Monday, September 17, 2012
It’s London Fashion Week. The city is buzzing with all things sartorial, and fashionistas across town are lining up to get a preview of next season’s hottest trends. Said trends aren’t limited to the catwalk, though. They have pervaded every area of life in London, including my favorite British pastime: afternoon tea. In fact, the Corinthia hotel has designed a special fashion week afternoon tea just for the occasion.
I was invited by the hotel to experience the tea with a friend on Saturday afternoon. We arrived at the hotel, which is near the Embankment tube in central London, and were seated at a pretty table underneath the stunning crystal chandelier in the Lobby Lounge.
When we settled in, my friend remarked that she felt like we were sitting underneath a beautiful glass of Champagne. It was fitting given that we started our afternoon tea at the Corinthia with a glass of Laurent-Perrier.
Bubbly in hand, we started in on the sandwiches that were brought to the table. The selection included cucumber and Innes goats cheese, organic egg and micro cress, roast beef and creamed horseradish, Goosnargh cornfed chicken with ale mustard, and Loch Var smoked salmon and cream cheese. They were a delicious way to start off our tea experience.
When our plates were cleared, our server brought over the tea tray. It wasn’t just any tea tray, either. It was tall enough to stand alone, with its three tiers of sweets resting atop long silver legs that reached all the way to the ground. The tray was perfectly elegant, and a unique take on a afternoon tea service.
So were the sweets. Beneath a tray of small scones lay two plates of cakes inspired by London Fashion Week. Each was delicately beautiful in its own right, and we almost felt guilty eating them (funny that we felt no guilt whatsoever about the calories or the clotted cream…).
I started with the “Diamond Ring”, a gorgeous Paris-Brest pastry with blueberry butter cream and fresh blueberries. Dusted with sliver, it was one of the prettiest—and tastiest—pastries on the platter.
My friend commenced with “The Stiletto”, a shot glass filled with pistachio mousse topped with dainty chocolate pearls and a tiny high-heeled shoe. Being a good friend, she let me steal a bite. It was creamy and flavorful, and another winner.
My second pastry was “The Tailor”, a mango cream cheesecake with lemon sable that was decorated to look like a tiny measuring tape. It was light, sweet, and refreshing, and achieved a good balance between cream and crunch.
My friend chose the “Glitter Up”, an orange and hazelnut macaroon. I didn’t sample it, but she assured me that it was every bit as good as it looked.
My third cake was the “Unzip It”, a peach pastry cream eclair topped with a thin piece of chocolate painted to look like a zipper. The eclair was light and filled with a decadent cream, and the chocolate was a sinfully sweet addition.
At this point my friend’s sweet tooth gave out, leaving me to finish the remainder of the pastries. I chose “The Ruffle” for my next one, which was another good choice. It was a strawberry millefeuille, and was creamy and fresh with great flakiness.
The penultimate sweet in the fashion week afternoon tea at the Corinthia was “The Handbag”, a traditional fruit cake and coconut financier topped with a yellow marzipan purse. It was a bit sweet for my liking, and I’m not a huge marzipan fan to begin with, but I may have just been coming to the end of my sweet tooth.
And I definitely got to the end of my sweet tooth with the last pastry. A chocolate texture, cherry compote, and hazelnut sponge, it was appropriately called the “Chocolate Couture”. The cake was rich and silky smooth, and the perfect way to end the tea service.
Even then, we were loath to leave the relaxing, light atmosphere of the Lobby Lounge. In fact, I wouldn’t have minded spending the entirety of London Fashion Week in the calm under the chandelier at afternoon tea at the Corinthia hotel. Leave the catwalks to the fashionistas. I will have cake.