The Andaz Hotel has been on my must do list for ages (for fascinating reasons listed in the blog title) and a couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of going there with the delightful Helen Langley. The hotel's 1901 Restaurant, where afternoon tea is served, certainly has the wow factor and it was orginally built as the hotel's ballroom.
The hotel was originally known as the Great Eastern Hotel, located very conviniently next to Liverpool Street Station, was originally built as a grand railway hotel. It was designed in a French Renaissance style by Charles and C.E. Barry and in 1901 the hotel was extended, along Bishopsgate, by Colonel Robert W. Edis. At the start of the twentieth century, when the hotel was completed, Liverpool Street Station was the largest and busiest railway terminus in London.
The hotel has a fascinating history as it is built on the site of the first Bethlem Hospital (1247 - 1676). This was one of the first hospitals to treat people with mental health problems. From the hospital's nick name we get the expression bedlam, meaning a state of confusion or uproar. The hospital is now re-located in South London and if you would like to know more about it I can receommend a visit the recently re-opened Belthem Musuem of the Mind.
Another of my favourite things about the hotel is that it is also mentioned in Bram Stoker's Dracula, where it is referred to by its original name the Great Eastern Hotel. Abraham van Helsing says "Have then rooms for me at the Great Eastern Hotel" (page 123).
Non vegetarian savoury food - photo by kind permission of Helen Langley
Afternoon tea started with the arrival of individual three tier cake stands, beautifully presented but rather unusually consisting of just the savoury foods. The non vegetarian option consisted of ham and mustard bread roll (top), sandwiches of cucumber with cream cheese, salmon with horseradish and egg with watercress (middle) and prawn cocktail (bottom).
I had the vegetarian option which came with horseradish bread roll (top), sandwiches of cucumber with cream cheese, egg with watercress and cheese (middle) and little dish of couscous (bottom). We both really enjoyed our savoury selections and thought the prawn cocktail and couscous was a nice addition to the traditional afternoon tea menu.
This was followed with another three tier cake stand which consisted of pastries (top) plain and raisin and sultana scones (middle) and orange marmalade, strawberry jam, raspberry jam, butter and clotted cream (bottom). The scones were delicious and we were impressed and delighted with the selection of accompaniments. If you'd like to know more about the scones I have previously written about them seperately in Scones of the Month - January 2015. Accompanying the food was a good selection of teas. When we visited there was a special offer of 25% of afternoon tea which usually costs £29.
There were a beautiful selection of mini pastries and very thoughtfully they served two of each so we could both enjoy all of them.
Service was excellent and attentive throughout our visit and I would certainly recommend a visit. Moving on from the food and back to the restaurant itself, this former ball room, has impressive architectural features with its high ceiling, square columns and decorative cornicing.
However it's most magnificent feature is its central glass dome, which is stunningly beautiful.
At the rear of the restaurant is a contemporary styled bar.
However the opulence is not over yet, the hotel has a hidden gem, a Grade I listed temple which has been lost for many decades and only re-discovered during the refurbishment in the 1990s.
The Masonic Temple is hidden away and is not usually open to the public. On arrival we walked down the staircase into an ethereal room lit by bronze candelabras.
In the dim light richly decorated in mahogany and three different types of marble, and with its Doric and Ionic columns, this temple looks mysterious and magical.
At either end of the room are mahogany hand carved thrones decorated with its esoteric insignias.
The view of the other end of the room with the organ and checkerboard flooring.
Close up of the organ behind the throne.
The ceiling has a huge blue and gold dome with a sunburst mofit, which is surrounded with the twelve signs of the zodiac and Greek key design.
The Temple which is not usually open to the public but the hotel periodically holds public events there such as classic horror films screenings.
If you enjoyed reading this you might light to read my blog about the Spitalfields Charnel House which is nearby.
The author of this blog is a qualified City of London and City of Westminster Tour Guide who leads guided walks combining world famous landmarks with hidden treasures often missed by the crowds