The place is the hero
We've been here a few times in the the last decade, the latest at an early sitting today. Let's be quite clear, you come here to sit in the Palm Court for an hour or two in one of the most opulent and visually dazzling hotel spaces you'll ever see.
On arrival you wait in a kind of genteel scrum near the piano till a waiter finds you and takes you to a table. There's no desk, no formal check in. The place is busy- its always busy and very difficult to get a table at weekends. The food is, well the food is OK. Its very traditional, sandwiches with crusts cut off, scones with artery-clogging clotted cream and jam, and the sort of “fancy cakes” you used to get in a baker's in the 1950's, accompanied by your choice from maybe 20 types of tea. You get about as much of all of this as you want, though in my experience it doesn't take long to feel a bit stodgy and waterlogged.
Service is unfailingly polite, though trying to attract your waiter's attention is not always easy, the aformentioned “scrum” could be improved, and seeing your waiter carrying maybe half a dozen pots of tea for various tables tends to stress the industrial scale of things somewhat. In my view a pot of tea lasts for maybe a couple of cups before its either too strong or losing its character, and they could be a little more forthcoming about bringing a new pot.
Value? Well its pretty tough to justify £47 for what you get to eat, even if service is included. There are quite a few London hotels that offer more interesting and better value teas. But you're there for an occasion and you either think of it in those terms or you're probably not going to feel good about being there.
We got there early to get out of the rain, went to the bar, and were a little disappointed to be seated in the lobby. Looking quickly at the champagne menu we decided not to pay £21 minimum for a glass of Non-vintage champagne with no Prosecco or similar on offer, and for our sins were then ignored for the next fifteen minutes, after which we walked into the Rivoli Bar (yet another remarkable space) and were seated and served immediately. Its possibly worth pointing out that our two glasses of middling wines from the cheaper end of the “by the glass” list cost an eye-watering £33. Still the place was beautiful, and I can't deny that we enjoyed being there.