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.





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.





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


A proper cup of tea at the Grand Hotel Vienna


grand hotel vienna

A sultry Tuesday afternoon in the office left us thirsty. So, AustrianGinAmatrice and FussyLady headed out to Vienna’s Ringstrasse for a proper cup of tea. If we are honest, we were probably more looking forward to the gin and tonic that would inevitably follow. We chose the Grand Hotel for our tea because it is the only hotel with its terrace on the sunny side of the Ring.

The tea

The first shock came when we read the menu: “Pot of tea €5.60”  Pot of tea?  Pot of tea?  Where’s the list?  Assam, Darjeeling, Earl Grey, surprise me with something I would not expect to find, to establish your 5 star credentials.  Pot of tea, indeed. Our friendly waiter re-assured us.  Of course they have tea, and in winter, the tea list is a book all of its own, but in Summer, on the terrace, there’s not much demand. He named a few tea varieties and we ordered Darjeeling and Earl Grey. Here’s what arrived


and as you can see, it is neither Darjeeling nor Earl Grey. The bag was served on the little dish, the water in the pot was not as hot as I would like.  You may know by now that I have opinions about tea: the water has to hit the tea leaves.  Dangling a piece of metal or a bag of leaves in lukewarm water is never going to result in a proper cup of tea.

The service

The waiters were friendly enough and checked back with us if we needed anything else. It would take more than a smile to help us overcome the disappointment of not getting what we ordered. I am sure they would have changed the tea if we had asked, but the chances of this cup of tea ever becoming memorable in a positive sense had gone.

The ambience

There is a grand piano in the lobby and the look is faded elegant, but the space is not really defined, so it is like sitting in a thoroughfare at the hotel reception. We chose to sit on the terrace outside. The terrace outside, being on the pavement, is like sitting on a thoroughfare. There is a further cafe upstairs on a mezzanine. It has a separate entrance from the Ringstrassengalerien shopping mall.  IMG_0511entrance grand hotel

Other guests

That day, in the Grand Hotel, there was the usual mix of tourists and local and international business men.

The facilities

Well there had to be something Grand about this place, and this was it.  One floor down the beautiful staircase, the grand ladies room is as one would expect of the Grand Hotel Wien.  Traditional furnishings and a certain gleam.  The hand towels are the non woven fibre type.  Everything is clean.bathroom grand hotel vienna

staircase grandhotel viennabathroom grand hotel vienna

What my guest had to say

AustrianGinAmatrice was polite about the tea, but expressed her surprise that  standards could slip so far in a 5 star establishment.  She clearly wasn’t prepared to take the risk of further disappointment with her gin and tonic.  And so, we made our way to a newly opened restaurant on the Ring which is specialised in burgers, gin and cheesecake.  We were not disappointed. Said the Butcher to the Cow will have its own review later.
IMG_0532 gin at said the butcher to the cow



Final recommendation

The Grand Hotel serves a full afternoon tea from October to April, so I shall return another time so see how it is.  For now, and for a proper cup of tea, Grand Hotel merits 1.5 little teapots out of a possible 5.  If, however, you want to freshen up somewhere grand, then the ladies’ room is worth a visit.



A proper cup of tea at Bayerischer Hof Munich

A proper cup of tea at Bayerischer Hof Munich

A work trip to Munich, and another opportunity to go looking for a proper cup of tea. Now, I know that there are one or two perfectly decent tea houses in Munich, such as Victoria House and the Friesische Teestube, but I wondered how the 5 star hotels would manage to serve a fussy lady her national drink. I asked the locals at the work meeting where I should take my tea, and they said that the Bayerischer Hof had been named the best hotel in Germany by the industry website hotelier.de and according to Focus it is the second most expensive hotel in Germany. And so, a plan was made with my friend PenelopePunctual. She’s British too, but in a “Norn Iron” kind of way. After an hour of waiting, and with no sign of PenelopePunctual, I headed alone to the Bayerischer Hof. Back in the day, the Bayerischer Hof and the Vier Jahreszeiten vied for top place in the Munich luxury hotel rankings. In the meantime, there’s a bit more competition.

The tea

The lobby lounge was quiet when I arrived. Any 5 star hotel in London will be buzzing at this hour with people enjoying afternoon tea. Today, the buzz in Munich is in the beer gardens.


There is a small selection of tea and I ordered the Spring Darjeeling. I waved away the cream, lemon juice and bewildering selection of sweetening products. The waitress told me to let the tea infuse for two to three minutes. I remember now, that at home, we used to let our tea draw. German tea pulls. Anyway, I was glad there was a little glass bowl to hold the high end tea bag when the time came for the bag to be removed. Munich water is notoriously hard and tea becomes bitter very quickly if you do not remove the leaves, high end tea bag, or dust filled paper on a string. No cake was ordered as there was no-one there to eat it. I assumed that PenelopePunctual would find me there once she picked up the message I left, but her cake eating opportunity had definitely passed. As you can see the crockery is nothing fancy and the teapot has a crack. Oh dear. The tea tasted fine, nonetheless.

tea tray


The service

The staff, who were quite young and probably trainees, were lovely. They spoke with a noticable Bavarian accent. I noted a slight lack of confidence. Am I that scary? chandelierIMG_0318

The ambience

The Bayerischer Hof has a range of restaurants and bars to choose from. Of course, only some of them are suitable for a fussy cup of tea, but I did a brief tour, just to be sure. There is a fabulous terrace on the roof linked to their Spa restaurant. When PenelopePunctual arrived, we zoomed up there to see if we might take dinner overlooking the Munich skyline. The sight of groups of business men and people in bathrobes had us back in that lift without so much as a decent gin and tonic to watch the sunset by.  The lobby lounge is sleek and comfortable and leads to the stunning bar.The bar miraculously survived bombing in WWII which destroyed the rest of the hotel. The chandelier scan told me that we were far from Vienna and Lobmeyr. The entrance offers a rather mean looking effort which is decorated with real candles, their realness evidenced by the erratic alignment. The glass dome over the lobby lounge is a small compensation and provides a nice sense of light and space. IMG_0319
And the Falk’s bar is like a huge mirrored blue lit wedding cake with gin on tap.I shall return here for a drink one day to give that bar its own review.


Other guests

When I arrived, there was some conference of German business men crowding the lobby and just a few hotel guests in the lobby lounge. As time went on, some local ladies arrived. They were quite obviously from Munich, not because they were wearing dirndls, but because they were dressed in the kind of overly decorated blazers and jackets that they probably bought from Escada in its Munich heyday. There was a time when half the women in Munich gadded about in jackets with gold embroidery and outfits that declared their designer provenance by the use of bright colours. So, I would often see people at work in the classic shift dress and blazer combination that we British ladies buy in M&S, but the dress would be pink and the blazer would be lilac with gold embroidery. Those ladies who were meeting at the Bayerischer Hof that evening had kept those outfits. The hotel guests were either European business types, or global travellers in t-shirts and baseball caps.


The facilities

The facilities are one floor below and shared with the hotel’s night club and one of the restaurants. There is suede on the walls. The lighting is such that the ladies from the lobby will not see the passing of the decades on their faces. This thoughtful decision by the designer means that the lighting is such that the cleaning staff probably cannot see properly to clean. So, although basic cleanliness is fine, the added sparkle of glorious 5 star uncompromising cleanliness is missing. The recycled paper hand towels are a disappointment. The soap has no name and there is no hand lotion.


…And my companions

the ones in my head

CraftyLinguist and MadFrenchLady were not with me, but they had somehow taken up residence in my head. When I saw the menu, and the offer of Rhubarb Triffle, I could hear CraftyLinguist’s completely reasonable, oft-repeated speech about how shocking it is that 5 star establishments take so much care with everything else, yet somehow find it OK to let schoolchildren and internet machines translate menus. For their sakes, I checked out the cake selection. The Rhubarb “Triffle” in a whisky glass looked more like stewed rhubarb with custard and cream on top. The other cakes seemed to have been made on the premises, but the Käsesahnetorte, which is a light fluffy whipped cheesecake with a sponge base, was curling at the edges. The Apfelkuchen looked good, as long as you like cinnamon. One thing that annoys me about the Germanic cakes is that they never seem to use apples without adding cinnamon. Now, I like cinnamon and I like apples. But I prefer my apples without cinnamon. Every time I eat Apfelstrudel or Apfelkuchen, I find myself thinking just how delicious it would be without cinnamon. I am reminded of an afternoon tea at Gleneagles some 25 years ago, when the Swiss pastry chef of the time added cinnamon to the scones. A sad day for scones.

and the real one


PenelopePunctual was, in fact, on time that day, but she was not quite “on message.” The law of “this sort of thing” had us waiting for eachother at different ends of the same bus stop: me assuming she had been delayed at work; and she “off message”with her phone left on her desk.

Outside the Bayerischer Hof there is a monument to Orlando di Lasso which has been colonised by Michael Jackson fans. Hotel staff told us that Michael Jackson stayed at the hotel many times and therefore his fans have set up and maintain this memorial to him  PenelopePunctual and I inspected the tributes in some detail and jointly despaired for the bereaved fans, and for society as a whole.



Final recommendation

The Bayerischer Hof is a first class hotel and offers a range of bars and restaurants for all tastes. So, you will be comfortable there. However, considering the teabags and the cracked pot, if it is a proper cup of tea you are after, go elsewhere. Bayerischer Hof, for a proper cup of tea, earns 2 teapots out of a possible 5.


Bayerischer Hof from outside




A proper cup of tea at Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna

Palais Hansen Kempinski

What better thing to do on a spring afternoon than to search for a proper cup of tea on Vienna’s Ring.  For our first test, we chose Palais Hansen Kempinski, one of a dozen or so 5 star establishments on the Ring.

Tea and drinks are served in the lobby lounge which is furnished comfortably. I arrived with MadFrenchLady and the young competent staff welcomed us and were attentive without being overbearing.  We decided to wait for CraftyLinguist before ordering our tea and we used the waiting time to take in the menu and the surroundings.

Entrance to the lobby lounge


The tea

There is a reasonable selection of teas to choose from, but as this was my first visit I opted for a Darjeeling, and my friends were equally conservative in their choices.  The menu gives advice as to how long the leaves should stay in the tea.  Tea is served on a little tray with a small metal pot, which the waiter then fills with hot water at the table.  The tea leaves are in a conical metal strainer in the pot and a little dish is provided to put the strainer into when the “steeping time” is over.  I shall say more about “steeping” later. I am not convinced that this water is hot enough for a proper cup of tea, but at least it is not a glass of lukewarm liquid with some coloured dust in a bag on a string.  The cups are fine German porcelain and almost teacup shaped.  A small florentine biscuit was served with the tea.

teaMadFrenchLady had selected a cake from the display – called a Cremeschnitte, but reminiscent of the millefueilles of her home.  CraftyLinguist agreed to check out the Topfenstrudel with creme anglaise – she’s generous that way.  I am even fussier about cake than I am about tea, so I did not take any cake.  Both sweet selections passed the taste test and CraftyLinguist assured us that the strudel was freshly dusted because when she poured the creme anglaise over it, it rolled down without sticking to the top.


The service

The staff were young and attentive.  A few of them were German.  That’s not such a surprise since it is a German chain and I had read a few days earlier that they are proud of their apprentice scheme which allows the young trainees to travel and work in other hotels in other cities.

The ambience

It would not be Vienna without a chandelier or two.  As well as those in the entrance, Palais Hansen Kempinski has this tall and imposing chandelier style standard lamp in the middle of the lounge.  The furnishings were not 100% to my taste.  Some of the seating groups are satin covered, but I suppose that appeals to a certain part of their target market.

Chandelier style lamp

Other guests

It was reasonably quiet  in the lobby lounge that day, just a few tourists, some elderly Viennese gentlemen and a small group of business travellers.

The facilities

Being fussy, I like to inspect the facilities and my companions duly agreed to check my findings.  The room itself is very nicely furnished and it was clean.  We were all a bit surprised that we had to touch the beautiful taps to wash our hands.  CraftyLinguist prefers Dyson Blade hand drying.  However, I am fond of a pile of freshly laundered proper towels.  We were all ever so slightly upset by a lamp hanging squint.

the facilities

Guest reviewer comments….

 The translation

We are all able to manage the menus in the German original, but at the suggestion of CraftyLinguist, we decided to check the translated menu.  A non-German speaker would certainly be able to get the gist of what was on offer since the menu was in two languages.  However, we feared that it may have been translated by a machine, or by a school child with a dictionary.  The first term to give us trouble was “steeping time” since all teas had a recommended number of minutes.  Where I come from we steep badly stained clothes before washing and tea is “infused” or “brewed”, however some research revealed that it may well be that “steep” is the term used in US English.  What we definitely do not have in US or UK English is “leach rolls”  It took us some time to work out what this could be since the German original indicated  “Jourgebäck” which is a dainty form of the usual range of bread rolls.  “Leach rolls” being, presumably, the type which is soaked in a lye to give a crust of the type you would find on a German Breze.  So, we would recommend a revision by a competent native speaker so that the standard of translation is consistent with the overall high standard of the hotel.

Final recommendation

Watch out for the evaluation scheme in  future posts where I will try to assess the various aspects separately.  I did not note the prices, but our cup of tea was not prohibitively expensive.

For now, we can give Palais Hansen Kempinski 4 little teapots out of a possible 5.