Summer-inspired afternoon tea at the calm and contemporary Intercontinental Hotel

London Event Reviews by May B

Mid-summer’s Day and it was pouring with rain. And cold. So what better to cheer up a dear friend who’s recovering from surgery than afternoon tea in the West End?

Right on the corner of Park Lane near Hyde Park Corner tube station, the Intercontinental is in a commanding spot although it’s a bit tricky to find the entrance down the side. The reception of this hotel is big and bright but calm. I was struck by the enormous display of bright sun flowers reminding us that summer is on the way. The lovely staff here directed us along to the Wellington Lounge on the ground floor – and we passed a number of other modern, spacious and relaxing areas on the way.

The lounge itself is elegant, tasteful and understated. So for those who don’t want their afternoon tea steeped in gilt and kitsch this is the place for you. It’s all warm, fresh creams with hints of light grey and there is a delicate tree design on the walls that is reflected on the backs of the chairs. Which, by the way, are super soft so you can relax right into them. The china wear is a modern (German) design – with just a hint of Art Deco – it’s white with an intricate and delicate silver hatching design.

The waiter was friendly beyond words. He directed our gaze out of the large window onto Piccadilly where we could just about see the statue of Wellington. He talked proudly about the heritage of the site – where, before the war, the Queen lived as a child. And that was his introduction to this celebratory afternoon tea – inspired by Her Majesty’s alleged favourites in the year of her 90th birthday. So we were expecting English classics.

While we waited for our tea, we sampled the delicious Pimm’s Royale – where the lemonade of a typical Pimm’s is replaced with champagne. It certainly made it feel like a celebration. “Good health Ma’am!”

Naturally, we started with the crust-off sandwiches. We were advised to start with the simple and plain and work up to the more complex flavours. The smoked salmon and cream cheese was as expected.
Both my companion and I adored the chunky Scottish lobster and shrimp in a classic Marie Rose sauce. My companion’s favourite – the egg and cress – came next. My favourite – the honey roast ham with English mustard - followed. Finally, there was the coronation chicken given a little twist with some apricots.

Then the scones were served – two buttermilk and two sultana – with little pots of Devon clotted cream and strawberry preserve. We were advised to apply the cream first and so we did.

Finally we were allowed to sample the cakes on the top tier of the cake stand. These were pretty designs – a Queen’s hat – tipsy cake with bright yellow icing. A little too sweet for our jaded palates. Then a bright red Queen’s crown containing a Victoria sponge with vanilla mouse and strawberry jelly. Again, rather sweet. And finally the Queen’s Handbag – this was a moist and rich coffee and walnut cake smothered in sweet, sticky chocolate. Oh deep joy!

At this stage, we were presented with tiny spoons and allowed to sample a champagne and gooseberry fool which was topped with a tiny meringue. The tartness was a welcome contrast to those sweet cakes.

Personally, both my companion and I thought that the highlight of the meal was actually the teas. Bearing in mind I usually drink strong builders’ tea with plenty of milk and sugar, this was a bit of a revelation. We allowed our friendly and highly knowledgeable waiter to make our choices for us. We started with Second Flush Darjeeling Okayti Estate. Served in a beautifully-designed tea pot and served into a matching white and silver design cup, this was light and flavoursome. It certainly didn’t need any milk. But the real triumph was the hotel’s special blend – No 1 Park Lane – a Chinese black smoked tea with a warm vanilla tang that gave just a hint of caramel. I would return just to taste that tea again.

The other nice touch was that at the end of the afternoon we sampled some Berry Iced Tea – a light, cranberry infusion with hints of hibiscus and citrus. And decorated so prettily it could have passed for a cocktail. So those who avoid alcohol would be well-advised to try this as a refreshing and delicious alternative drink.

The special Royal Tea – at £32 per person – is available until 30th June. If you are celebrating you can opt for the £65 version for an hour and a half of unlimited Mercier champagne or £77 with unlimited Moet & Chandon. And remember that a portion of the proceeds from this special Royal tea are donated to The Patron’s Fund – a newly created charitable fund.

For the foodies amongst you there is also the “Scents of Summer” tea offering more exotic fare including lemon bread with smoked salmon and bergamot infused cream cheese, Peruvian bread with cucumber and mascarpone cheese, tomato bread with pink peppercorn on thyme chicken and spinach bread with honey roast pumpkin and crumbled feta. These are followed by peach melba mousse, bergamot macaroons, violet cream and grapefruit tart and jasmine tea cake. The “Flower pot” served at the end includes fruit and flower jellies served in a chocolate pot. Cost is £45 per person.

Posted Date
Jun 20, 2016 in London Event Reviews by May B by May B