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REVIEW: The Lobby Lounge, The Corinthia Hotel, London

I am rather keen on the finer things in life and now being restricted on how much I can eat - I only intend to consume what is very good, whilst reserving the right to snark about everything.  I am in search of an afternoon tea that meets my standards (and that of those who accompany me).  This is going to be a long and arduous journey but for the sake of perfection - we will bear the burden. Following a recommendation in Time Out, the Lobby Lounge at the newly refurbished Corinthia Hotel on Northumberland Street was the first to be inspected by The Afternoon Tea Standards Committee (TATSC).  Myself, major_clangerowlfish, C, M and I WANOLJ made up the brave combatants.  Each establishment will be judged on six criteria; Surroundings, Our table, Service, Food, Tea and Toilets.  

Booking The booking procedure was simple and on-line with a section for specific dietary requirements.  Amending the booking required a phone call to the hotel as the on-line system was not working for amendments.  But when I called the hotel, the receptionist was very knowledgable and could resolve it immediately.

Dress Code The dress code is smart - no jeans and no shorts, but they don't require jacket and tie.  That said - some of the hotel guests who passed through could have done with a little help on that.  And as for the mother who inflicted a burberry pattern kilt on her tottering sprog, I shall be revisiting the UN declaration on the rights of the child and digging out the Daniella Westbrook judgment.

Surroundings  4.5/5
The Lobby Lounge is just that.  The building sits between two streets and the lounge links the sides.  The space has been well used and thought out.  Although the less said about the unstaffed Harrods concession store in the entrance, the better.  It is a shame they have lowered themselves to that.  Fortnum's would have been better, by a marathon.  It has been decorated with a modern palette and they have plumped for beige, lime green (hmmm), greys and fauns.   The materials included velvet, cotton and silk.  The wonderfully tall central atrium has a staggering 2 tonne chandelier from the French crystal company Baccarrat which has to be seen.  It is made up of 1000 white crystal lights and one red one.  It put me in mind of a video camera with a blinking red light, terminator, or a death star.  Bright cerise orchids are arranged all over the lounge and stand out against the subdued background colours and are eye catching.  However if toned down to a bright purple these would have been less jarring on the eye but still a bright accent.  And would have matched my dress better.  As an aside - it is worth dropping by the reception desk and taking a look at the mural behind and at the surface of the reception counter. The building is full of quirky little touches and I did feel smug discovering them. 


Our Table 4/5
Our table for 6 was at the edge of the lobby but we did not suffer from excess noise or a cold draft.  We had two very long and deep sofas facing each other and two arm chairs on one end.  The small tables were however, were set a little low to comfortably eat an afternoon tea from.  The sofas and arm armchairs were large and luxurious.  The only problem we encountered was that we were quite far from our guests sitting opposite us and had to ask for the music to be turned down. They did so immediately but it still meant we had to strain a little to hear our friends on the other side.  The table was immaculately laid, everything was perfectly clean from the linens to the cutlery.  The crockery was delightful and I would consider it to be perfectly apt.  The variations in colour depending on teapot or size of plate stayed away from the generic mass-buy catering look.  There were one or two fingerprints on my menu from a previous handler but that I can let go.

Service 5/5
The service was smart and attentive without ever being intrusive.  Even though our waitress' first language was not English she did a marvellous job of reciting every single tea, cake and sandwich.  She was very knowledgeable and never intruded. Not only did know the menu and ingredients backwards, she also was well versed in the decor of the interior and the details of the chandelier.  She was very careful with our dietary requirements and ensured that the two of our party with specific requirements were aware of exactly what they could have.  The pace of service was leisurely but perfectly spaced.  We spent 2 hours 45 minutes there and never felt rushed or abandoned.  Once during our visit, the floor manager come over to check if everything was alright.  This was the right amount of checking - any more than one of those checks and the venue starts to feel like a needy child.

Food 3.5/5
Savouries We started with sandwiches and we each received a plate of 5 very neatly cut finger sandwiches; cucumber and goats cheese, ham and mustard, smoked salmon and egg and finally a rare roast beef.  The waitress offered a refill of these once we were finished.  She also made sure that those with different dietary requirements did not loose out.  The down side to the sandwiches was that the bread had started to harden a little.  We also did not get offered any of the bridge rolls the menu promised.

Sweets The cake stands with the sweets arrived and their contents looked delicate but plentiful.  The scones were delicate, warm and nicely textured.  They came with an accoutrements tray with butter and strawberry and raspberry jam.  The tray had a spindle handle so was easy to handle.  Well done for having the spoons for each of these the precise size to match the vessel and contents.  

Several of the pastries stood out:
The salted caramel mouse was nice but not salty or caramel enough although the touch of gold leaf was cute.
The mini red berry cheesecake on biscuit base was a win.
The apple mouse had a nicely strong apple taste and sat on a wafer of chocolate brownie - that one  was a favourite all round.
The Chocolate Mouse sandwich was delicious and went through several presentations of chocolate in just one execution.  The only     downside was that being a mouse sandwich makes eating it by hand messy and cutting it led to a re-enactment of the Deep Water Horizon.

And some were not the successes we expected:
The bright blue eclair with blueberry filling - the filling whilst being bright purple and visually stunning lacked any forest berry flavour at all.  
The custard tart had little to make it stand out as did the tart with meringue blob.
The macaroon with shimmered gold chocolate leaves and a kirsch cherry felt disconnected.  The chocolate was rich, the kirsch soaked cherry was a little warming hand grenade of alcohol but the macaroon it sat on was bland and lost by comparison.  They had also used a caramel blob to weld it to the plate so it broke in a Venus De Milo fashion when extracted from the serving plate.

Tea 5/5
The tea menu was extensive running from the straightforward to the strange Vital Apple.  
  • One of our party had mint tea and was offered fresh mint or dried - she went for fresh and was happy with the result.  
  • Another had the Christmas Palace tea which tasted like "mulled tea" and went down very well.  
  • Two of us had the English Rose tea which I can only describe as Earl Grey, but with class, refinement, manners and a delicate citrus tang.  I shall be hunting this blend down for use at home on high days and holidays.  
  • Our other member of the party had the slightly less adventurous London Palace which he declared very nice.  
They filled up our tea pots when asked but did not fuss over us by trying to fill our cups.  The milk came in different sized colour co-ordinated jugs depending on the tea the individual was drinking.

Toilets 5/5
Immaculately clean, had a uniformed attendant and naturally no tip tray. The cubicle had proper quilted toilet roll and real terry towels to dry your hands with.  The soap and moisturiser was by ESPA.  The lighting was good and I can't fault the facilities at all.  The gents facilities had an unusual splash guard, I am told.  The walk to the toilets took me past a Mont Blanc cabinet of pens for sale - I may have lingered there a little.  As we all know, the more expensive the pen, the more eloquent the words written by it.

General Impressions

The Good The service was not to be faulted, the tea was excellent and the setting was very nearly there.

The Bad The distancing of the sofas and the uncomfortably low tables were a mild annoyance.  Discovering slightly stale  bread was an unpleasant surprise on the sandwiches.  An over concentration on sugar rather that fruit made some of the sweets just too sweet.  The blue eclair was a particular disappointment.

Price and webpage
£35.00 per person and a 12.5% discretionary service charge is added. Champagne tea is extra and rose champagne tea nudges it even higher.  Pink will rarely make me spend more money.

Overall mark 4/5 - and yes I would go again.