Ampersand Hotel – Science Afternoon Tea
I suspect I am nothing more than a big kid at heart. Revisiting the Ampersand Hotel for afternoon tea recently with friend and Theatre specialist Natalie York, we both looked at the menu – and despite the thirty year gap both decided that we should order the ‘Science Afternoon Tea’. A nod to the museums of South Kensington, the science tea comes complete with chocolate dinosaurs and macarons with injectable blood (jam). And, with a lot of dry ice.
But, the burning (pun intended) question was, of course, would it taste good. The Science afternoon tea uses savoury gougeres (choux pastry) rather than sandwiches, something I personally prefer. Our selection included Gloucester old spot ham with sauce gribiche (that’s a posh egg mayo to you or me), cheese and chutney, smoked Salmon from H. Forman & Son and, my favourite, albeit the messiest option, Coronation Chicken. They were just as they should be, tiny savoury puffs, with plenty of delicious filling. I have no idea if they are lower in calories than sandwiches, but I kid myself that SHOULD be the case.
Scones were delicious and very fresh. I’m a little hesitant about chocolate in scones, but here the white chocolate was subtle and didn’t in any way overwhelm or over sweeten things. I know last time I thought the scones were a little dry, but here that definitely wasn’t the case. Clotted cream and jam were fine, although we did have to ask for more that could just have been my personal greed. Teaspoons please…almost every high quality afternoon tea in London seems to be let down by no spoons for the jam and cream. You can’t use your knife unless you want to make an untoward mess.
Pastries were an infinite improvement on the very good selection that we ate last time. Of course all of this is personal taste, but without a lot of care patisserie can just be sickly sweet. And, it was a wonderfully creative plate too. I could imagine taking kids, bored or over excited after their trip to the museum. Tea options were respectably comprehensive without being overwhelming. I could, and did, indulge in my favourite silver tipped jasmine, while Natalie went for a traditional English Breakfast tea.
We met both executive chef Chris Golding and pastry chef Ji Sun Shin. Actually I met Chris the last time I visited in 2012 when he was enthusiastically still in the process of setting up the kitchen. Ji Sun has also been there since the start but amazingly, despite a stunning CV had never had to produce an afternoon tea until she joined Ampersand. I’d have hovered between a 7 and 8 out of 10 last time, now it’s far closer to a 10 – and those teaspoons with the jam and cream might just have put it there. The plates are streets ahead in terms of creativity – and if you don’t want a full afternoon tea, the home made pastries on display in the drawing room look like an excellent option.
Chris explained that the Science Afternoon Tea is offered alternating with seasonal specialities. So, tomorrow sees the launch of the Musical Afternoon Tea – to celebrate another of South Kensington’s annual events – The Proms. Apart from a new range of cakes and pastries, there will be live music from some of London’s top buskers.
Afternoon tea at Ampersand Hotel is served from 2.30 pm to 5.30 pm. The Musical Afternoon Tea runs from 18th July to 5th September and starts at £32.50 per person. A Classic or Vegetarian Afternoon Tea is also available from £27.50 per person.