To Tea or Not To Tea – The Penultimate Round

Before the summer escapes us, why not dose up on all things summery! 

The Intercontinental London Westminster promises to take you back to childhood memories of a day at the seaside with their British Summer Holiday afternoon tea, available from 1st July – 31st August 2014 for £37.50 per person, including free pouring Laurent-Perrier Brut Champagne.

Drawn to novelty themes and Brighton Beach, “The British Summer Holiday” felt worthy a try on my tea safari around London –  and who can resist an offer of free pouring Champagne on a summers day!

The Intercontinental is well situated across St James Park tube station and a great spot if you are in the vicinity of Westminster. The hotel is as one would hope in the area, professional, organised and elegantly furnished. Greeted by a very friendly and helpful bowler-hatted doorman I was led straight to the fresh furnished tea lounge.

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The lounge is spacious allowing friends to enjoy uncivilised conversation without neighbours eavesdropping. Decorated with modern sofas and high stem brightly flowers the lounge exceeded my expectations.The service however did not. Being the first to arrive I requested to choose our table but was given a flat no with no explanation as to why. Still bemuses me as the room never filled to its full capacity even upon our departure 3 hours later.

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The service continued to be professional but lacking in warmth, but it is the city, and warm and friendly don’t always tend to be part and parcel of its horticulture. Oh well, you can’t have it all but you can drink free flow bubbles. Silver Lining!

Now for their menu, “The British Summer Holiday Afternoon Tea begins with a Picnic Treat of Miniature Pork Pie with homemade Piccalilli and a Prawn Cocktail shot, followed by a selection of Finger Sandwiches that include classic summer favourites of egg and cress, cucumber and mint, smoked salmon and coronation chicken”. This can also be adapted for those with dietary requirements, including gluten free, pork free and vegetarian options.  I opted for the menu as it stands and had friends opt for the vegetation alterations. On conclusion of the savory feast, the vegetarians seemed most gratified – The green based quiche won them over and my pork pie was not able to tie.

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The Scones were a tad unmemorable but their selection of adjourning condiments stuck to mind – offers of both Marmalade and a Strawberry and Yoghurt variety with delicious Lemon Curd, Strawberry Jam and Clotted Cream. Don’t stuff here as  “just before the tide comes in, the sweet selection arrives in the form of The Beach – a fanciful array of a seaside fun, complete with Chocolate Fudge Beach Huts, Cherry Cheesecake Bucket and Spades, Peach Mousse Sandcastles, Toffee and Chocolate Wheels and Jivara Chocolate Cones all of which sit on almond sand.”

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All elements of the Beach including the crumble sand were delicious and had you wanting more, especially the spongy chocolate beach huts! A special pink lemonade was served up at the Beach and was a fun little surprise to round off the tea.

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With a week of August to go I would recommend the Intercontinental Westminster for their Brightly British Summer Afternoon Tea. The Beach being the highlight with bubbles a plenty! Book before the 31st August for a Summer Seaside Celebration.

http://westminster.intercontinental.com/afternoon-tea.html

To Tea or Not To Tea

Another day, another scone. My second London tea-themed experience took me to my favourite Drawing rooms within the beautiful and quaint boutique – Ampersand Hotel in South Kensington.

Before I reveal the delicious details of their Afternoon Tea I have to admit I love the Ampersand Hotel and bias happens to creep for me, but for all good reason. After my 6th visit in 12 months I still say its chic, modern and easy to enjoy. That said I am not alone in my opinion – I have taken and recommended many friends to try the Ampersand whether for tea, lunch or dinner or even a night cap and to date all have enjoyed its boutique ambience and personal touch service. Given that the hotel opened in 2012 it remains to hold a new feel upon entering with a gorgeous fresh interior.

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There are plenty of places that serve afternoon tea in London but it pleasures me when I find a place like the Ampersand that is more off the beaten track and yet low on the pretentious pretence that many London establishments hold.  The Drawing rooms relaxed “french finess meets british style” gets you cosy quickly. For me an ideal spot for a pot of tea and girl time gossip.

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Their Afternoon Tea theme alternates every few months inspired by current London events. A long running one is their Science Afternoon Tea – super fun, creative and totally delicious. I really recommend trying it.

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This summer has had three other fun themes inspired by Wimbledon, the Chelsea Flower show and the BBC Proms. A friend of mine tried the Chelsea Flower show tea and voila! Looks pretty divine…..

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The Musical afternoon tea is their current running theme and to my delight I got to try out their musical inspired sweet treats @32.50 pp and 44.50pp with a glass of bubbles.

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The tartines (french open sandwiches) and gougeres (savoury profiteroles) are more then moorish and available with all of their afternoon tea selections. The team are very flexible and invite you to switch and swatch whatever fillings you prefer more of. So great if you are a vegetarian or like me want more of the yummy coronation chicken tartines!

The white chocolate scones really are one of the best in town. Even after my recent scout this month I still think the Ampersand have mastered these beige boys! Worked perfectly with my pot of peppermint tea.

Now for the sweet musical treats, for me the highlight was the passionfruit coulis mousse and salted caramel macaroon. I’m not an avid fan of macaroons usually but these turquoise ones had me wanting more. The cello  cookie, grand piano cake and raspberry mousse cake were all delightful and not too heavy to finish!

The Ampersand team really made the experience a special one. Their friendly Head Chef Chris Golding made a point to escape from his hot kitchen to welcome us and gave us an opportunity to take a tour of where the magic is created. He also provided some extra cakes and brownies on the house for my friends who couldn’t eat the raspberry cake with gelatine in them. Super kind!

Chris introduced his Head Pastry Chef Ji Sun Shin who was busy creating the next batch of delicious cakes.

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Chris also heads up the menu at Apero the main dining restaurant & bar at the Ampersand; its worth checking out for lunch, dinner or like me for cocktails and bites. The menu is always interesting and his selection of house breads such as the flower pot and beetroot buns for the UnBeetable burgers are yum! He’s such a beetroot believer he has one tattooed on his arm! Also, the squid scotch egg is a must – my favourite battered egg to date!

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Another option is to have evening drinks in the Drawing rooms. I have enjoyed their canapés and champagne and found it to be a charming way to catch up with a group before the night begins.

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All in all the Ampersand is an elegant little find that I recommend for any time of day. Their afternoon tea is consistently inspiring and the Drawing rooms a charming cocoon in busy South Kensington. “Brush off your glad rags and try out their Fashion Afternoon Tea” in September and make sure you have a potter around the corners of the hotel and you will find all sorts of character and quirk –  fancy a game of ping pong or vino party….you’ve found a great place!

IMG_5552Find our more at http://www.ampersandhotel.com

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To Tea Or Not To Tea

I’m guilty of eating between meals and at half past three everything stops for tea!

Its National Afternoon Tea Week in the UK a National event I feel compelled to join in. After all, it is a very British affair and we do, quite frankly, do it the best.  I spent last week in London meeting friends over tea, I achieved a new record; 4 afternoon teas in 6 days.  How fitting for Tea week! It feels apt to share some scone highlights and tea favourites, One gorgeous tea review at a go…. Kicking off with……

Afternoon Tea Inspired by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory @One Aldwych £34.50 per person, alternatively you can opt for an add on (as I did, and would recommend) of Lallier Grand Reserve Champagne at £45 per person. There is also a Charlie Cocktail option which had many takers.

One Alywych had me at the menu! Inspiring they promised and inspiring it was. Who doesn’t have fond memories of Roald Dahl’s classic characters?!

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The contents of the menu continued to be inspiring and transported me back to my childhood; candy floss, eton mess, chocolate eggs! Glee. The Tea Selection was full of fruity options, I chose the Jewelled Apple and was not dissapointed. It aimed to transport you back to the days of sticky, crunchy toffee apples and it really did.

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No afternoon tea is without its sandwiches and savoury. I say upfront however in my opinion they are not the highlight of this tea. Its about the Sweet. A good range nonetheless for vegetarians and pescatarians as the only land animal was the Roast beef sandwich (resembling a chocolate brownie) which wasn’t really to my taste, a bit too rare for my liking but probably the way it should be.

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Now for the ultimo magic, the Sweet round. What a display, quirky, imaginative and highly attack worthy. We ate it all without any pause. I cannot say any particular item was standout as they were all superb! We left nothing but a few crumbs behind us. Like a big kid the homemade pear drop & rhubarb candy floss got my attention first and then the Golden Chocolate egg filled with vanilla cheesecake and mandarin. The Chocolate Caramel Milk helped wash down the divine Eton Mess and Lime, Coconut, White Chocolate pop.

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I normally eat scones before the Sweet Round however this time they came third and rightly so after that display. That said, the scones were good and came in a bread basket accompanied with a blueberry brioche and the best Cocoa Bean Financier I have ever eaten.

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If like me Roald Dahl sits very fondly in your childhood memories then this tea is worth your time. Perhaps even a visit to the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory musical running across the road would be a fun joint trip.

One Aldwych have aced their tea service, they are attentive and warm which is not always a London norm. The theme is wonderful and full of magic and sparks. Overall, a fun sweet filled day at a price that is competitive to the main high tea flyers in London. Go!

http://www.onealdwych.com

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Watch out for the second scones write up….featuring one of my favourite Drawing rooms in South Kensington!