St Ermin's Hotel has undergone an extensive £30 million refurbishment and has "historically significant interiors" which must include the incredible grand staircase that greets all visitors in the Lobby. This staircase was designed by JP Briggs, a Victorian Music Hall designer, and his theatrical flair clearly worked overtime on this creation.
The building became a hotel in 1899 and was considered cutting edge when it installed a telephone in every room at the time. It's also known as the 'spy hotel' as it was used by the Secret Intelligence Service – now known as MI6 – during World War II. The James Bond connection continues as Ian Fleming once worked from the building too. Today, there is an Intelligence Trail that includes a hotel visit.
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Afternoon Tea Information
The Library, St. Ermin's Hotel
2 Caxton St, London SW1H 0QW
Nearest Tube Station: St James's Park.
Use Journey Planner to plan your route by public transport.
Days and Times: Daily, 2-5pm.
Cost: From £25 per person.
Dress Code: Smart casual.
Reservations: 020 7227 7777 or 0800 652 1498.
Photography: Permitted. Staff will help.
Children: Welcome. There is a special Superhero Children's Afternoon Tea which I can recommend too.
Music: No music.
St Ermin's Hotel Afternoon Tea Review
From the bowler hat wearing door staff, the greeting from Reception to the servers in the Library, all the staff I met seemed to enjoy being in this luxury environment.
Not a large space but the ground floor Library has different size table for different size parties. We sat next to a screen so even though there were other diners in the room we couldn't directly see or hear them.
The glass-topped tables are large enough to accommodate all the teapots, cups and plates required for afternoon tea, still with space for the silver three-tiered cake stand on the table without fully blocking your dining companion and even more further space for a pot plant.
There was no music during my visit to St Ermin's which was a slight shame as the door to the connecting Caxton Bar was open and I could hear the football match on the TV. But once I got chatting to my companion I no longer noticed the unwelcome background sounds.
I didn't count the tea options but I'd say there were more than ten choices on the menu, each with a helpful description. All the tea is by Jing so is loose leaf and a good quality. Tea is served in small glass teapots that look more like cafetieres but you don't push the tea down as you do with coffee. The teapots inner strainer holds the tea leaves back but they are free to move around in the pot so you get their full flavor. Each pot holds around two cups of tea so I got through many pots worth.
I really like light tea flavors at afternoon tea so I chose White Peony. My companion asked for a recommendation for a light tea and then tried rose buds which clearly had a floral taste but is still a very subtle flavor.
The Cake Stand
A traditional silver three-tiered cake stand brings the sandwiches, scones and cakes to the table and staff are adept at describing it all.
The finger sandwiches included smoked salmon and cream cheese, cucumber and cream cheese, ham and horseradish, cheese and tomato, and were served with salad leaves.
Plain scones and just one each were served with strawberry preserve and clotted scream. The scones weren't kept warm in any way but were still enjoyable and easy to cut in half.
I visited for a special limited edition honey afternoon tea when the hotel's own Buckfast Bees first full harvest was available. The hotel's 200,000 bees have six hives and guest can see three of the hives on the third floor. The bees search for pollen in a three mile radius so St James's Park and the gardens of Buckingham Palace are accessible to these bees.
The honey-themed sweet treats I enjoyed included a honey and caramel mousse with crunchy honeycomb topping, a honey Bakewell tart plus a lemon and honey polenta cake. The Classic Afternoon Tea may include macaroons, mini-cupcakes and other delights.
The Library wasn't too busy when I visited so this is a good venue to know about as you are more likely to be able to get a weekend booking than in some other London hotels. (This may have been because there were other functions going on at the same time.) It was nice to see children enjoying tea with their families and this would be a lovely venue for a family celebration, although I'd make sure to ask for the connecting door to the bar to be closed or for the TV volume to be turned down.