Hallowe’en Afternoon Tea @Lancasterlondon

It’s become an annual tradition that Petula and I celebrate Halloween in the most unauthodox manner we can think of. Previously we have visited a horror farm, and on another occasion we made a haunted house from pieces of toast.

This year, we killed two birds with one wonderful stone and celebrated Halloween over tea. 


Although one has taken tea at The Lancaster previously, and with so many teas to be taken in town it almost seems wasteful to duplicate, however the theme was so vastly different that it was a whole new experience for me.

As we made our way into the tea lounge we were faced by our bloodied and ashen faced server, as silly, young girls do we got the giggles and soon our zombie friend dropped his guard. We were seated at our table and presented with the rather gruesome sounding menu. A cucumber coffin you say?


It is always a joy when Petula and I are permitted to drink our way through the tea menu- a hotel’s speciali-tea (haha!) is usually my first port of call, however on this occasion I’d asked my friend’s permission to have an English Breakfast tea. “Now what is wrong with a cup of EB?” You might ask. “Nothing” I reply, “please feel free to drink EB to your heart’s content.” However, if you are on a voyage of tea discover you won’t get very far from home on English Breakfast. It’s the vanilla of tea, the spaghetti bolognese, the fudge in a box of Miniature Heroes- you can do so much better, my dear. My excuse, if you will hear me out, was that on that particular morning I had taken only one cup of tea using rather old milk, it hadn’t quite turned, but the tea tasted thin and metallic which hung around my throat like a bad memory. Best to get straight back on the horse I thought, remembering the time my brother did fall off a horse, bashed his nose, and was forced to jump straight back on by his girlfriend, despite the blood streaming down his face. In other words, I desperately needed some tea. 

“I’ll have a pot of English Breakfast please.”

A request which was greeted with a look of disgust (I can understand, I was disgusted with myself) from our server who proceeded to lecture me on why I shouldn’t have an EB, and that maybe I might like a chai, as though it were some sort of alien concept to me. I can see where he was coming from, chai is rather lovely after all, but I was rather offended that my choice of EB suggested I was boring. It was so condescending that I had to bite my tongue rather hard! This was my only criticism though, as everybody else was more than accommodating. 


Well the savouries were rather scrummy, the beef being a favourite, the scones small but perfectly formed (cream in a tube in-keeping with the art theme, but no substitute for clotted cream and rather a meagre amount) and the patisserie was very impressive- the dead man’s finger eclair, as I’m going to call it, a clear winner. Unusually the food was not served on tiered plates in the middle of the table, but on a side-table in a boxed filled with dry ice- a theatrical masterpiece! 


Somehow we managed to drag our sitting out for 3 1/2 hours! Sometimes one feels like one is being hurried along, or ignored once a length of time has passed, but not so here- the atmosphere was so comfortable that it seemed a shame to leave. Satisfied that the experience was well worth £35, I’m sure we’ll be back. 

Advertisements

Afternoon Tea @Langham_London


The Langham has been on my ‘to do’ list for rather a long time. It was a happy coincidence that my dear, dear friend Petula was looking for a venue for her birthday tea and up popped an email in our inboxes.

“Did you get an email about-”

“Afternoon tea at The Langham?”

“And the private room?”

“Yes! How exciting!”

And so it was booked.

When booking for 10 guests or more, one is able to request a private dining room. One half expected to be shut away in a windowless room, but as it turned out we were seated in a beautiful, bright room with a large dining table and the full attention of two servers.


 I have come to expect a stuffy, sometimes snobbish atmosphere with my afternoon tea; a sense of respecting the ritual, rather than an elitist club. I believe there is a proper way to behave on these occasions and I do have a problem with those who choose to wear jeans to tea- how truly awful!

The Langham was somehow different to what I was expecting. The sense of propriety was certainly there- our servers laid napkins across our laps, tea was poured for us (very important in my ‘afternoon tea’ books!) yet they both had the most sparkling personalities I have ever encountered in the hotel world. We felt so well looked after, so amused, and it was all very genuine.

A lovely moment was when one of the guests- an afternoon tea virgin-  thought she spied slices of chocolate cake from across the room. ‘No, no’ we said, ‘they’re sandwiches!’ Of course, we were referring to the dark, rye bread. ‘Oh, chocolate sandwiches!’ She exclaimed. Even Bhau, our server, was laughing at her mistake and a few minutes later he emerged from the kitchen with a tray of Nutella sandwiches! How delightful!


The sandwiches, or savouries as I should probably call them were a play on the traditional- egg and artichoke for example. Some worked- the eclair was absolutely divine… Some less so, beef and ‘slaw for example was a bit too obscure for my taste, but I commend them on their adventurousness.


  
Unusually, we were served a lemon posset palette-cleanser. I’m not a lemon fan at all, but it was actually rather lovely and certainly did the job.

Darling Bhau soon discovered that it was Petula’s birthday celebration and arrived with a ‘special’ tray of the most wonderful salted-caramel tartlets and was insistent that she was served her scone in the same way as Her Majesty, the Queen on her birthday. It was a sweet, if rather hilarious moment when he cut her scone with a knife and fork, then spread it with jam and clotted cream (in the wrong order I hasten to add!) Thankfully he stopped short of feeding her, or I might have burst with laughter!


 You might call me a little mean but having sipped hundreds of cups of breakfast and afternoon blends, I’m after something a little different and am keen to test my server’s tea knowledge. Unfortunately I don’t remember the other gentleman’s name, but he did a fine job of meeting my exacting requirements and took the time to explain what made this tea special.



The cakes and pastries were pleasant- one never manages to test them all for fear of feeling rather sick by the end and kindly, we were given sweet little boxes to take them away in. I particularly adored the shortbread teapot.

I had seen that the cocktail bar in The Langham had recently received an award of excellence, but it being a Saturday night and all, there was rather a wait to get in. Perhaps one might venture in next time.

All in all, a highly recommended experience for food and frivolity.

Afternoon Tea @BelgravesLondon

 I was going to start by saying “America doesn’t do tea property” but then I realised I am actually writing about an American hotel so I will retract that statement.

We had just spent the last 10 days in an extremely Americanised Mexican hotel. Jet lag had us ordering pots of tea and sweet pastries at “six thirdy” AM, or half past six as we say. Rumours were flying round that the previous week the hotel had run out of English Breakfast tea bags- needless to say, things were rather tense. No, I did not want a “cawfee” instead.

As a safety measure and a treat (who doesn’t need a treat the moment they get back from vacation- oh crumbs! They’ve got me at it now! Holiday) I booked us afternoon tea in Pont Street Restaurant at the Belgraves Hotel. 

After a very welcoming arrival we were seated in a very sweet alcove surrounded by windows. Glasses of champagne arrives with our choice of rose or raspberry pearls in the bottom.  
 And unfortunately that was the best of the service, because we seemed to be rather neglected after that. Some minutes later we were asked something along the lines of “Well what tea are you having?” despite not yet having received the tea menu. One of our servers cheerfully explained that she had been rather late for work- we were unsure how to respond to this. Later on when my green tea had become too strong, I attempted to request some fresh hot water, but in a near empty restaurant staff were buzzing around, paying us no attention. I’m not the type to shout “Garçon!”, but it was impossible to make eye contact with anyone. Eventually my request was fulfilled, no questions asked.
Enough about the service, because the food made up for it. 

 Other than the unusual option of grated cheese and pickle, which seemed rather rustic along side the traditional fillings, the sandwiches with good- moist, fresh and thick. But the pièce de résistance had to be the Marie Antoinette themed cake stand.

  
 I cannot give enough praise to the pastry chefs for the sheer variety on the stack. One usually finds that after the sandwiches one is faced with an overwhelming pile of sweet cakes, but here there was a perfect balance of sweet and savoury- the foie gras and the hollandaise quail’s egg were favourites. Our server was happy to give us a little box to take away, so my playing card biscuit was saved for later and was an absolute delight.
I did find the price quite shocking, not because I didn’t value the effort with the food, but because I don’t think Pont Street yet has the reputation to charge at this rate. I hope the service was a one-off because I would be inclined to visit again in the future.

And yes, Americans can do tea properly.

Chocolate Afternoon Tea: @landmarklondon

On our leisurely stroll over from Marble Arch we discussed how, despite a luxurious interior, many of our favourite hotels have a rather shabby, uninteresting interior. I believe a lot of it is of a period style, but frankly, I just don’t like it.

What a pleasant surprise when we turned the corner to see the magnificent exterior of The Landmark Hotel, all archways and red brick. I confess our Teasearch had mainly consisted of admiring the beautiful glass-roofed Winter Garden and planning which blend of tea we would have, so discovering this rather attractive structure was a delight.

Once inside the marble lobby the consierge arranged for our special tour of the hotel, taking in the glorious stained- glass windows marked ‘Leeds’, ‘Sheffield’ and (inexplicably) ‘Barnsley’. We strolled around the great function rooms with their wooden panelling and numerous chandeliers and carved fireplaces.

Our tour guide gave us a brief history of the hotel, informing us of its grand beginnings as the Great Central Hotel, a Victorian-era railway hotel intended to serve Marylebone station.

Sadly, as with many of the railway hotels, the advent of the motorcar brought it into decline and it wasn’t until the 1980s and 1990s, when the demand for luxury hotels grew, that the site was redeveloped and became The Landmark.   

Once seated in the Winter Garden the afternoon tea itself was wonderful- we both opted for the chocolate afternoon tea by way of celebrating the fact that lent has passed and all things cocoa are now back in my diet.

Disappointingly, the traditional finger sandwiches, scones, cakes and pastries were not served on the tiered stand, but individual plates. However this was my only minor criticism and this was made up for by the beautiful free-standing teapot towers.

I keep meaning to make a list of what (in my opinion) makes the perfect afternoon tea, and the Landmark has certainly caused me to come to some conclusion on this.

For me, the detail which marks a hotel above all others is my belief that one should not have to pour one’s own tea. It is not often that one is treated to this level of service, the only other example of this I have experienced was at the Savoy Hotel.

Secondly I believe that if one is paying in the region of £40 for afternoon tea (“£50 for a sandwich”, as Farv often exclaims) that one should leave suitably full-up, having endulged in as much as they feel able to. I can comfortably eat eight finger sandwiches, so presenting me with only four is rather tight-fisted. Thankfully, our server was more than happy to replenish, even allowing us to sample the rather lovely vegetarian fillings.

Thirdly, one should be able to change their variety of tea. Often a server will lead one to believe that one may change blends midway thought, but never gives one the opportunity to. My companion mentioned that the Berkely are very forthcoming with offering a new pot- I’m yet to have the pleasure.  Again, we were fortunate that we were encouraged to try a few different blends; our teapot stand was laden with at least 6 pots. I started with the Winter Garden blend, followed by a caramel black tea and finishing on a white peony.

The chocolate element of the chocolate afternoon tea included chocolate chip scones and various chocolate cakes and pastries. Being super critical we thought that it would have been possible to incorporate it into the bread maybe, and we also thought it would have been a more defined use of dark, milk and whites chocolates. My favourite was the chocolate and coconut macaroon.

All in all, it’s was a great experience. It may not be a name you have ever heard of, but for me this makes it an even greater find (and no ridiculous waiting list!) I would highly recommend it.

Cake, Cake, Cake

Afternoon tea is for special occasions.

Nonsense. Have as much tea as you can. It has been observed by many a friend that I do rather love an afternoon tea.

I happened to see a Tweet from the Lancaster Hotel promoting their offer of 50% off afternoon tea with a glass Laurent Perrier. Now perhaps you don’t know, but other than tea and cocktails, flappers only drink champagne, so this suited me just fine!
IMG_6473-0.JPG

IMG_6472-0.JPG

IMG_6474-0.JPG
The tea itself was divine! The chefs should be commended on their cucumber sandwiches- the best I’ve ever tasted! I’m definitely going to take a leaf out of their book and start seasoning mine. Replenished sandwiches is a big tick in my book too.
The tea lounge was quiet and out of the way so it was easy to relax, and there was no pressure for us to leave, unlike some places, so we ended up staying until 7 o’clock!

IMG_6579.JPG
I’ve never been a fan of Halloween due to it’s proximity to and interference with my birthday. But for my love of the unusual I decided that I couldn’t resist the appeal of Cakeageddon. What?! I wasn’t sure either, but mystery is very appealing to me.
On Friday night we drove to Standalone Farm in Letchworth, Herts prepare to be scared slash filled with lovely cake. Themed around the fairytale we were guided round the farm by a “New York detective”, encountering the aftermath of a mass murder… Only all the corpses were made of cake!

IMG_6562.JPG

IMG_6525.JPG
There was even a shop at the end of the tour where one could purchase all manner of disgusting looking (but undoubtedly delicious) cakes.
And yes, the cigarette butts are edible!

IMG_6582-1.JPG

IMG_6587-1.JPG

IMG_6585-1.JPG

IMG_6594-1.JPG

Flappers & Tea Parties Part 2

IMG_6261.JPG
The other obvious thing to do on a weekend is have a tea party. And funnily enough it coincided with a need for an engagement party.
I’m not going to lie, I’m incredible at tea parties. I believe in doing things properly, so I begrudge buying anything in but this means I have to slave away for hours to get the results.
I also have a real thing for the details so have, for a long time, been collecting crockery and special objects to set the scene.IMG_6262.JPG
Normally I talk my guests through the names of dishes, the ingredients, whether they’re halal slash vegetarian slash suitable for people allergic to pepper. But frankly I couldn’t be bothered this time, so I made labels.
I also got fed up with doing the usual cucumber, egg, smoked salmon and ham sandwiches so thought I’d mix it up a bit.

IMG_6263.JPG

IMG_6264.JPG
I looked to Pinterest for tea party inspiration and came up with some right crackers-

Another caramelised banana and rum sandwich, Vicar?

Alright, there wasn’t a vicar present but you get the idea.

The menu:

Champagne with mango juice ice cubes and edible glitter
Chorizo & apple sausage rolls
Vegetable pizza
Sliders
Chicken & mayo rolls
Egg mayonnaise & smoked salmon on French bread
Chocolate spread & sprinkles sandwiches
Caramelised banana and rum sandwiches
Tyrell’s Swanky Vegetable Crisps
Scones
Butterfly cakes
Layered chocolate cake
Cake pops
Cucumber with pesto cream cheese
Sticky date flapjack

Needless to say we had a fabulous time.

IMG_6174.JPG
Glitter sprinkled mango ice cubes

IMG_6238.JPG
Chorizo & apple sausage rolls

IMG_6265.JPG
ham & cheese swirls

IMG_6266.JPG
chocolate sprinkle sandwiches with heart cutout

A bit of what you fancy

For one reason or another I found myself with some time off work this week. And what would any flapper do with all this free time? Pop out for afternoon tea of course!
A cheeky email from bookatable.com planted the seed for a long overdue visit to the Sanderson Hotel and their famous Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. So off we went!
20140531-164019-60019088.jpg

20140531-164018-60018905.jpg

20140531-164018-60018700.jpg
I had seriously high expectations of this place, as sister hotel St Martin’s Lane is a favourite of mine. And wow! we weren’t disappointed. The outdoor-but-indoor feel is something really special, if only the sun were shining.
Everything about the tea was magical, from selecting your choice of tea from miniature potion bottle (I had mint choc chip- absolutely delicious! I’d love to know where to get this from!) to plucking the carrot meringues from the jumble of growing pea shoots. My only small, small complaint is that the sandwiches had clearly just come out of the fridge which not only affects the texture of the bread but also the flavour of the filling.
I’ve already recommended this to so many people. Can’t wait to go back!

20140531-175114-64274152.jpg
Now everyone knows a flapper afternoon out would not be complete without a small amount of dancing (despite being full of sandwiches!) so we headed to Camden’s Jazz Cafe for the Amy Winehouse cine-gig. Devastatingly this is the only way to see Amy these days, but it was emotive and brilliant none the less.
The 2007 gig was projected on to a large screen and the mega sound system filled our ears with all the Amy favourites. The various camera angles prevent it from feeling like you’re ‘there’ and the rather stiff ‘we-were-expecting-this-to-be-seated-and-are-accustomed-to-our-personal-space’ audience seemed to frown upon anyone who wanted to throw their arms in the air and sing along at the top of their lungs. I think we did Amy proud though, bless her.