The never-ending stream of ‘National’ days and weeks that PRs seem to throw around the Twittersphere has me wildly disconnected. A little petulant, truth be told. I refuse to eat burgers on National Burger Day. I refuse to relax on National Relaxation Day. I may even go as far as supergluing my mouth shut on National Smile Day.
The exception was always going to be National Afternoon Tea Week. The one I’m currently clotted cream-ing our way through. I take afternoon tea unnecessarily seriously.
With a friend was in town and on the hunt for her first taste of British teatime, I had to go heritage. Home House‘s English Country Garden Afternoon Tea heritage.
The jaw-droppingly beautiful member’s club and hotel shook their afternoon tea menu up to incorporate country garden themes right on time. We booked in, skipped up Robert Adam’s opulent staircase, and settled in to their neo-classical Drawing Room with a glass of Moët & Chandon for the quintessential afternoon tea.
Simply heightening the traditional, we started with a sandwich selection of roast beef & horseradish on onion bread, smoked salmon & cream cheese on granary, cucumber & cream cheese on white, and cressed-up wholegrain egg mayo on white.
The fresh scones – with plenty of clotted cream and jam – were next, riding on a Darjeeling sea that led to spectacular dessert plates. While I rarely take more than a bite of teatime’s sweet treats, the mini Pimms trifle, Eton Mess meringue sphere, cherry & chocolate dacquoise, honey & thyme mousse sable, violet & blackberry open macaron, and raspberry & rose tartlet vanished within minutes.
If you’re looking for a traditional tea that won’t disappoint, I couldn’t think of a better spot to settle in for the afternoon.
Where does one take a long-lost lady friend from Indiana when she arrives in London for the first time? To afternoon tea, of course.
Not your typical scones ‘n’ Earl Grey afternoon tea, either. Last week I introduced the aforementioned lady love to both afternoon tea and London street food by taking her to The Arch for their new Street Food Afternoon Tea.
Instead of tiered plates of polite nibbles, The Arch serves up a slew of multicultural slabs. The savouries include mini cheeseburgers with onion marmalade in brioche, mini scotch eggs with piccalilli, chicken satay, mini fish & chips, and little smoked chicken, chilli, avocado and mango tortillas.
Paired with tea-infused cocktails, they went down a storm.
The second slab – the sweet treats – included warm cinnamon & sugar doughnuts filled with apple jam, homemade macarons, mini coffee eclairs, strawberry & pistachio tarts, a mini raspberry victoria sponge cake, and a lemon & mango rice pudding with toasted coconut.
Tucked inside one of the curtained booths of The Arch’s Salon de Champagne lounge, I felt this afternoon tea experience really stood out in a sea of sub-par and overpriced sandwiches.
As far as concepts go, the chess-inspired G & T afternoon tea from Le Meridien Piccadilly ranks second to none. Combining my two favourite British traditions (tea and gin), the afternoon tea – which is held in the hotel’s Terrace Grill & Bar – has something for everyone.
The special part? As the restaurant’s art exhibitions change, the afternoon tea themes follow suit, meaning Francesco Ridolfi’s chess-themed portraits will be hanging above restaurant patron’s chess-themed afternoon teas until April 1st.
You can have the sandwiches, pastries, and scones served with hot tea or opt for your choice of ‘G & T’ herbal or fruit-infused gins and tonic syrup. I think it’s all too clear which one The Manfriend and I went for.
A pot of vanilla and chilli-infused Sloane’s (a gin-lovers treat) and rose buds and fresh raspberries-infused Martin Miller (suited to a sweeter palate) for two, please.
As we poured our gin like alcoholic debutantes, we nibbled our way through the scones and sandwiches; Scottish Smoked salmon with dill and citrus crème fraiche on wholemeal, roast beef & rocket with horseradish on caraway seeded bread, free range duck egg mayo and cress on wholemeal, and cucumber cream cheese & chive on white.
Naturally, the chess theme went full-force on the pastries; mini crown-topped Queen’s opera cakes, Pawns’ coconut & pistachio frangipanes, chequered bitter chocolate tarts, and Knights’ sable biscuits.
To my own taste, I preferred the savouries to sweets but can’t wait to see what the hotel’s following art exhibition inspires!
Thanks to Ametsa’s newly Michelin-starred credentials, its parent hotel – The Halkin – has been getting a lot of attention this month.
It’s time for a bit more.
Presenting…Afternoon Tea in The Halkin Bar! The Halkin’s latest tea menu is all that a classic tea should be, is peppered with delicious flourishes, and served alongside a selection of palate-dazzling JING teas (go for the jasmine pearl).
Sandwiches are large and in charge (read: if you’re taking a dude, he’ll be more than pleased); King prawns with watercress and cocktail dressing, cornfed Chicken breast with tumeric and spring onion, baby Cucumber with cream cheese and chives, and – the hero – Scottish smoked salmon with caviar and spicy peppers.
When time came to head into sweeter territory, sigh, the scones were a slight disappointment. Though the scones themselves were served slightly stale, the quick breads were saved when paired with small pots of honey-infused strawberry jam and clotted cream topped with pansy petals.
The tiered treats, however, were as dressed to impress as the photos suggest. We’ve got an almond and cocoa sponge cake (aka opera cake) soaked in coffee and chocolate mousse, a lemon meringue tartlet, a pistachio brownie with white chocolate and madagascan vanilla cream, then – GASP – a passionfruit macaron filled with gossamer-light meringue and fresh raspberries. Though bites of each allowed me no room for the final beaker of mango, strawberry and mascarpone brew, I could have been convinced to shove it in my purse for later. Maybe I did.
The Halkin Afternoon Tea is priced at £28 per person, £38 with a glass of Champagne (Louis Roederer Brut Premier), and is available from 3-5pm daily.
To mark the world premiere stage musical of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, our friends at One Aldwych have created an Afternoon Tea inspired by the story and kindly invited me along to be the first to sample their bouquet of contemporary sweet treats.
Kicking things off with a dry ice-smoking beaker of Cocktail Charlie (Dalmore whisky mixed with Grand Marnier Cherry, chocolate bitters, grapefruit juice, cherry syrup, and champagne), it took no time at all to be presented with the introductory plate of sandwiches and savouries. The personal highlight of the so-called starters came as a bountiful serving of cured smoked salmon and lemon mayonnaise on top of rye, though the roast beef and horseradish sandwich on onion bread and leek and stilton quiche thoroughly pleased my male companion.
Deciding to switch to tea before we Dalmore-d ourselves into oblivion, we requested a pot of Midsummer Mango (sunflower blossoms with real mango pieces) and Smooth Caramel (black tea with caramel chunks and a hint of vanilla) before taking on the beautifully arranged plate of confection you see above.
Like all good afternoon teas, One Aldwych’s features warm scones (served with summer berry jam, apple and meadowsweet compote, and Devonshire clotted cream). These arrive in a basket alongside an obsession-forming blueberry brioche and a Cocoa bean financier; the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory touch. On a tiered slab at the side you take possession of chocolate caramel milk, a mini Eton mess, and ‘Golden egg’ filled with vanilla cheesecake and mango puree which are all accented by multi-flavoured homemade candyfloss. The kind of gluttony even Veruca Salt would appreciate.
(The afternoon tea is £29.50 per person/£38.00 per person including a glass of Louis Roederer Champagne or a Cocktail Charlie. Click here to book!)