As others were dashing south for a last dose of European sunshine, I found myself travelling to Warsaw to work. The schedule does not include much free time, but I stole a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon to inspect what I hoped would be Warsaw’s finest cup of tea.
I was not disappointed. Not only does the Hotel Bristol offer a good range of teas, it also offers a proper afternoon tea complete with scones and clotted cream. I had just had lunch, so could not test the scones, but I did see lots of people with three-tiered cake stands and they did not look miserable. The price for afternoon tea is very attractive indeed, at PLN49 (Nov 2014 price) a proper bargain. I ordered my favourite Darjeeling and it arrived, with the ubiquitous florentine biscuit. If I am honest, I’d really prefer a ginger snap or a little piece of shortbread with my cup of tea. My friend WifieWhoLunches would be happy though. She hates it when tea is served “naked” as she simply cannot drink tea without something sweet. I’m not so fussy on that account. Now back to the Darjeeling: I don’t know whether it was the cold weather, or the fact that I had enjoyed LOT’s idea of service for my previous beverage, or whether this really was one of the best cups of tea I had had in a long time. It was hot and wet and fragrant and delicate and altogether an utterly fabulous cup of tea.
The service at the Hotel Bristol was impeccable. Every member of staff I saw said “good day” or acknowledged me somehow. The person who served my tea was polite and spoke English well. When I mentioned that I had enjoyed the tea so much, the waiter told me that they have two different qualities of tea, one that is served with the afternoon tea and the “normal” one. Although I had not ordered afternoon tea, he had served me the superior quality afternoon tea Darjeeling.
The Hotel Bristol is beautifully maintained, restored, furnished and decorated. The Column bar, where I took my tea is an art nouveau jewel designed by Otto Wagner. Guide books will send you to the Cafe Bristol, which is very nice and cosy, but for my money the Column bar is the place to go. The seating nooks are comfortable and offer great privacy due to the high-backed curved benches. The carpet looks like it was made for the room. Everything is spotless and floral and other decorations are tasteful and appropriate.
When I arrived, the room was busy with tourists, well dressed wealthy locals and t-shirt clad hotel residents enjoying drinks or afternoon tea. As I was leaving I stopped to take some photos of this lobby and, behind the lilies, I found a distant colleague checking his mail. Turns out that he, and a few more of our conference participants, were staying at this hotel. Of course, they all said that they had incredible deals, preferential company rates, rooms without windows in the attic etc. My colleague was at least open about his love of grand hotels and did not apologise for staying there.
After the beautiful Otto Wagner rooms, I was hoping for some nice detailing in the ladies room, but I was disappointed. Just the standard marble and mirror offering and paper towels, so nothing to talk about. Now, I think many establishments miss an opportunity to underline their brand values (or whatever the marketing types say) in the ladies’ room. Just remember, the ladies’ room is as much a shop window as, well, the shop window.
What the others had to say
I was so thrilled by my cup of tea experience, that I persuaded some colleagues to join me there for quick aperitif a few days later. MadFrenchLady had only 20 minutes to spare, but that was long enough for her to gulp down a Pernod, or Ricard, or similar aniseed flavoured poison that the French consider a de rigeur preparation for the dinner to follow. The rest of us enjoyed our drinks and the evening ambience. There was music in the background and the lighting was changed for evening. We all regretted that we would not have time to take a full afternoon tea there.
If you have not been to Warsaw recently, go. Go now. This is a city that is changing fast. The old town is beautiful, the new parts are exciting.
Just for fun, I popped to the panorama bar on the 40th floor of the Marriot hotel. The view of Warsaw by night was great, but I think it would be best either in the daytime or at sunset.
I stayed at the Sofitel Victoria. We ate at the Brasserie a few times and each time the food was wonderful, even MadFrenchLady said so. The Victoria also boasts an award-winning cocktail bartender, but I think he was off duty when I was ordering drinks, as the cocktails I had were decidedly average.
For a proper cup of tea, or a drink, or an afternoon tea I can recommend the Hotel Bristol, Warsaw with 4 little teapots out of a possible 5.