Recipes: London’s Best Afternoon Teas & Cocktails
Tea in the Garden Room at The Draycott Hotel, Chelsea, London
Brexit or no, the British capital is a magnet for arts and culture seekers – and the best afternoon teas and cocktails, too. And, in a year where there’s so much to celebrate, London is hotter than ever. April 21 marked Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday – but the celebrations ran well into June.
And, her majesty isn’t the only one celebrating a big day in 2016. Anniversaries in Great Britain included her grandson William and his bride Kate marking their 5th year of marriage; the 300th anniversary of the birth of landscape gardener extraordinaire Capability Brown (Churchill ran through his gardens at Blenheim Palace as a boy, just one of more than 170 designed by Brown); scribes Charlotte Bronte, Beatrix Potter and Roald Dahl clock in at 200, 150 and 100 respectively since their births and, the Bard himself, Shakespeare, took his final bow 400 years ago. www.visitbritain.com
Punk, complete with safety pins, Vivienne Westwood insouciance and the menacing sneer of Johnny Rotten, made its stage debut 40 years ago, and anti-punk girl band, The Spice Girls, introduced us to Girl Power and their Spice World 20 years ago. God save the Queen. But, for the rest of us, when in London, do as the civilized do, and head to a hotel for a spot of afternoon tea. But take a tip from us: choose a spot that takes afternoon tea to a different level. Speaking of punk, check out the punk rock-inspired Anarch-Tea at the W hotel (above).
If literary and cocktail pursuits are more your thing, Wonderland makes its way onto the menu at the Sanderson, and gin-inspired afternoon tea ideas from St Martins Lane for you to try. And we couldn’t resist asking for a secret recipe or two, along with a few tips so you can have your own afternoon tea celebrations.
And for a most civilized tea, here, top five tips for taking afternoon tea, courtesy of The Draycott hotel:
Dress to impress– Smart casual clothing is always appropriate as afternoon tea is deemed a formal occasion
The Garden Room Tea at the Draycott Hotel, Chelsea
Taking tea in the sitting room at this cosy five-star hotel in the tony and historic neighbourhood of Chelsea, is almost akin to taking tea in your own home. If, mind you, your home was a historic townhouse resplendent with antiques, plush sofas, a friendly, down-to-earth butler and a well-stocked bar. The view is of the private courtyard, where cherry blossoms carpet the grass in the spring, and where a picnic lunch, packed by the hotel’s chef, of course, can satiate the mid-day munchies. The guestrooms are as lovely, spacious with old-world touches without the old-world stuffiness. And fireplaces in some of the suites make for the perfect, order-room-service, romantic night in. www.draycotthotel.com
Strawberry and Rosewater cream panna cotta
- 300g of strawberries
- 2 gelatine leaves
- 100ml of milk
- 300ml of cream
- 33g of sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
- 1/2 vanilla pod
- 1 pinch of salt
First, make the purée. Weigh out 200g of hulled, washed strawberries and blitz in a blender. Pass the pulp through a fine sieve to remove any seeds and lumps and set aside in the fridge
- 200g of strawberries
Start the panna cotta by soaking the gelatine leaves in rose water for 5 minutes
The Mad Hatters Afternoon Tea, Sanderson Hotel, Fitzrovia
Don’t worry about being late for an important date – just book an Alice in Wonderland tea experience at this Philippe Starck designed Morgans Hotel outpost in the eclectic Fitzrovia neighbourhood, just above SoHo. Celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s classic novel, with such sweet, “Eat Me” items as Curious Carrot Meringue, Red Velvet ladybird and The Queen of Hearts Oreo Cookie Soldier, and you’ll be wearing a Cheshire Cat’s grin by tea’s end.
Of course, there are classic scones and Cornish clotted cream, and finger sandwiches filled with Cornish crab or Scottish Smoked Salmon, quail egg and caviar scotch egg (recipe, below), as well as cucumber and cream cheese, naturally. The five Sanderson-exclusive varieties of teas have names like Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat and Alice – a China black tea infused with hints of blackcurrant, vanilla, caramel, citrus, bergamot, blue cornflowers and blue mallow flowers. As pretty as the courtyard garden room and the vintage crockery that tea is served in. www.morganshotelgroup.com/originals/originals-sanderson-london
Scottish smoked salmon, quail egg and caviar scotch egg dish
PORTION: 6 whole eggs; 12 portions
|Smoked salmon no brown or skin||120|
|Eggs whole and milk 50/50 mix||3 each|
|Gluten free bread crumbs||300g|
|Quail eggs||6 each|
|Crème fraiche||To garnish|
The new Afternoon Tea at The Den, St Martins Lane Hotel, Covent Garden
If you think you’ve accidentally stumbled into a gentleman’s lounge, you’re not too far wrong. The room – rather, “The Den,” as they call it here at St. Martins Lane Hotel – is a plush, dark wood and leather boîte just off the hotel lobby. Known for having a way with Gin cocktails, the bar and the hotel’s chefs are now experimenting with Afternoon Tea and, boy, are they having fun.
There’s nothing girly about this tea; savoury sandwiches are substantial artisanal-bun delights, eclairs and tarts are big enough to share. We were lucky enough to have a quick chat with Ludovic Mesplé, the head pastry chef who, well, has a way with pastries (don’t pass up the éclair!), and making a dainty sandwich a more, well, substantial affair. A Gentlemen’s tea, indeed. Our sweet tooth thanks you, Mr. Mesplé. But with that in mind, we still want our tea with a Gin Cocktail! www.morganshotelgroup.com/originals/originals-st-martins-lane-london
Cocktails for two at the Polo Bar, The Westbury Hotel, Mayfair
The mixologists at the Polo Bar in the Westbury Hotel have definitely got many things right, but this one tops my list: it’s easy to get cocktail envy once you see the magical concoctions that arrive at table. But no reason to doubt your choice of drink. If you’re not sure which libation to have, they’ll provide you with a mini version of your companion’s drink to try. Brilliant. And pleasing to the eye, too, served up in mini coupes and martini glasses, you won’t be seeing double, just a mini-me version.
The Westbury is also a big fan of the theatre, and are offering a unique pre-theatre menu at Tsukiji, its jewel-box sized Japanese restaurant – we love the red wood interior offset by big windows showcasing the hip Mayfair ‘hood – yes, we said Japanese pre-theatre menu. And why not? The fare here is light and fresh, and the menu changes by the season.
Optics aside, if you’ve got time to take in a pre-theatre drink or post-theatre nightcap, classic cocktails with a historic twist top the menu at Polo Bar, and a renaissance of Pre-Prohibition recipes are whetting the appetites of the barmen and the patrons, alike. And you can’t help but want to linger and just sip. From the glittering Swarovski crystal and luxurious Fendi details to the sparkle of the bar’s habitués, the room is as much a part of the experience at this award-winning hotspot. www.westburymayfair.com
Here, two historic recipes that we think you’ll like to try:
Prince of Wales
Dukes Bar, Ian Fleming, James Bond and a killer martini
When Alessandro Palazzi joined the team at Dukes Bar at Dukes Hotel London (a Small Luxury Hotels of the World member) as head barman 10 years ago, he was already well-versed in the history of this upscale watering hole. “Ian Fleming’s writing inspired me to create the menu,” he tells me, as he prepares, at table from the legendary Dukes trolley, one of his now world-famous martinis. “It’s here, that Fleming was also inspired, to write the line “shaken, not stirred” for the Vesper martini. Palazzi, of course, mixes up the Classic Vesper (with Gin and Vodka), and his twists on classic Vodka martinis, including Odd Job (with Galliano) and Le Chiffre (a hint of orange liqueur), and cocktails such as Miss MoneyPenny (Ivan the Terrible Vodka, triple sec, fresh lime and, naturally, passion fruit juice), among many others, inspired by the 007 books. A friend and fellow tippler had warned me, the Martinis are spectacular at Dukes, but they are potent. Even a second helping may have me spinning, just a bit.
I, however, couldn’t resist something else from his menu, Strangways, after the ill-fated character James Strangways, an MI6 agent stationed in Jamaica and fellow spy of James Bond. For the Strangways, Palazzi combines:
fresh lemon juice
Palazzi serves it in a chilled vintage coupe. Stunning and delicious.
As you can see from his minimalist recipes, Palazzi likes to freestyle it with his measurements, no “exact” anything. “There are already too many rules to remember in life,” he says, “so your Martini shouldn’t come with a set of instructions.” He suggests mixing it up a bit, and personalize your Martini. Want to stir it, rather than shake it? “Go right ahead!” he says, “if you love a Martini a certain way, that’s what makes it the most memorable, and perfect drink of all.
Here, another of his recipes you can try at home, inspired by this past spring’s Chelsea Flower Show. “A martini a day,” says Palazzi, “keeps the doctor away.” We’ll drink to that. www.dukeshotel.com/dukes-bar/; www.slh.com