"The afternoon tea where spices and herbs take the starring roles"Review Rating: Reviewed by Leila
The Dorchester and the Ritz may be the two most famous settings for afternoon tea, but there is a lot more on offer in the capital, whether it’s the Oriental version at the Grand Imperial complete with dim sum and bubble tea cocktails, the recent proliferation of gentlemen’s afternoon teas with more robust (read: meatier) choices, or the vast selection at the Langham suited to vegan, gluten-free and all manner of other dietary requirements. The Wellington Lounge at the Intercontinental on Park Lane also has far more imaginative options than cucumber sandwiches.
The hotel has quite a brilliant record where food is concerned; they’ve got Theo Randall’s eponymous restaurant and the delightful Cookbook Café, with chef Paul Bates in charge. Bates has also created two of the afternoon tea menus: the traditional Royal Tea, with coronation chicken sandwiches, Victoria sponge and Eton mess shortbread (kicked off with the Queen’s favourite aperitif, a dubonnet), and the Wellington Afternoon Tea, with bolder choices like Spanish ham, fig and Monte Enebro cheese on potato bread, and spiced sardine sandwiches with a sherry vinegar and honey dressing.
However we opt for the Botanical Tea, where spices and fragrant herbs take the starring roles. There’s a smooth champagne cocktail to begin with, with Moet & Chandon Brut, homemade vanilla syrup, apple syrup and a subtle dash of cardamom syrup. Then the food arrives, with a botanical pear drop palate cleanser which is flavoured with refreshing juniper.
The savouries are dainty open sandwiches. There’s free range guinea fowl with crisp fried celeriac, cloaked in rich mayonnaise. Smoked eel is spiced up with a little horseradish, complemented by a fresh cucumber and apple relish. The nettle marinated asparagus is very crunchy, rolled in a thin slice of beef sirloin, this one is more notable for its textures than its flavours. Our favourite is perhaps the smoked trout and artichoke pesto wrapped with Speyside smoked salmon, topped with wasabi caviar, a fantastic mix.
Next two types of scones arrive, made with citrus peel and sultanas as well as standard buttermilk. They come with the obligatory strawberry jam and thick Devon clotted cream, but there’s a lovely quince preserve with cardamom too, which has Middle Eastern notes.
Finally a tray of very pretty, brightly coloured cakes appears. The hazelnut bakewell topped with salted caramel cream, apple and rosemary mousse is not to everyone’s taste apparently due to its somewhat random ingredients, but the sweet apple mousse works in tandem with the rest of it. The sweet-toothed will like the mandarin tart and the pink Victoria plum sponge, and there’s a blueberry macaroon with berry crème brûlée sandwiched in the centre, and a miniature macaroon on top.
We haven’t even got to the teas yet. The vast menu has classics like lapsang souchong, assam and jasmine silver needle, but there are also two in-house blends only available here which we feel obliged to try: the vanilla-infused Number One Park Lane, a slightly sweet, yet still strong black tea, and the aromatic Wellington blend, made with assam, China black tea, Earl Grey and English cornﬂowers.
The Botanical Tea is £38 per person for a minimum of two people.
Leila reviewed Wellington Lounge on Tue 05 Mar 2013