Must London: The Drawing Rooms
English people drink tea. You may have never been here but you know that it is true. Or at least you know that it's stereotypical (trust me, it is also true). What to know how that happened? Catherine of Braganza. Catherine was the queen of Charles II, but before she was a queen she was a princess raised in Portugal where tea was readily available to her. She brought her beloved tea to the English royal court where it was accepted by the rich and powerful. A few years down the road, a bad coffee crop put a damper on the coffee houses and the whole nation was drinking tea. Now that you have Catherine of Braganza on your thank-you list, you need to add Anna Marie, the wife of the seventh Duke of Bedford, as well. In 1841 she made tea-drinking an event that included not only the hot beverage of Britain's choice, but also cakes, biscuits and sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Anna Marie was a girl after my own heart. She couldn't bear the six-hour gap between lunch and dinner, so she created afternoon tea. Sorry Taco Bell-- the fourth meal wasn't your idea. The perfect way to thank these two ladies would be to have Afternoon Tea while you are in London. London has all kinds of afternoon teas. The Orangery serves a very regal afternoon tea. The Lanesborough offers a luxurious afternoon tea. And BRGR.CO boasts an alternative afternoon tea. These are all good options, but if you are going to have one tea while you are in London, it must be at The Drawing Rooms. At The Drawing Rooms, classic meets quirky. Trendy meets traditional. It's every bit what you would expect with so many things you wouldn't. That's why I love it. And the scones are warm. I love them for that, too. They offer multiple versions of an afternoon tea. A classic tea and a vegetarian tea are always available. As the seasons and holidays come and go, so do their specialty afternoon teas. All teas are available with a glass of bubbly. A "cheeky afternoon tea," as my British friend calls it. A time or two "cheeky" I have chosen to be. Afternoon teas in general aren't light, which is a part of why they are so great. A selection of small sandwiches, scones and cakes could easily take the place of your lunch. The Drawing Rooms serve three tiers of treats along with your tea, none of which are worth leaving behind. So with too many afternoon teas around my belt area, I have recently been opting for a cream tea. That means I have a pot of tea and two scones with clotted cream; well, a cream tea plus a macaron from The Drawing Rooms' a la carte bakery items. They are just too good to turn down. I'm a sucker. You will find The Drawing Rooms on the ground floor of the Ampersand Hotel (extra info: this is also a killer place to stay on your visit). The atmosphere is statement-making: oversize prints and stripes on the walls and the couches, velvets in deep scarlet and a bright jewel tone known as "Kingfisher Blue" reside alongside bright white tables and cowhide. It could be overwhelming. It could be kitschy. It could be tacky. But it isn't. Somehow it's trendy but still very English-- fun with an air of refinery, I also suggest having afternoon teas in good company. Tea is all the better with conversation, laughter and just a touch of milk.