Adam Handling at the Cadogan – Afternoon Tea
Lined with designer shops, the walk from Knightsbridge to Sloane Square exudes luxury. About halfway down, opposite Cadogan Place Garden is the Belmond Cadogan, a discreet five-star hotel that whispers good taste and style. I know Belmond best for the Belmond British Pullman one of a portfolio of luxury trains that includes the famous Venice Simplon Orient Express – and aspire to know it better by getting acquainted with Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons one day. The luxury group has just two properties in the UK, Le Manoir and the Cadogan and while the two Michelin star restaurant at Le Manoir is run by Raymond Blanc, the relatively new Belmond Cadogan hotel has at its helm Adam Handling.
I’ve been following Adam since his days as head chef at St Ermin’s Hotel and am always thrilled to be given the chance to try his latest offerings. He’s won numerous accolades for his cooking. his flagship restaurant, Frog by Adam Handling, is the sister operation to The Frog, Hoxton which we visited a few months ago together with a couple of casual dining venues like Bean and Wheat. Both restaurants get rave reviews and Frog by Adam Handling won the Best Newcomer Restaurant in the 2018 Food and Travel Reader Awards. The Belmond Cadogan opened less than a year ago and Adam was appointed Executive Chef from the start, running the restaurant in addition to leading the afternoon tea offering in the lounge with pastry chef Chris Underwood. An elegant, discrete and sumptuous setting it’s a far cry from Hoxton or even Covent Garden.
Afternoon tea started with an amuse-bouche of egg custard topped with shaved black truffle served in a white eggshell set in a pretty silver eggcup. A lovely classic flavour pairing which just took the edge off our appetites while we sipped on a glass of Adam’s own label sparkling wine from West Sussex, a delicate mouthful that was every bit as toasty and fresh as its French cousin.
We picked our teas from the list of Newby teas on offer, including a special Matthew Williamson range for afternoon tea week. I’m afraid I reverted to normal and ordered silver needle – a bad habit as this delicate white tea isn’t the best pairing for an afternoon tea at all. My companion was more adventurous and started with the special ‘Maharaja’s Breakfast’ Assam black tea, before moving on to the intriguingly named ‘Hunan Green’ which she enjoyed enough to drink two pots in quick succession. There’s a well-balanced tea menu and a selection of coffees too.
Rather charmingly, the teas come in individual pots neatly encased in hand-knitted tea cosies made by Adam’s mother, all perfectly co-ordinated with the main lounge decor.
The stunning gold tree which was used for our afternoon tea plates is a tribute to one of the trees in Cadogan Place Garden, opposite the hotel. The perfect way to display our tea it was an excellent complement to the contemporary design of the lounge.
An excellent selection of warm savouries offered a clever balance between refined elegance and ‘home-made’. I was a big fan of the black pudding sausage roll with that flaky pastry that has to be home-made. My companion’s favourite was the salt cod croquette. Cheese gougères were feather-light puffs with a silken cheese centre. And Mrs Kirkham’s cheddar tart was suitably tangy with its Lancashire artisan cheese centre. Now, if there was a way to sneak in some of those cheese doughnuts you find at The Frog, this would be utter perfection. As it is, it’s pretty close!
Sandwiches were a lovely selection of fillings including a roast chicken with tarragon mustard mayonnaise, smoked garlic and tomato jam on onion bread and English pickled cucumber with cream cheese and shallot on white bread. Each filling had its own bread pairing – from caraway to pair with smoked salmon, dill and rocket through to a malted bread used for the slow roast beef sirloin with horseradish cream and watercress.
Next scones, homemade and warm from the oven. Of course, they were faultless classic British scones – plain and fruited, served with clotted cream and raspberry jam. It’s at this point sensible folk, like my companion, hold back and eat one scone. And it’s at this point I fail and scoff the lot.
A palate cleanser of lemon and elderflower chiffonade with basil sorbet arrived just in time to save me from ordering seconds. I’d serve this for dessert at home – a light frothy summery mixture complemented by the sweet and peppery basil sorbet.
Finishing as we’d started with a selection of patisserie mixed with some of Adam’s own family recipes, we loved the contrast between the traditional miniature Battenberg, the sticky lemon drizzle and the classic Dundee with fine patisserie.
My own favourite had to be the mandarin and passion fruit which looked stunning with an immaculate mirror glaze and had a lovely piquancy from the yoghurt sponge and mandarin mousse. But, a close-run thing – and if we’d been able to eat more we would have done.
We were guests of Adam Handling at the Belmond Cadogan, but you can enjoy the classic afternoon tea there for £55 per person.
Adam Handling at the Belmond Cadogan
75 Sloane Street
London SW1X 9SG