On our first day in London we jumped on the Original London Ho-Ho bus, completing the city loop in the morning, followed by the western loop after lunch. While driving along Brompton Road, Judi spotted a carphone store, so we jumped off at the next stop to get a UK SIM for her phone. Returning to the bus stop, I spotted Harrods across the street; it takes up an entire city block, so you really can’t miss it. I asked Judi if she fancied a wander through Harrods and a cup of tea? Judi never declines tea, an opportunity to shop, or even wander through shops, so we headed across the street.
Harrods, the iconic luxury British department store, comprising 330 departments located on 7 floors of a building, with a foot-print covering 5 acres. The total retail area is an unbelievable 1,000,000 square feet.
Harrods from across Brompton Road
Founded by Charles Henry Harrod, who started his first business in 1824, at the age of 25, he moved his business to the current site in 1849. Starting with a single room and 2 assistants; with his son, they built a thriving business selling medicines, perfumes, fruits and vegetables. The business expanded rapidly and they soon bought adjoining shops, employing 100 people by 1880. In December 1883, a fire destroyed the building, but they still delivered all Christmas orders. Once rebuilt, the store continued to flourish, and in 1889 became a public company, when it was floated on the stock market. In 2010, the Qatar Government purchased Harrods from Mohamed Al-Fayed.
Inside, the store comprises a series of what are almost individual rooms for each department. We decided to start with a cup of tea, so objective # 1, was finding the tea room. Way-finding signage wasn’t abundant, so on the ground floor, we asked a staff member for the location of the Tea Room. We were directed to the stairs and advised the 2nd floor (up 2 floors). Arriving on the 2nd floor, we found another staff member who directed us to the back of the store and all the way to the right. It took wandering through many of the departments, but we eventually found the Tea Room. While signage is minimal, I did see people at another table with small maps, so if you ever visit Harrods, my suggestion is to try and find one.
Harrods Tea Room entrance
On arrival, we joined the queue outside, and after a short wait the hostess escorted us to a table for 2. First impression is the Tea Room is modern, bright, clean, spacious, although the table are rather basic. The staff were all very pleasant and youthful.
In addition to afternoon tea, the menu includes a full range of breakfast and lunch items, but having only finished lunch a couple of hours ago, we both opted for “The Chelsea”, which includes scones (2), clotted cream and jams. Tea is not included, and with a preference for Ceylon tea, we ordered a large pot of #16 Afternoon Special Blend.
Judi with tea, scones, clotted cream & jams
All china is genuine Wedgewood fine bone china and is all matched, rather than a selection of different patterns, which occurs in some other tea rooms. The scones were excellent, hot out the oven, fresh and tasty – just like mother used to make. We received an excellent selection of preserves from Wilson & Sons (Tiptree) – strawberry (2), raspberry & marmalade.
Close up of scones & tea
Now for the most important detail, how do you eat scones!! Do you add the clotted cream first, or the jam? Down in the SW of England this is a huge debate, as Devon has the clotted cream first, then the jam. However, in Cornwall they start with the jam then top it with clotted cream. My preference is the Devon method, slathering the scone with lashings of clotted cream, then topping with a scoop of strawberry jam.
Selection of sweet treats, as listed in the menu
You may ask, what is clotted cream, and is it good for you? While many consider clotted cream to be double cream, whisked to a thick consistency, it is actually made by heating and cooling milk. They start with unpasteurised whole Devon milk, with a butter fat content of about 6%. The milk is heated indirectly, then left to cool slowly in large pans. As it cools, the cream rises to the top in clots and is scooped off. The butter fat content is 55 to 60%, with each ounce containing about 15 g of fat and 155 calories. While I consider that it isn’t bad, most dietitians would probably disagree.
In summary, a most enjoyable and relaxing hour with tea and scones, at a price point I expected for Harrods. A modern, bright and airy tea room, but lacking some of what I consider as touches for a traditional British tea service. As seen on the photographs above, the tables were plain wood grain finish, with no table cloths. I would have expected starched, white linen table cloths, with matching napkins.
Sweet treats on display as you enter the Tea Room
Departing the Tea Room, we returned to the ground floor and wandered through the various rooms with teas, chocolates, fish, meats, etc. Enjoy the collage with a sample of the photographs I captured.
Select any photo above to view full screen – enjoy