This was a review I published on my TripAdvisor page.
The current structure of the Royal Exchange in London was designed by William Tite and it was opened by Queen Victoria in 1844. It currently houses luxury shops and offices. I didn’t know that you could go in and look around it because I thought it was part of the Bank of England. I thought entry was restricted to people going there on official business.
I was recently told that there was a cafe inside and that it was open to the public. It was sign posted outside and we usually get on a bus that goes past the Royal Exchange. I don’t know how I missed the signs for a cafe and shopping outside! I guess when you don’t look for something, you completely miss it when you see it!
When you do go in, try to go in via the main entrance, where the portico and pediment are. Walk up the steps, walk past the gorgeous 8 Corinthian columns and go through the green iron-wrought gates. Once you are through the double glass doors, remember to look up. The interior of the Royal Exchange is breathtaking!
Right-smack-dab in the middle of the original Royal Exchange courtyard is the Royal Exchange Grand Cafe and Bar. When we went in May, the very chic oval bar was decorated with lovely cherry blossoms (I think the theme changes every season). I thought we would be underdressed because it was where the financiers of London worked (plus you had luxury shops like Boodle, Omega and Mont Blanc surrounding the courtyard) as we were dressed to be London tourists for the day. But we were greeted very warmly by the cafe staff and we were seated immediately (come early if you want to have a leisurely breakfast – I guarantee the surroundings will make you want to dawdle and gawp!).
The staff are very efficient but you don’t feel rushed. Our server was amazing, very friendly and I never felt scared to ask questions. The breakfast menu was quiet good: you had an option to go Continental and have toast and tea (or coffee) or your choice of an eggy breakfast (poached, scrambled, fried or in an omelette) with your choice of additions. If you preferred, you could have a pastry for breakfast or cake. It’s almost silver service but not formal enough for you not to enjoy your breakfast and stare at the sumptuous surroundings.
We chose to eat a light breakfast of toast and tea. I chose it because I loved sourdough bread and they served you that (you had the option of choosing the seeded bread too). When the toast came, I was pleasantly surprised because we got more than I expected to get. You get 2 types of jams (they came in individual-sized jam pots) per person and a large pat of French butter. The staff are solicitous and they do ask you if you need more jam or butter. I love to slather butter on my toast so I had to ask for more and they provide that with a smile and flourish. You get your tea served in a silver teapot but I do have to warn you, if you get the teapots with the metal handle, ask for an extra napkin to wrap around the handle because it is hot! The staff are very understanding though so they are happy to provide you with more napkins.
The Grand Cafe also does afternoon tea. They are currently running a Japanese-themed afternoon tea, which runs until 30 June. You may need to visit the Royal Exchange Grand Cafe website to see what their offerings are if you intend to visit after 30 June. You will be served a savoury course and then a sweet course. They aren’t stingy with the tea. I call it a tea-all-you-can service. You can change you tea choice mid-way if you choose. You can choose to start with a fruit infusion, or a mint tea and finish with a green or black tea option. If you don’t ask for more tea, the wait staff will ask you if you want more tea, and you don’t get charged for it. The teas are part of the set price that you pay. It is currently £20 for the classic afternoon tea and £28 for a cocktail afternoon tea. There is a 12.5% service charge.
Whilst they don’t do the traditional tiered cake stand type of presentation, I think it changes according to the afternoon themes. I might go back to find out!
It is good value for money, for where it’s situated. The service is wonderful and I can’t say it enough that I loved how friendly the staff were. They encourage you to have a wander around as well because there are gorgeous murals that can be viewed from the mezzanine level where the Gallery is situated.
It is an experience not to be missed, and not a lot of people know that you CAN have the experience!