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.

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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.

Botanical Tea Party

Muv was off galavanting last weekend, which, rather awkwardly, left me without a Mother to wait on on Mother’s Day.

Thankfully I managed to get myself pencilled in this weekend and we celebrated as family tradition dictates- with a tea party.

Planning is imperative. A good tea party takes at least a week to plan. There is always a shopping list, a drawing, hours of research and vivid cake-related dreams.

Some of my favourite books for inspiration:

 


I’m a bit of a Pinterest addict and have many boards dedicated to tea, cake and all things vintage. You can follow me here.

Usually, I am rather traditional in my tea fare, but inspired by the likes of Kerstin Rodgers of MsMarmiteLover, Angel Adoree of The Vintage Patisserie and Christabel Beeson of Christabel’s, I’ve tried to do something a little more experimental.

I fancied a bit of botanical theme, with my sweet, miniature greenhouse taking centre-stage. On a normal day I keep seedlings and carnivorous plants in there, but for one day only chocolate strawberries and tomato, basil and mozzarella flowers bloomed.

I have always stuck to the finger-sandwich format, varying the fillings slightly, however I had seen a few examples of the classic Swedish smörgåstårta and rather fancied giving it a try. In essence it’s a cake made from a loaf of bread with savoury fillings. I envisioned some sort of elaborate miniature vegetable plot styling to continue my botanical theme. I intend to jumble together some sort of instructions later. But to give one an idea this was my smoked salmon creation:

Smoked salmon smorgastarta

Smoked salmon smorgastarta

As much as we all enjoyed these rather unconventional sarnies, I found them rather labour intensive. They also required an electric bread knife to be plugged in at the table to enable them to be served- not appropriate for a tea party at all.

Chocolate  brownies

Chocolate brownies

 

Chorizo & apple sausage rolls

Chorizo & apple sausage rolls

These sausage rolls are a firm family favourite, it is often requested that make a batch on a weekend.

Fairy bite shortbread

Fairy bite shortbread

 

Tomato, mozzerella & red onion pizza

Tomato, mozzerella & red onion pizza

This simple pizza was for my darling youngest brother, inspired by our recent skiing trip to the Alps. With all the heavy meats, cheeses and breads, a simple tomato and mozzerella drizzled with pesto was a joy and I’m sure will bring back fond memories forever more.

Heart-shaped scones

Heart-shaped scones

 

Menu:

Chicken smörgåstårta

Salmon smörgåstårta 

Tomato, mozzarella and red onion pizza

Goats cheese, prosciutto and roasted red pepper filo cups

Heart-shaped scones (made by my beautiful sister in law to be) served with clotted cream and strawberry jam

Chocolate brownies with Cadbury’s Pebbles

Fairy bite shortbread

Raspberry macaroons 

Served with Twinnings English Breakfast tea

Jelly snakes (to decorate the table)

You can find instructions for my lotus napkin origami here.

Hummingbird Bakery

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The Hummingbird Bakery is oft spoken of in my office. A couple of the lads managed to get their hands on some cupcakes on Friday, but were unwilling to share. Quite vexing considering not long ago a box of chocolates from a client, headed in my direction, never quite made it to me… (my colleague blamed the heat!)

On Saturday I was determined to get myself some and took myself along to the (Harry Potter-esque) Frying Pan Alley bakery in Shoreditch.

One of everything, please.

I found myself saying to the lovely girl in the shop. Whoops! £30 worth of cupcakes later…

Obviously I did share mine, generous soul that I am. And of course, they were as wonderful as one would expect them to be.