it’s time for pies, and not just any old sweet. Each of the four patisserie shops is shaped like seasonal icons: there’s a gift wrapped in a red bow (filled with tangerine mousse and mulled wine), an icy white bauble (bite into its crispy shell and your mouth fills with chestnuts and cassis and Pain de Genes) and a sparkling Christmas tree (filled with mincemeat and vanilla cream). There is also a chocolate log, made with hazelnut and almond praline, to transport you to winter scenes in the Alps.

As the pianist switches to soft Christmas classics: I’m dreaming of a white Christmas– and the service continues like a ballet around your table, it is as if you have stepped back into a bygone time. It’s a welcome break from the bustle of the modern world.

In addition to its 154 rooms and suites, plus five signature suites, the hotel is renowned for making its mark on London’s dining scene. Cakes & Bubbles, run by three-Michelin-starred chef Albert Adrià, is an all-day restaurant that, as the name suggests, focuses on desserts and pastries, along with an extensive champagne and sparkling wine list.

Brasserie Saint-Germain, meanwhile, offers a menu inspired by the historic Parisian neighborhood of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Both spaces have transporting power, but it’s The Grill Room and its afternoon tea offering that brings the wow factor – a gold star among London hotels.

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