LONDON – At the InterContinental London Park Lane Hotel, you can be an Olympic queen for one afternoon. Or an Olympic king, for that matter.
Tea, anyone? And here’s your chocolate gold medal to go with it.
Afternoon royal tea, a British staple, and dishes inspired by Queen Elizabeth II are served in the Wellington Lounge at the swanky hotel. Pastry chef Luis Meza even caters to the Olympians staying at the hotel, creating chocolate gold medals to deliver to their hotel rooms.
The hotel is on the site of the queen’s childhood residence at 145 Piccadilly. The queen’s current residence at Buckingham Palace is nearby.
Royal tea in the Wellington allows visitors to sample a meal worthy of a queen, including Queen Elizabeth’s favorite drink – one strong but sweet gin and dubonnet cocktail. Other favorites of her majesty include a coffee mousse, walnut torte dessert and a raspberry Eton mess shortbread.
Chef Paul Bates drew inspiration when creating his menu from his friend Mark Flanagan, royal chef to the queen.
The menu designed by Bates and Meza features classic afternoon tea staples with a modern twist.
“It’s contemporary-classic,” Bates said. “We use the very best ingredients we can get as well.”
Bates’ modern creations include a Speyside smoked salmon sandwich, chicken and mango sandwich with a curry cilantro sauce and a shrimp and caviar sandwich. The ham, mustard and cheese sandwich and egg salad sandwich are more classic.
Afternoon tea normally consists of tea served in a teapot with milk and sugar as well as dainty tea sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam and pastries. Delicious and mouth-watering tea sandwiches are stacked on towering tiers and placed in the center of the table, while pastries are stacked on the top tier.
The art of the afternoon tea is a longstanding British tradition that has made its way across the ocean to become an American trend. Tea rooms such as the English Rose Tea Room in Carefree and Chantilly Tea Room in Tucson cater to Arizona residents, but British tea time has been around for centuries. At the Wellington Lounge, Queen Elizabeth enjoyed tea time at her one-time childhood home.
Bates does not mind other countries borrowing the afternoon tea tradition and admitted the British themselves stole the idea of afternoon tea from others.
“Tea in other countries is fashionable,” he said.
Olympians are not the first high-profile guests at the InterContinental Hotel.
“You can have head of states one week and rock stars the next,” Bates said.
The staff is still waiting for the royal family to make an appearance, although Prince Charles and Prince Harry have attended events at the hotel.
“Not yet!” Bates said, when asked if the Queen had been to tea.