For many, afternoon tea is the quintessence of Englishness. My English husband and I have enjoyed many a lovely afternoon tea in England, but we had never done so in our home town Cologne until a colleague recommended having Champagne Tea Time at Excelsior Ernst. Sounds fantastic, thought we, and made our way to one of the high-end, five-star hotels on location. Here’s how we liked it.
We spared neither costs nor effort and went out to test three venues for English Afternoon Tea in Cologne.
For each experience, we awarded stars out of five in five categories, which are: Ambience, Flavours, Service, Authenticity and Value for Money.
Excelsior Ernst Hotel, Trankgasse 1-5 / Domplatz, D-50667 Cologne
I must admit that expectations were high after the Excelsior having been so ardently recommended to us – but I dare say that even with lower expectations, the experience would have been underwhelming.
The staff seemed to be gone elsewhere attending to other duties most of the time and, when on site, did not seem to know or care what they were serving (strawberry jam and marmalade were presented us as ‘raspberry jam’ and ‘apricot jam’).
The interior of the mezzanine level where tea was served was not only conservative (some might be inclined to call it ‘stuffy’) but had actually seen better days, to say the least. Doors, panelling and chairs were chipped, upholstery threadbare.
Of course, all of the above could have been generously overlooked if the culinary element had been convincing. Unfortunately, microscopic-size, dry scones, uninspiredly bland sandwiches and a lovelessly-arranged assortment of industrially-made wrapped sweets did not quite live up to the €34 per person (€44 including champagne).
On the plus side: the champagne was good and the selection of black tea varied.
Value for Money: 0
Total: 6 out of 25 points
Savoy Hotel, Turiner Strasse 9, D-50668 Cologne
The Savoy certainly has style. It is lavishly elegant and scintillatingly extravagant, and in the cooler seasons, a warm and inviting fire awaits Tea Time guests in the Kaminlounge.
The staff was friendly and came to check on a regular basis if we needed anything.
The selection of tea-time snacks was varied. The sandwiches were tasty – however, my English husband complained that they were not cut right. True English sandwiches must be cut either into triangles or into soldiers but not, as it had been done here, simply into rectangles. (In my view, that’s splitting hairs – but what do I know! I have no English blood in me after all.)
The scones were on the dry side and, strangely, bun-shaped and glazed.
The petit fours were really nice.
All in all, it was an agreeable experience. Was it worth €35 per person (€45 including champagne)? We didn’t think so.
Value for Money: 2
Total: 15 out of 25 points
Tasty Pasty, Mauenheimer Strasse 28, D-50733 Cologne
Oh my, what a treat! This was by far the best Afternoon Tea of all – and the most authentic tastes.
The staff’s friendliness more than made up for the odd wait. The café’s interior has modern British charm with the obligatory snugness.
The selection of food was the most tasty (as the venue’s name suggests) and also the most filling. On top of the tea-time staples (normal-size!) scones, (correctly-cut and mouth-wateringly delicious) sandwiches and assorted pastries (all of which are divine, by the way: brownies, vegan chocolate cake and shortbread – simply GBBO Heaven!), two persons get a Cornish pasty to share.
The tea menu is refreshingly non-traditional. For those who are not into traditional black tea, I recommend the Strawberry Lemonade tea.
If you can do without the 5-star-hotel ambience, this is by far the best Afternoon Tea you can get in Cologne – and at half the price of most other venues (€17.50 per person). We thoroughly enjoyed it!
Value for Money: 5
Total: 24 out of 25 points
The Pommes Buddha says: The proof is in the pasty.
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