A proper cup of tea and a decent aperitif at the Hotel Bristol Warsaw

A proper cup of tea and a decent aperitif at the Hotel Bristol Warsaw

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.

The 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. cup of tea bristol warsaw

The service

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.

tea bristol warsaw

The ambience

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.column bar bristol warsaw

Other guests

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.

art deco ceiling column bar bristol warsaw

The facilities

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.

bathroom bristol warsawbathroom bristol warsaw

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.

lobby art deco carpet column barAnd after that…

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.

Lobby lounge at the Sofitel Victoria

Lobby lounge at the Sofitel Victoria

Final recommendation

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.


http://www.hotelbristolwarsaw.pl/en

http://www.sofitel.com/gb/hotel-3378-sofitel-warsaw-victoria/index.shtml

http://www.panoramabar.pl/start

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A proper cup of tea AND a decent gin and tonic with the “girls” in the stable at Auersthal

A proper cup of tea AND a decent gin and tonic with the “girls” in the stable at Auersthal

The charming “girls” in the picture are Kira and Kimba, two American Shetland ponies who have recently taken up residence in Auersthal to be spoiled and pampered by my friends FotoMarathonMan and AkhalTekeGal. I made my way to the lower Austrian prairie to meet them and to enjoy a proper cup of tea at their residence. That part of Austria is where the oil fields are.  Like Texas.  Just a bit smaller.

nodding donkey auersthal

The tea and the gin

The water in Auersthal is hard and the water in Vienna is soft. Fortunately the good people at Taylors of Harrogate who make Yorkshire tea have considered that and offer blends for both water types.  I have even seen people in Scotland buying Yorkshire Tea because even with the teabags it is possible to produce “a proper brew.”  Now, you may have heard me complaining about “dust filled bags” and of course, even Yorkshire teabags are essentially dust filled, but I now claim that, as it is dust collected for the British market, it is of a superior quality and can, sometimes, when made in a pot, with water that is hot enough, produce a drinkable cup of tea.

Now to the gin – Edinburgh Gin and Fever Tree tonic, quite delicious. FotoMarathonMan had also brought some gin garnishes from a recent trip to Spain. I put some cardomom seeds in mine, and AkhalTekeGal had hibiscus bloom in hers. The hibiscus made the gin turn pink after a while and it gave a rather sweet flavour. We enjoyed it, but we’d have been just as happy with the gin and tonic as it was.  Fever Tree tonic is slowly becoming my favourite.

edinburgh gin fever tree tonic

mug of teapony and tea

The service

It’s not just Kira and Kimba that are pampered and spoiled, my hosts took great care to make sure that everything a fussy lady might require was on hand, and presented in some style, considering we were in a stable.  The presentation of the sustenance for Kira and Kimba was slightly less sophisticated, but they seemed to enjoy their afternoon tea nonetheless.pony foodtea spread

 The ambience

Well this stable is very well equipped with tea making facilities, but there is also everything Kira and Kimba and their flatmate, the Kinsky warm blood Kalina could need. Kalina stands a proud 17.5 hands high, and if Kira and Kimba stood on top of each other, they would just pip her at the “who’s the tallest” mark on the doorpost, for they are a dinky 10 hands each.  They can all move freely between their box and the yard, and so they live in relative luxury. I wonder if they all snuggle up for girly SingalongaMammaMia evenings?

stable door at dusk

The other guests

This being the girls’ private residence, I was the only guest. The staff, FotoMarathonMan, AkhalTekeGal and AnnieGetYourPitchfork are kept busy attending to the needs of the three ladies who inhabit the stables.

ponies posing

The facilities

As befits the rustic location, the facilities are simple but clean and the hand drying is proper.  There was even hand cream but it was notmane 'n tail handcreamwhich, in spite of the apt name, I would not really recommend because the tube does not close properly.  Kira and Kimba do not use this facility, but instead, chose to relieve themselves at the same time, on the straw covered floor of their box.

IMG_1633stables bathroom

Final recommendation

Since this is Kira and Kimba’s exclusive abode, you’d have to get an invitation from AkhalTekeGal and FotoMarathonMan to visit.  In case you are one of the lucky few who may be invited, you can indeed expect a proper cup of tea and a decent gin and tonic.  So, it’s 5 little teapots to the stables at Auersthal for excellent hospitality and the cutest, most charming hostesses Kira and Kimba.


http://www.yorkshiretea.co.uk/products/tea/

http://www.edinburghgindistillery.co.uk

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shetland_pony#The_American_Shetland

http://www.ponyparadies.at/cms/front_content.php?idcat=49

A proper cup of tea at the Hessischer Hof in Frankfurt am Main

A proper cup of tea at the Hessischer Hof in Frankfurt am Main

A work trip to Frankfurt gave me the chance to investigate where a lady of a fussy disposition might get a proper cup of tea in that city. Fortuitously close to the fair, the Hessischer Hof would be the one to try.  It claims to be the only 5 star hotel in Frankfurt that is still privately owned.

The tea

The lobby lounge looked comfortable, but it was rather dark, and having been deprived of daylight all week, I took my seat in the conservatory which faces the main road. I selected my tea from a short list. When it arrived it was quite nicely presented and included a florentine type biscuit. I do like a silver teapot and I was glad of the little cover to safegaurd my fussy digits from the hot handle.  The tea was hot, made from proper tea leaves supplied by a renowned German importer and tasted fine.

silver teapotcup of tea

The service

The welcome was warm enough and my order was competently fulfilled. The staff on duty were quite young. Mind you, these days I think everyone is young.
wintergarden hessischer hof

The ambience

The conservatory is a pleasant enough space. However, I was stunned, when, in the middle of it all, two porters came in and started moving and stacking the furniture. Not a word of explanation or apology was offered. They just rattled around with their tables and chairs. The sound of the heavy chairs being dragged across the tiled floor in that high space was deafening. I was perturbed. It ruined the experience. Surely, in a 5 star hotel, one should consider the comfort of guests. “Excuse me, madam, we are just about to prepare this room for an event, would you perhaps like to move to the lounge so that you are not disturbed?” is what I would like to have heard.

furniture removal

Other guests

It was a very busy time in Frankfurt and the hotel was certainly full, but at that hour, other guests were few. A group of business people were negotiating and drinking tea. An English lady was having a non-alcoholic cocktail with an elderly gentleman, and that was it.

tea table

The facilities

The ladies room was clean and functional, but lacking in any flair or sense of luxury. I was glad to note the proper towels. When it comes to the fast efficient drying of hands, I think the proper towel, actually facecloth option is best. It’s even better than a Dyson Blade, and I really like a Dyson Blade. I understand that costs are a factor, so I only expect the laundered facecloth in 5 star hotels and very nice restaurants. In other places I am happy with a Dyson Blade.

bathroom hessischer hof

Final recommendation

Grandhotel Hessischer Hof is surely an establishment to visit. It has a certain air of old fashioned luxury even if it is a relatively new building. Just scale down your expectations and appreciate the “traditional” atmosphere. Although the tea itself might have merited 3 teapots, I’m afraid the Hessischer Hof scores only 1 teapot out of a possible 5 because of the furniture removal.

hessischer hof


http://www.hessischer-hof.de/en/grandhotel-frankfurt

A proper cup of tea at the Queen’s/Queens’ grocery store

Before I started writing about a proper cup of tea, I thought long and hard about what should be my benchmark cup of tea. There’s really only one place I have returned to again and again and always had a lovely cup of tea and that’s Fortnum and Mason’s. I use their tea at home and I love the delicate perfume of their Earl Grey. I have had afternoon tea upstairs on the top floor, cream teas downstairs in the Fountain, and just a cup of tea in the Gallery Bar/Restaurant. On one unfortunate December Saturday some years ago, I even had a pot of Earl Grey in the ice-cream parlour on the first floor. On a trip to London in June this year, I saw they had taken a full page ad for London Pride in the British Airways magazine “Proud to be the Queens’ Greengrocer” it said. That made me smile.  Although I did not find time for a full ceremonial tea experience,  I managed to grab half an hour between bacon shopping and leaving for the airport to go and take photographs of the cup of tea against which the others are measured. Or so I thought.

gallery fortnum and mason

The Fountain restaurant has been refurbished recently and I had taken lunch there last time, so I decided to go to the Gallery and enjoy my tea whilst looking over to tourists buying tea and shortbread. The Gallery was almost empty, nonetheless I waited to be seated. I told the maitre d’ that I just wanted to have a cup of tea. “That will be upstairs on the first floor, madam” he said. I stood firm. “I don’t want to have my tea amongst children throwing ice-cream around”  “Going forward, we will be promoting that area for coffee” he said. But I did not want coffee, I wanted tea, and I knew that it is not even on the menu upstairs and that the cups are pastel coloured thick porcelain of the type that best holds cappuccino and not at all suitable for tea. That December Saturday sprung back to life in my head and I remembered 12 nine year old girls there for a birthday celebration of one of their number. I remembered the noise they made. Once I explained to the maitre d’ that I understood very well that he did not want to block prime lunchtime tables with ladies drinking tea, but that he might consider that it was 2pm and the area was almost empty and the likelihood of a last minute rush to occupy the 40 or so empty tables was low, he grudgingly said he would make an exception just for me, and serve me tea.

The tea

I chose a Ceylon tea. The tea had a rich colour and was quite delicious. But, when tea is served with a grudge, it is also served without a pot of hot water, and so, my brew soon became a tarry bitter beverage. I was disappointed.tea fortnum and mason

The service

The team on duty was young and international. They were friendly and polite. I do not know if the missing pot of water was due to lack of training or slipping standards.  I did not have the energy to ask for the missing water.

The ambience

Well, it is a mezzanine in a shop and the acoustics are not good, so it does seem like you are sitting in a posh version of BHS cafeteria. The tea cups  and pots are fine china and the cutlery and tea strainers are silver. The tables are oak and have some very nice art deco detailing.  tea strainer F&M

Other guests

There were not many tourists in the restaurant. The tables near me were occupied by Brits who had been shopping or who had been visiting the Royal Academy summer exhibition across the road.  When I went upstairs, the ice cream parlour was full of tourists drinking tea and children eating ice cream. Wrong.  Just wrong.

The facilities

My London home from home is just yards away from F&M, so normally I would not bother to use the facilities there, but I think you probably expect at least a photo. The place is not luxurious, but functional and clean enough.

bathroom fortnum and masonbathroom fortnum and mason

Final recommendation

It would be unfair to pronounce based on this one negative experience.  I have had a great many fine cups of tea at Fortnum and Mason, and indeed, on that day, when I went upstairs to buy a couple of bits and bobs, the service was outstanding.  However, I would welcome suggestions from anyone who can recommend somewhere where a fussy lady might find a cup of tea against which the others are to be measured.  Not afternoon tea, mind, just a cup of tea, for it is the tea itself and the service, that so many cannot get right.


http://www.fortnumandmason.com/c-159-the-gallery-fortnum-and-mason.aspx