Monday, September 24, 2012
Brits love two things: tea and alcohol. If I could make up a statistic (and I can!), I would say that the British consume more tea and Champagne than any other people in the world. Being an expat, I try to adopt my host country’s culture, so when an opportunity arises to indulge in both afternoon tea and bubbly at the same time, who am I to turn it down? Especially when it is the Bollinger Champagne afternoon tea at The Goring hotel in London.
The Goring—made even more famous than before by Kate Middleton’s stay there the night before the Royal Wedding last year—has always been associated with all things traditional in England. So what better place to enjoy the two things Britain loves best?
I had been to afternoon tea at The Goring before. The staff was welcoming, the ambiance calm and relaxing, and the food and beverages everything I would expect from a hotel the Queen Mum loved.
But rather than have the exact same experience as last time, I enjoyed a different afternoon tea on this occasion. First, instead of sitting in the bright, sunny tearoom, I sat in the adjacent lounge.
With its oversized chairs and dark woods, it felt like an appropriate place to sit, sip, and sample sweets as the season changed from summer to autumn.
Second, the Champagne was slightly different. While before I enjoyed a glass of Ayala from a bottle with the hotel’s own label, this time I enjoyed some of its sister brand: Bollinger Special Cuvee.
Two glasses were furnished and filled with fizz, and my partner-in-tea and I toasted to life and those people in it that choose to make sparkling wine in France. The Bollinger and its tiny bubbles went down a treat, and so did the accompanying fresh strawberries and cream.
Our Champagne finished, we moved on to tea. Actually, that’s a complete lie. We had another glass. It was Bollinger, after all. I’m probably not going to have much more of it until next time I’m in the BA lounge at Heathrow. (Which could be tomorrow. But I could also get run over by a bus before then.)
Our second glass of bubbly imbibed, we actually did move on to tea. We both chose the Goring’s own, a blend that went down as smoothly as the Bollinger.
With it we first enjoyed a small glass of potted shrimp. As with my last experience with afternoon tea at The Goring, I enjoyed it all except for the jelly on top. I think it’s the American in me. I will have to work on that.
The shrimp was followed by the hotel’s classic yellow trays of sandwiches, scones, and sweets. We started with the plate of sandwiches. They were all as good as they looked, with my favorites being the egg and the pheasant.
As were the scones. They were big, fluffy, and had just the right balance of lightness and density. The clotted cream and raspberry and strawberry jams were not long for this world as we put them to good use on a mix of plain and fruit scones.
The finale of our afternoon tea at The Goring was, of course, the pastry plate. This included a macaron, a roulade, an Eton Mess in a shot glass, a summer fruit tartlet, a fresh cream chocolate eclair, and a lemon shortcake with strawberry mousse.
We worked our way through them, each one offering a variation on the theme of all things saccharine. If I had to choose a favorite, it would be the lemon shortcake, if only because it was something new and different.
But let’s not get crazy here. I wouldn’t want anything at the Bollinger afternoon tea at The Goring to stray too far from tradition. We wouldn’t want to be drinking California sparkling wine and cups of coffee. That would make us American, and we’re British, after all. Or trying to be…