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Elegant and Luxurious Afternoon Tea at the Mandarin Oriental, London Hyde Park.
Originally ‘The Bennett Tearoom’ the space which now houses the Rosebery first opened in the 1920s. A stylish tea room, Lord Rosebery, a Liberal statesman and for a brief period, prime minister, was a frequent visitor to this elegant room with high ceilings and panelled walls. Re-opened by the Mandarin Oriental in 2014, it is one of those calm, luxurious places where you can’t help but relax.
One of the most innovative ideas for this ‘1920s afternoon tea’ is the option of a whole range of pairings. Of course, you can have Champagne. But, there are other options too – an Alsatian Grand Cru afternoon tea, a beer afternoon tea and even a sake afternoon tea. My companion chose the Alsatian wines while I opted for sake.
There’s also an extensive tea menu, tisanes (including a build your own infusion), coffees and a wide selection of non-alcoholic and classic cocktails. Everything you might ever want to drink with your afternoon tea!
I gave into temptation and ordered my favourite silver needles white tea to start. I know it’s not the ideal pairing so when I’d finished the first pot I ordered a Sencha, which I think is actually a much better match for scones. My companion started with a delicious infusion of lemongrass, ginger and mandarin zest which came served in a pretty glass teapot. You can pimp up your tea with a whole range of ‘extras’ – in her case goji berries. She followed that with a traditional decaffeinated black tea and milk.
She was also treated to a palate cleanser of a small shot of red berries to start the tea. Sadly the mixture included strawberries so was out of bounds for me – though there was so much to come I didn’t suffer unduly!
Finger sandwiches were daintily presented. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this style of rolled sandwich bread before, but it worked really well. Fillings were delicious and matched the presentation of the plate in daintiness. Each mixture had been carefully chopped or pulled to ensure an easy to eat mouthful. I particularly liked the little Portland crab bun with wasabi tobiko, crayfish, miso and coriander with yuzu. And, the braised beef with watercress and horseradish which managed to combine meltingly tender meat with great depth of flavour. Other fillings included ‘finest Cotswold egg with black truffle’ and ‘teriyaki salmon, asparagus with pickled ginger’.
My sake pairing was Akitabare ‘Shunsetsu’ Honjozo (Spring Snow), a vibrant and light mouthful with melon notes. Delicious. My companion meanwhile was delighting in her Grand Cru Riesling, Saering 2014 – her favourite wine of the afternoon.
Seconds of sandwiches were offered – and we rather foolishly accepted. I should be wise by now to not eating any more at this stage. That said, if there’s anything missing from the Mandarin Oriental afternoon tea, it’s the option of a savoury course. At The Langham for example, you can order high tea and indulge in anything from a toasted sandwich to a miniature confit duck. And down the road at Adam Handling’s tea, there are sausage rolls, cheese puffs and more. It’s not so much the quantity of food, but the balance between sweet and savoury for those of us who don’t have a sweet tooth.
Raisin and plain scones followed, served on the pretty ‘tree’ in the iconic oriental birdcage. I’m particularly fond of this presentation, though when the tearoom is busy it seems a little impractical. Our three jams (strawberry, rose petal jelly and lemon curd) were extended to four to make room for a raspberry jam substitute for me. Of course, the scones were warm and perfect. I loved the honeycomb jam pots too.
My sake pairing of Dewazakura ‘Oka’ Ginjo was just a little sweeter with floral notes to complement the pear and melon.
I particularly enjoyed a scone with rose petal jelly which I thought was an excellent complement for the sake. But, I also love raspberry jam and appreciate being given an alternative to strawberry.
1920s mignardises were a nod to the original tea-room. Each perfectly formed miniature was delicious and light. Wild berry tart had a pastry shell with the kind of crisp sweetness that would have Mary Berry smiling and was my favourite of the three. That said, we managed to clear the plate between us!
The next plate of handmade pastries looked delicious and those we tried were indeed perfect. My companion’s favourite was the strawberry trifle, which I didn’t photograph because it was out-of-bounds for me and she was trying to eat it without making me too jealous!
As I mentioned we didn’t eat all of these, but I did love the perfect miniature cherry and pistachio tart which was delicate, perfectly balanced and not overly sweet. This kind of pastry needs a careful touch to avoid a sweetshop result.
The remainder of the plate comprised peach and almond which was a pretty tiny peach filled with mousse sitting on an almond biscuit, lemon finger – which looked just like a lemon meringue pie in miniature and tonka with raspberry, the one I really regret not finding space for.
Meanwhile, though, I was delighting in my final drink of the sake pairing, Ume no Yado – Aragoshi Limeshu. It’s actually a plum wine which is made by adding around 20% fresh plum juice from ume plums to a sake base. Despite my protestations that I don’t have a sweet tooth, I do love plum wine – and for me, this was the perfect way to round off the afternoon tea.
The Rosebery at the Mandarin Oriental afternoon tea is a classic with some neat twists. As befits a hotel of this calibre, service is impeccable and everything we ate was utterly delicious. Afternoon tea starts at £56 per person with wine, beer and sake pairings starting at £14.
London SW1X 7L.
Disclaimer: I was treated to a complimentary afternoon tea for the purpose of this review, but would happily return as a paying customer.
Check out our Best London Afternoon Tea review summary for more great places to enjoy a luxurious afternoon tea experience.