The Garden View Tea Room provides the kind of experience one really desires when they think of afternoon tea - beautifully patterned china, a bowl of sugar cubes and tongs, finger sandwiches, and, of course, tea. If you're on the fashion-forward side, this may be something you'll want to consider when heading over to enjoy tea.
The best values, and most full "experiences," are the prix fixe menus, which include a pot of tea, as well as a few courses of small food items, which vary depending on the service you select. My traveling companions (Mara, Ryan, and Tabby) and I all selected the Buckingham Tea, which was the lower end of the services, but held the most appeal for us. First, our teas were brought out in individual pots. There are a wide variety to select from, and we ordered the three Garden View signature blends - Mara and Ryan, the Mad Hatter, a flavorful tea with heavy fruit notes; Tabby, the Princess Breakfast, a decaf Rooibos blend with a light hint of strawberry; and myself, the Garden View blend, which was reminiscent of a lighter Early Grey. All of the teas were quite good - and all but myself made use of the sugar cubes (I prefer my tea straight, which is definitely not for everyone), though Tabby also requested honey, which was brought to her in a tiny glass jar.
The first food items brought to us were a strawberry tart and that quintessential tea time item: a scone. These particular scones also had golden raisins in them - not a favorite of mine, but not a deal breaker, either. Accompanying these items were strawberry jam, clotted cream, and lemon curd. My personal favorite of the three was the lemon curd, though the clotted cream added a nice, rich creaminess to the party. The strawberry jam was good, as well, but with the strawberry tart alongside, it seemed like slight strawberry overkill. The tart was a very nice addition, the jam inside very thick and sweet to compliment the buttery crust.
The next course was finger sandwiches: a selection of five sandwiches and one small onion tart. First on the plate was the quintessential tea sandwich: cucumber, watercress, and cream cheese. This one was very light and refreshing - definitely an excellent way to start. Next was egg salad, which typically I am not a fan of, as I dislike hard boiled eggs and mayonnaise, and, indeed, this was my least favorite of the set. Not particularly bad, though - creamy with a somewhat strong kick of onion. Following that was the smoked salmon: a very nice, creamy blend - not overly fishy, by any means. Next was my personal favorite: curry chicken salad. The flavors of this one were quite bright and full - if you're a fan of curry, this is definitely a great item. The pear and Gorgonzola was the last sandwich on the plate. The Gorgonzola had a very strong flavor, which was cut down somewhat by the sweetness of the pears. It may come as a bit of a surprise, but the onion tart served as the palate cleanser. The onions are caramelized to the point of being quite sweet, and it's a good close to the sandwich course.
Finally, we arrived at most people's favorite course: dessert. There was an option of a pineapple mango trifle, strawberries and creme, or two pastries from the dessert tray brought around by our server. Mara, Tabby, and Ryan all opted for the trifle, which was quite large for a one person dessert, and I chose two pastries: a Margarita cream swan and an eclair filled with chocolate chantilly cream. The trifles were delightfully fruity, and the eclair was largely what you would expect: creamy and a strong chocolate flavor - very good, but not reinventing the wheel. The Margarita cream swan reminded me a bit of key lime pie, which was perfectly fine by me.
All in all, I'd definitely recommend this experience for those who enjoy a slightly more refined experience (though you don't necessarily need to be particularly refined to enjoy your time there - in fact, it's probably a little more fun if you aren't.)