Flights of Fancy and the Secrets of St Ermin’s

St Ermin’s Hotel hides many fascinating secrets behind its historic facade. It’s actually the only publicly accessible building closely associated with British espionage, of which more later. I was here on a less covert mission, as I’d been invited to taste their Flights of Fancy Champagne Afternoon Tea.

St Ermins Hotel courtyard
Arriving outside the imposing courtyard, I admired the Victorian red brick building. It was built in 1889 as a mansion block on the site of a 15th century chapel dedicated to St Ermin and converted into a hotel in 1899. During the 1930s, St. Ermin’s was used by officers of the Secret Intelligence Service to meet agents, and it became the headquarters of SIS’s Section D.

St Ermins hotel
Sir Winston Churchill used to enjoy a glass of champagne in the hotel’s Caxton Bar and in 1940 he asked a group to meet at St Ermin’s to “set Europe ablaze”. They became the SOE (Special Operations Executive) working on covert operations during WWII, known today as the SAS. After WWII, double agent and eventual defector Guy Burgess frequently met his Russian counterpart at the hotel.

St Ermins Hotel Autograph Collection
The interior of the hotel was created by the famous Victorian theatre designer J.P. Briggs, and his plasterwork design is breathtaking. There are rumours that a tunnel runs from underneath the grand staircase in the lobby all the way to the Houses of Westminster.

St Ermins Hotel Autograph Collection
Afternoon tea is served upstairs, and you have a great view of the lobby from there.

I was warmly welcomed and shown to a comfortable seat in the main lounge area where there’s a nice display of award-winning Newby teas. The afternoon tea has been designed by St Ermin’s chef, Adam Handling, who recently won the Scottish Chef of the Year award.

St Ermins Hotel tea
We chose from the extensive tea menu and I decided to try an unusual orange Rooibos. It had a beautiful colour and a lighter taste than other Rooibos teas I have tried previously and found a little overpowering.

I loved the special tea timer, it shows that they really know their stuff!

St Ermins tea
The afternoon tea itself is presented in a cute open box that showcased the goodies inside perfectly. On the left you have the traditional tea and on the right, there’s the gluten free version.

St Ermins afternoon tea
To accompany the tea, we were served a Laurent-Perrier “Flights of Fancy” trio of champagnes. These came on their own handy little tray and certainly had the wow factor. We were advised to pair the sandwiches with a glass of Laurent-Perrier Vintage 2004 Champagne. This had a wonderful biscuity flavour and lovely golden hue.

I enjoyed my selection of sandwiches, particulary the smoked salmon and caviar, crayfish and Marie Rose sauce and beef with horseradish. There were also cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches, which I know are a must for all afternoon teas but I’m not such a fan of those.

St Ermins sandwich
The freshly baked scones were delicious, and the homemade jam and clotted cream were a perfect accompaniment. These were paired with a chilled glass of Laurent-Perrier Brut Non-Vintage Champagne, another very quaffable choice with overtones of citrus and spice.

St Ermins scones
My selection of sweet treats included a cream and strawberry posset, rhubarb and custard macaroon, cherry snowball and my personal favourite, a red velvet and white chocolate cake. These came with a Laurent Perrier Rose Champagne with hints of red fruits, a very refreshing finale!

After the tea, guests are presented with a goodie bag to take away, what a nice touch! Rather annoyingly, I managed to lose it in a shop so I can’t tell you what was inside. Perhaps all the champagne had something to do with that…

St Ermins goodie bag
Looking around the hotel lobby afterwards, I noticed this Division Bell, which helps to usher Members of Parliament back inside.

Parliamentary bell
I couldn’t resist a shot of the gorgeous interior.

One last fascinating fact about the hotel is that it has 300,000 residents. Yes you read right, however they aren’t people, they are honey bees residing in 3 hives on the roof of the hotel. St Ermin’s really is full of surprises!

I recommend this tea particularly for:
– Glamourous surroundings
– Champagne lovers
– History buffs

St. Ermin’s’ Flights of Fancy Afternoon Tea is served in the Tea Lounge daily between noon and 6pm.
St Ermins Hotel, Caxton Street, London SW1H 0QW

St Ermins

  • What a gorgeous building – that red brick facade is to die for! I’m loving the ‘tea timer’ hourglasses – a fitting whimsical touch for a ‘Flight of Fancy’ tea! x

    Jasiminne | Posh, Broke, & Bored

    • The tea timer hourglasses are brilliant, and I do love the red brick facade

  • Sophie Athawes

    It’s such a coincidence that you posted this! I walked past this the other night and stopped to admire it, the outside is stunning in the evening with all the lights. Great article, a very interesting read!

    • Thanks Sophie, your’re right it looks beautiful in the evening with the lights

  • Angie SilverSpoon

    I went for tea there last year, I really like the china ware and the bookshelf like serving platter!

    Lots of love,
    SilverSpoon London

    • It’s a very cute bookshelf platter isn’t it and on your doorstep!

  • Lucy

    I love the history of this hotel, the secret tunnel I would love if this was a true story. The presentation of the afternoon tea looks wonderful, the tea timers is the perfect way to get a wonderful tea and how beautiful are the cream and strawberry posset. I can easily see after three champagnes how you lost your bearings Lucy x

    • The secret tunnel is so intriguing, I’d love to know if it exists but then I suppose it wouldn’t be a secret!

  • The interior of this hotel is gorgeous! Nothing more exciting than a spy hotel 😉 I also love the name of the afternoon tea, very enticing.

    Ash | Liakada Travel

    • They actually provide spy games kits for children, such a clever idea!

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  • MissLilly

    such a beautiful place, seriously! One day I’ll go for a tea as well, it’s such a great experience! My favourite one is at The Maids of Honour @ Kew, simply because it’s quite traditional and delicious

    • I’ve been meaning to go to The Maids of Honour, we did buy their cakes to take away but haven’t had the full cafe experience yet!

      • MissLilly

        It’s pretty nice. Feels really relaxing, although it tends to be quite crowded around lunch time (the chicken pie is awesome)

  • What a feast for the eyes! I love a good afternoon tea and am always on the lookout for somewhere new to try. And 3 glasses of champagne with afternoon tea? Oh go on then! xx

  • Jaime

    I love the stand that the cakes and sandwiches come in … it’s always interesting to see what different restaurants/hotels do with this particular aspect of the presentation!

    • Yes it’s nice that they had put so much thought into the presentation

  • Love your facts – what a spot for an indulgent tea 🙂
    (I’m scheduled to meet a few of the 300,000 residents in a month or two which should be rather interesting…!)

    • Ooh are you doing the bee keeping? Can’t wait to hear about it

  • Lyosha

    The hotel looks awesome!

  • Dressed With Soul

    Oh, looks really like a wonderful place and it must be simply a pleasure to stay there!

    xx from Germany/Bavaria, Rena

    • I haven’t seen a room yet but the lobby and tea room are gorgeous, and the outside terrace looks lovely for Summer

    • You feel like you’re stepping back in time there so a stay would be wonderful

  • Beauty Follower

    Classy place… delicious sweet treats!

    • You’re right, it’s a very classy place and the sweet treats were delicious!

  • K.

    I am in total awe of this place. OMG just look at the ambiance, the style, the tea. Love this post.

    Kay of Pure & Complex

    • Thanks very much Kay, it really is quite unique – that’s what I like about London, so many historic places to discover!

  • Wow, this place looks incredible, I would love to have tea there!


  • Now, that’s really ‘afternoon tea’. I’d love the ambiance of such a luxurious venue.

  • Estrella

    That looks so decadently fun! I’ve been to London once, but I didn’t get to go for an afternoon tea. The hotel looks like a lovely place to spend an afternoon, and the sweets look delicious.

    • If you come back, definitely make time for an afternoon tea – it’s such a British institution!

  • Shikha (whywasteannualleave)

    I used to live round the corner and once went there for a chocolate afternoon tea – it’s a lovely hotel isn’t it? I really like the little shelf -like thing they serve the cake in – really looks like a little piece of furniture!

    • Mmm, chocolate and afternoon tea – great combination! I used to work around the corner, want to go back and sit on the terrace!

  • Love this hotel, such a special place!

    • There’s something so British about it, isn’t there! A real slice of history

  • Corinne C

    Oh wow, I love how that afternoon tea is presented. How different!

    Corinne x

    • It was great presentation and I loved the way the teas were laid out too

  • What a stunning location, and you really can’t beat afternoon tea. Especially one that like!

    Annabel ♥
    Mascara & Maltesers

    • I’d highly recommend it Annabel, hope you get to experience it

  • Pamela Morse

    This is really elegant. The tea timer set is a novelty I have never seen before…Lovely design features, and I am sure the food was good.

    • It is a novelty as you just pour the tea when you feel like it, but it certainly adds to the fun

  • This looks incredible! You’re fast becoming my go to girl when looking for a nice afternoon tea!

    Lauren xx
    The Lifestyle Diaries

    • I didn’t really intend to become an afternoon tea expert, but I do seem to have been cramming quite a few in!

  • It’s such a beautiful venue. I have been looking for somewhere different to have afternoon tea, and I especially love the new presentation rather than the typical trays. Looked like a lot of fun 🙂

    • It was great fun Laurie, I highly recommend it and I’m hopefully returning for an introduction to beekeeping!

  • What an intriguing background St Ermin’s has! The afternoon tea looks divine 🙂

  • Gorgeous! I love that it’s so old school and elegant. x

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