Monday, September 3, 2012
After eating my way through an abundance of Nordic cuisine in Copenhagen last weekend, I returned to London ready to sample more culinary creations. It wasn’t long until I got my chance, either. On Saturday I went to afternoon tea at the five-star Jumeirah Carlton Tower hotel in Knightsbridge.
The hotel invited me and a friend to try the special Eric Lanlard afternoon tea in its classic Chinoiserie restaurant. Lanlard, a master patissier and the star of the Baking Mad TV series, created a special tea service just for the hotel that reflected the best of French patisserie with an eastern flair.
The space was serene, with neutral decor, comfortable brown leather chairs, and live harp music playing in the background. We were seated at a round table in the middle of the dining room and enjoyed a glass of Pommery rose Champagne and a bowl of fresh strawberries to start. Not bad for a Saturday in September.
Soon our server brought a beautiful tri-tiered tray to the table. On it were sandwiches, sweets, and scones. Next to the tray he placed wide bowls of strawberry jam and clotted cream. We had our work cut out for us.
But we didn’t start before our tea arrived. We were at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower for afternoon tea, after all. The tea menu was extensive, but after contemplating the choices of black, green, and herbal infusions, we decided on one pot of Darjeeling and one of English Breakfast.
Table full, we started the leisurely process of enjoying everything in front of us. First came the sandwiches, which consisted of cucumber and cream cheese rounds, salmon and egg towers, coronation chicken, and prawn and lobster rolls.
They were all delicious, but the salmon was my favorite, both for its fresh taste and its picture-pretty presentation. That didn’t stop me from ordering seconds of all four, of course.
Savories savored, we switched to sweets. There were red velvet lollipops, glasses full of Eton mess with berries and tiny shots of juice, strawberry and pistachio tarts, and orange and almond cakes with candied orange peel and white chocolate wedges.
The lollipops were dense and rich, the Eton mess refreshingly light, the tarts a great balance of flavors, and the cakes divine. The last were the best, with their unique blend of textures and lovely looks.
Our appetites for sweets sated, we started on the scones. They were both dense and light at the same time, and we smothered them with strawberry jam and cream as we sipped our tea.
The tea was also a delight. I don’t drink Darjeeling often, but it definitely deserves its due. It is called the “Champagne of teas”, after all. Light and refreshing, it provided a nice balance to the food.
The only thing not to like about the tea was the pots it was served in. They were plain metal as opposed to china teapots to match the plates, cups, and saucers. It would have been nice to see a full set. But it was one small blemish in an otherwise flawless experience. The food, drinks, and service at the afternoon tea at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower hotel were excellent, and could challenge any of Copenhagen’s cuisine, Noma or not.