We spent a few days in London in January and, as always, made it a point to revisit old favourites like St John Bread & Wine
in Spitalfields (which we actually prefer to the original Smithfield restaurant; the whole plates-to-share thingy makes for a much more fun, informal and varied experience) and Bentley's
in Swallow Street, Richard Corrigan's super cosy, comforting, unpretentious, and all-round awesome oyster bar (we like sitting downstairs in the bustling bar, rather than upstairs, and trying to make tough menu calls. Bisque, prawn & egg mayo, dressed crab, fish pie, fish & chips, and of course oysters - trouble is, it's all staggeringly
good. Decisions, decisions...).
And then there's afternoon tea - this, I (as opposed to we) tear about in constant pursuit of. If you're into wearing your Roger Vivier
pilgrims and daintily nibbling them too, there's the Prêt-à-Portea
at The Berkeley
. For sheer ambience, I adore soaking up the grand European setting (impeccably restored by David Collins
) of The Wolseley
. But, for me, possibly the most all-round fabulous afternoon tea experience - in terms of the comestibles, the setting, the service, the works - turned out to be the one that was right under my nose, no tearing about required.
While W has had the pleasure of doing so on previous work trips, and had (perhaps to his everlasting regret) described to me in vivid detail the superlativeness of that pleasure, it was to be my first time ever staying at the legendary Claridge's
. And what a treat it was. How excited was I? Much to W's bemusement, I couldn't stop talking about it - on the Eurostar ride from Gare du Nord to St Pancras, in the cab from the train station to Brook Street, all throughout our stay, on the long haul flight home, and then some. So much so I think he's secretly worried I have become so utterly spoilt by the superb service and perfection
of it all - in an exceedingly old world, storybook kind of way - that I will henceforth have a new impossible benchmark against which to compare all other hotel experiences. I daresay his suspicions are not entirely unfounded.
But that's another post for another day; it'll be much along the lines of Eloise living it up at the Plaza, such was my childish glee. That aforementioned all-round fabulous afternoon tea experience?
It was to be found at the Art Deco foyer
- I've had my share of good cream teas, and this is certainly one of the best afternoon teas in London
. Beyond the fnger sandwiches, the scones, the tea-infused jelly, the clotted cream, the cakes and pastries, and the selection of tea (all unimpeachably excellent, it goes without saying), many other elements conspire to make this exemplar of the afternoon ritual truly memorable. The glamorous Dale Chihuly chandelier and flute of pink champagne certainly don't hurt.
Anyways, when I was coming up with this menu
, I had in my mind rustling up a homestyle and hearty spread that was pretty old school, no faffing about. Whilst certainly nothing quite as elegant or grand as the foyer
spread, it is nonetheless all about the luxury of pausing to indulge in afternoon tea.
The pièce de résistance
, naturally, is the scone. Perfect scones need perfect accompaniments. The supplementary section of this recipe pack
thus includes the recipes for:
Homemade “Clotted Cream” Thick, luscious clotted cream is a must-have accompaniment to scones. Not readily available here, here’s a scrumptious alternative homemade version.
Strawberry Rosewater Preserves Hauntingly perfumed and beautifully hued, these strawberry preserves belong in a special league of their own.
Great for using to fill cakes, cookies and tarts,
this aromatic fruit curd is also spectacular served with scones or toast.
Confiture de Lait
Caramelized milk jam, also known as dulce de leche
, is indulgent with scones or toast. Also great as a sauce for ice cream, or for using to fill cakes, cookies and tarts.