On a chilly January afternoon, we jostle through an army of Kensington High Street shoppers wielding bags emblazoned ‘SALE!’ in pursuit of the certain tranquillity of The Milestone Hotel. As we reach the end of the shopping strip and things start to become a little more boutique than high street, we stumble upon our dwelling for the afternoon: a majestic, ornately-carved sandstone building. Restored to its baroque glory, this Victorian site ranks amongst the ‘big dogs’ when it comes to London hotels (now a certified member of The Leading Hotels of The World).
The Milestone is nostalgic, though all of the familiar aspects of our fiercely guarded pastime of afternoon tea are served with a swirl of 5-star lavishness, and unforgettable panache. Forget delicate doily-strewn surfaces and chintzy mismatched tea sets that have somewhat exhausted the afternoon tea trend of late: there’s a sense of occasion here. The richest of fabrics are draped throughout, antique cabinets are filled with intricately-painted urns, and towering shelves are lined with leather-bound books. Think Downton Abbey drawing room, but with an atmosphere relaxed enough for you to mop up every smidge of your coffee éclair cream without feeling like the dowager’s watching.
On arrival, we sink into plush armchairs at our immaculate, uniformly-set table, and soon arrives a 4-feet-tall silver stand, to which a well-heeled troupe of waiters place our layers of treats. Savouries first, with ruler-precision cut sandwiches offering all the classic combinations, like cream cheese-lathered smoked salmon, or Ploughman’s-style on soft granary bread, while more innovative filings include smooth, whipped chicken encased in a layer of chopped almonds.
Our cakes and dainties make up a colour palette of muted pastels, deep rouged shades and decadent chocolate creations. Pistachio macarons, Battenburg (forget the candyfloss-pink variety, this was a lush magenta shade- gorgeously almondy and moist), cheesecake, glazed fruit tart and a generously-filled coffee éclair that gave a satisfying, cream-bursting ‘pop’ on the first bite. Our scones (plain, fruit, and chocolate for the more-sweetly inclined) arrive with instructions to eat them as soon as we can muster space, as they’ve come straight from the oven. It’s little details like this that make The Milestone’s offering a little bit more memorable than other afternoon teas in London. Rather than the mechanical production line of identical cake stands seen in so many post-lunch hotspots, we almost feel that someone’s been baking exclusively for us, with the finished article ceremoniously revealed for us to indulge in. Epitomising timelessness and grace, experience one of London’s finest attempts to tackle this great British tradition: at The Milestone, they’ve got it down to a tea.
Afternoon Tea at The Milestone Hotel
The Milestone Hotel, 1 Kensington Court, Kensington, London, W8 5DL