“Some things in life are wonderful, like friendship and chocolate cake”
I don’t know who it was that said that, but whoever they were, they knew what they were talking about.
This past weekend I experienced the BEST afternoon tea I have ever experienced, and, as a lover of afternoon tea, I don’t say that lightly. Let me tell you all about it…
Myself and the ever-wonderful Haydy from Squibb Vicious, were invited along to the Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane in Mayfair to try their Scents of Summer afternoon tea. As I always do when I’m carrying out a review, I logged on to their website before I went to do a bit of research and see what lay in store. Having looked, I was very excited. Very excited indeed.
On the Saturday morning, with a beautiful hot British summers day making an appearance, I put on a little black cage-neckline dress from New Look that had been hanging in my wardrobe for a while and hopped on the train to meet Haydy at Liverpool Street station. A short journey via tube and we were at Hyde Park Corner where an underpass led us right to the hotel. Easy accessibility is always a winner in my case as I have absolutely zero sense of direction and getting lost is one of my skills.
Upon arrival we were shown to our table which was situated right next to the window, a definite perk for as both myself and Haydy are petrol heads and Mayfair is definitely the place to be if you like nice cars. Ferrari’s, Porsche’s, Lamborghini’s, Aston Martin’s, and even my favourite car of all time, a Bugatti Veyron – only the third I’ve ever seen in my life! We were very happy girls from the get-go.
Once settled we were greeted by Luigi, our waiter for the day and an expert on tea who shared his knowledge with us throughout the afternoon. I can honestly say, he was probably the best waiter I have ever had. He was friendly, funny, professional and knew so much about not only the tea, but the ingredients in everything we ate, as well as the champagne provided to us with the final course. Both Haydy and I were hugely impressed with him and can honestly say his service greatly added to the whole experience. Pay rise for Luigi please!
With each of the courses we were given, we were presented with a pot of tea which would complement the flavours. I knew, of course, that wines are often recommended for these same reasons, but I have never been provided with tea to drink in this way and it was interesting to see how they combined and developed in the mouth to create even more taste. We’re not talking English Breakfast Tea here either, we had hints of smokiness, jasmine, rose petals, Lapsang Suchong, Earl Grey and so many more that my brain struggled to retain all the information. However, it made me realise that there is so much more to the tea world and I definitely need to expand my horizons a little.
First up we were served a palate cleanser made with rose pearl wheatgrass and strawberries. This was fresh and light, a real refreshing start to the meal and, presented on a bed of grass, an early sign of the treat that lay in store.
Along with the palate cleanser came the first course of four sandwiches which Luigi (after spraying the air above us with citrus) instructed us to eat in a certain order so the ingredients could perform to their best ability – a rose infused cucumber sandwich with mascarpone on white bread (the usual bread hadn’t yet made it to the hotel from its starting point in Peru!), salmon and bergamot in lemon bread, roasted butternut squash with feta on spinach bread, and finally pink peppercorn and thyme chicken on tomato bread.
Each of the sandwiches was delicious and you could really taste the individual components, even down to the rose flavour infused into the cucumber, but I think the butternut squash and feta one was my favourite – I would never have thought of putting those ingredients into a sandwich but it tasted so good, I’ll definitely be recreating this at home myself!
The second course was the traditional afternoon tea staple – scones. Mini sized and made with buttermilk, they were served with four separate additions – wild strawberry jam, clotted cream, Earl Grey infused butter (the tea adding a floral note) and pink peppercorn lemon curd which I was a little unsure about before I ate it, but was actually really nice! I would never have thought of putting lemon curd and peppercorns together, but it worked really well and was incredibly moreish.
And finally, the part of the meal that really blew us away, and the course had everyone in the restaurant turning round to look – the cakes.
This picture does not do the beauty of this course justice. It was absolutely mind-blowing – you could see the pride on the waiter’s faces as they brought it over to us and our jaws hit the floor! I bet seeing diners faces when they’re presented with this never gets boring!
As I’m allergic to nuts, they very kindly created a nut-free version for me, with a few extra treats on it to make up for missing out on some of the items Haydy had that I wasn’t able to eat. Each of these plates is created for two people, so both us ladies had very happy boyfriends when we arrived home with ‘doggie bags’ for them!
The Intercontinental Park Lane website describes this course as ‘the theatrical finale’ and I couldn’t agree more. Designed to celebrate the quintessential English garden, it included Jasmine tea cakes with edible flowers, bergamot and blackcurrant macaroons, peach melba mousse, a grapefruit and almond tart with violet cream, a vanilla cheesecake with a selection of berries, a chocolate slice, a rose water and pink peppercorn jelly with strawberry mousse served in a chocolate flowerpot, a chocolate mud, edible leaves and even edible pebbles.
Served with a glass of cold rose Moet champagne, Haydy and I were both totally overwhelmed. This course was like nothing I have ever seen before and we both sat there overawed for quite a little while before we could bring ourselves to tuck in!
Both of us were stuffed to the brim after all the tea, sandwiches and scones that went before, but we managed to try a little of each of the items, and they were just perfect. The peach melba mousse was encased in a shell of white chocolate, the chocolate slice was rich but light at the same time, the cheesecake was smooth and balanced well by the sweet berries, and the edible leaves were delicious – it was obvious that only the best ingredients had been used for this entire meal.
Priced at £45.00 per person, I think this afternoon tea is an absolute bargain. I’ve paid around £40 for experiences like this in the past, but never have they been as impressive as this. Every single item we were served was fresh and full of flavour, complemented by the accompanying teas. The service was impeccable and the surroundings were comfortable and classy.
This particular menu only runs until 27th September 2015, so if you want to book it (and I recommend you do!) you have just over a month to get in there and experience it for yourself. However, Luigi tells us that they have another exciting afternoon tea planned to replace it, so I’m looking forward to seeing what that is!
Thank you Intercontinental for having us, thank you Luigi for your excellent service, and thank you to the chefs who put this together. It was truly one of the most magical food experiences I have ever had in my life.
So, hands up, who’s booking themselves a table?
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* This experience was provided free of charge for review purposes but, as always, all opinions and comments are my own *
Afternoon Tea at Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane