Restaurants & Bars 12

Three Afternoon Teas, London

limster | Jun 2, 2009 04:41 PM

• Threadneedles Hotel, City
A generous serving of pleasant sandwiches with a perceptible brush of butter -- finely chopped egg with watercress, or thin slices of salmon. Medium thick crisps of vinegar and salt.

A classic rendition of creme brulee (you get 1 choice of dessert), thick crunchy evenly caramelised layer, very soft creme, with smooth and clean finish.

Warm scones, slightly soft and fluffy on the inside, with a little jam of hotel Wilkinson jam and basic clotted cream.

A very citrusy earl grey tea in a tetrahedral strainer of fine netting, which makes for easy control of the brewing processes. Respectable, pleasant and substantial.

Warm wood finishes, comfortable interiors under a big patterned glass dome, grand but subtle. £20 iirc.

• Wallace Collection, Marylebone
Tea under a glass sky, with lights and shadows that change with the mood of the sun. Potted plants and thin curls and curves of metal for tables and chairs provide a suggestion of a park.

Parisian Tea provides cerain French substitutes.

A solid tuna tartare, decent meaty tuna, with a strong presence of capers and onions. Thin flat planes of cucumber on the side. Inert white bread, very lightly toasted.

On ok rustic bread, fine with the a foie gras terrine, rich and slightly tangy and a meaty pork terrine. Not bad, but nothing extraordinary. (warm brioche with foie gras would have been nicer, but perhaps would be asking too much)

The sweets on the Parisian Tea seemed quite at home on this side of the channel: a very thin layer of raspberry jam beneath almonds in a bakewell tart, moist victoria sponge cake with strawberry jam and cream, and finally a sharp lemon tart.

An ok medium bodied darjeeling, not the most aromatic or memorable but nothing bad.

On the whole, great for the ambiance, decent food, but not special at £20-something iirc.

• Andaman, St James Hotel & Club, St James
One of my favourite teas so far, in a luxurious, elegant and peaceful neighbourhood, mre civilised than the crowds a couple of blocks away on Piccadilly.

A little cup of white asparagus soup, creamy but not cloyingly thick, subtle nutty notes from asparagus.

An open faced sandwich, bruschetta-like - crusty and mildly chewy, topped with a tomatoe sauce and prosciutto, with perhaps red pepper iirc.

A quenelle of osetra caviar (pleasantly low on the salt, decent good pops) on a comparably sized quenelle of sour sour cream, and blini that could be a shade more puffy.

Prawn salad with good sweet little prawns, served in a martini glass.

Taking advantage of the first blush of strawberry season, strawberries wtih cream, with crystals of sugar. More strawberries in a starwberry tart with a lovely aroma and edge of kalamansi lime, very soft and richly vanilla flavoured cream, impeccable crust with clean dots of crumbs. Excellent patisserie which reveals itself again and again.

A white chocolate coat on a champagne truffle with crunchy hazelnut. Beside it a tiny shot of strawberry with vodka. Delightful snap in the biscuits breaking into microscopic crispy leaves - perfect restraint and balance in the marzipan and chocolate biscuit , immense flavour in the vanilla biscuit.

Miniature scones, again with the same skilled baking as the rest of the items. Delicate crust, perfect compromise of fluffiness, softness and crumble. One flavoured with vanilla, the other with chocolate, both excellent departures from the classics, going well with not only the superb clotted cream (rich, creamy, without excess stickiness), but also a vanilla cream, a passionfruit jam (my fave, especially with the scones) and a raspberry jam.

Finally, lovely temper with a glossy surface on a chocolate cake, with a golden boozy background and a nuanced citrus (orange?) flavour, layered with chocolate mousse, garnished with little gold globes of (what I thought were) crispy puffed rice.

A musky, citrusy earl grey.

Warm charming service, very comfortable environs. A steal at £22, especially considering the strengths of the baking and the effort to go beyond the basics. The items change with a monthly theme.

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