The last few weeks have gone by in a blur of wood dust, sand paper, and those bloody little Ikea tools that everyone seems to have five thousand of. Not only that, but I’ve been wearing the same clothes for about two months – the first month because I wasn’t living in my own apartment, and the second month because I didn’t have a wardrobe. And then finally, last weekend, after a 24-hour Ikea marathon, the wardrobe was finished and I could actually hang a dress to wear. The timing was significant, because on Sunday I’d been invited for afternoon tea in Amsterdam’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel. It was time – at long last – to get classy again. Even if only for a couple of hours.
But before we get into the food, let’s talk tea. Unlike 99% of people born in Britain, I am not a tea drinker. I like the smell of some varieties, but the flavour invariably boils down to dishwater for me. Give me a coffee any day. The Waldorf’s “China Supreme Rose” tea, however, was miraculous. Admittedly, it still started off tasting a bit dishwatery to a tea-phobe like me. But when I began to eat the savoury elements of the afternoon tea, it turned spicy. I could’ve sworn the waiter switched it to something with cardamom. Then, as I worked my way over to the sweet side of the dishes, the tea became floral. I even asked the restaurant manager if it was all the same tea. It was – and I ended up drinking about six cups of the stuff. That’s some magic tea right there.
I won’t go into detail about all the dishes we ate – you’ll want to be surprised by a couple, I assure you. But a few of my favourites on the savoury side included posh hot dogs (perfectly seasoned and mercifully manageable to eat), and gingerbread “horses” filled with a cream of foie gras. Pure decadence.
In the sweet department, the mini bundt cake topped with pineapple and mango was a standout in terms of flavour, while the “toffee apple” stole the surprise prize for its cake-pop appearance and popping candy filling. Not on the carousel but no less delicious were the scones with clotted cream and jam. I may be anti-tea, but I’m as British as they come where clotted cream is concerned – and this was a taste of home. My only wish was that they’d served plain scones instead of (or as well as) chocolate scones and vanilla scones topped with sugar sprinkles.
By the end of afternoon tea, I was slightly buzzed – both from the China Rose tea and from the Champagne we drank at the start – and pleasantly satiated. We took a stroll around the garden, revelling in a few more moments of wearing proper shoes and remembering what it feels like not to exist in a building site. And then we hopped on our bikes, changed into our work clothes, and got back to the DIY. But still – for two hours, I got to feel classy – and that’s priceless.
- Summer Afternoon Tea in Amsterdam’s Waldorf Astoria’s is served from June through August daily between 3 and 5 pm, with live piano music on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
- The full menu costs €42.50 and includes all food plus the tea. Bubbles and other drinks are available at additional cost.
- For more information, visit waldorfastoria.com/amsterdam
Editor’s note: As I was invited by the hotel, I didn’t pay for my afternoon tea. But I saw the same food being served to everyone and the same excellent service across the board. Honesty is my only policy, and I only recommend dining experiences that I would be proud to take my family and friends to. This was one of them.