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Childhood Memories Afternoon Tea at Corinthia Hotel London:
When I was little, for a few years we lived in every child’s dream house. In Shipton Bellinger, a small Hampshire village, our home was called ‘Garden House’. The rambling English country house garden had a walled orchard, a small vegetable garden, a rose garden, a dried up moat with a kind of island in the middle and a total of eight different garden huts and sheds. Some had obviously been used to store garden equipment, others were little retreats. For us they became outposts in our games, territory for the girls’ gang to seize from the boys, places to hide from our parents and places simply to make our own. My memories of childhood are more of play than afternoon tea – but they do include a lot of special tastes.
Next door to the house was a traditional village shop, the sort of place that had saucepans and sieves hanging from the ceiling, jars of lemon sherbets, pear drops and chocolate eclairs behind the counter and a display with a myriad of penny sweets (you could get four for one old penny). Fruit salad, black jacks, sherbert fountains, flying saucers and more. We were all too well known to the two elderly ladies who ran the shop and seemed to have a secret line into my mother if we dared spend all our pocket money in one go. Tea was usually sandwiches in the summer, beans on toast in winter.
An afternoon tea based on childhood memories seems a excellent idea. Sarah Barber, who joined the Corinthia in June 2015 as head pastry chef, has taken inspiration from her own childhood, growing up in Rochester, Kent and developed an amazing limited edition tea menu. Afternoon Tea at the Corinthia is a refined, elegant affair and I did wonder how she’d manage to integrate snickers bars and bubblegum into an Armani experience. Read on…
Of course a glass of champagne is always a good start. Laurent-Perrier Rosé here. The choice of tea is on a par with anywhere in London; there are standards (darjeeling, assam, English Breakfast and Lady Grey) and a rather special selection of unique blends, often themed to the Hotel’s heritage. I picked The White Knights – a blend of two white teas – Silver Needles which is one of my favourites and and Bai Mudan. Meanwhile Mina from KingsRoadRocks enjoyed the charming Dragon Well Tea ‘named after the light rainfall onto a swirling well that resembles a dancing Chinese dragon’.
Sandwiches arrived – a dainty selection, served on different breads. Most of the classic fillings were there – with a few unusual touches like the Severn and Wye smoked trout and cucumber. I particularly enjoyed the Roast Beef with Creamed Horseradish. Delicious enough that we accepted the offer of a second complimentary plate.
Warm Scones were very fresh and perfectly cooked. Plain and raisin, they were served with some excellent clotted cream and classic strawberry and raspberry jams.
At the Corinthia the main event was definitely the ‘Tea Fancies’. I have to admit to a touch of apprehension – it would take a skillful pastry chef to turn the sweet treats of childhood into something elegant and refined. No-one would want an afternoon tea that turned out to be like a box of ‘celebrations’.
We started with the ‘Snickers Bar’ and that was enough to reassure me. The lightest caramel and peanut mousse with Tanariva (a sweet, creamy milk chocolate made from Madagascan cocoa bean). It was definitely a Snickers Bar, but elevated into gastronomy. If only we hadn’t eaten that second plate of sandwiches we might have had space for extra cake.
Jaffa Cake was a similarly ‘poshed-up’ version of the classic. You know how sometimes the sponge of a jaffa cake can be a bit dry? There was none of that here, a moist orangy mixture coated with the richest darkest bitter chocolate and topped with a tiny bit of crystalised orange. Perfect.
Bubblegum, a candy pink macaron topped with hundreds and thousands was convincingly bubblegum flavoured. Of everything on the menu, this was my greatest doubt. I love macaron but, generally prefer very delicate flavours to complement the almond cream and meringue. It worked, though perhaps not quite as a macaron.
Of the remainder of the fancies (Crunchy toffee cream, BFG, Rose Choquette and Strawberries & Cream) my personal favourite was the crunchy toffee cream which was a hazelnut dacquise with toffee biskella mousse and a ‘sugared crispy’. I couldn’t try the strawberries & cream, which did look delicious with a wild strawberry mousseline and lemon curd tart topped with fresh strawberries. I’m not a great fan of BFG (black forest gateau), but I did enjoy this rendition of the classic.
Service throughout was immaculate and the Corinthia lobby is an elegant and relaxing place to spend an afternoon. This is a premium afternoon tea well worth paying for. Where else in central London can you sit surrounded by white roses, watching the beautiful people of the world walk past?
The Childhood Memories afternoon tea runs until 31st August and is £55 per person including a glass of Laurent-Perrier Brut or £60 per person with Laurent-Perrier Rosé
Corinthia Hotel London
London SE1A 2BD
Disclosure: I was a guest of the Corinthia Hotel for the purpose of this review. I was not required to write a positive review and all content is editorially given.