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Christmas Vibes at the Mandarin Oriental.
At this time of year, a little window shopping at any of the major department stores is enough to wake up my Christmas senses – and Knightsbridge, home to the Mandarin Oriental just happens to have two right opposite, in the form of Harvey Nichols and Harrods. So, I’m already in a Christmas mood even as I walk up the red carpet into the lobby. The hotel itself is one of my favourite places for afternoon tea and this year they have a special festive afternoon tea served in the elegant and luxurious Rosebery. What a perfect treat if the idea of Christmas means you need a break yourself!
The space where tea is served is a mirrored room with high ceilings, plush jewel-coloured velvet chairs that you sink into and then struggle to get back up out of and rosewood tables. Each table comes with its own little copper apple tree, used as part of the tea service, and the minute you walk in, time seems to stand still.
The china and glassware are bespoke and blends perfectly with the decor of the room. And, apart from Champagne, there’s a huge selection of over 40 teas on offer including seasonal specials. I was disappointed not to be able to try the Mulled Tea Cup, but a strawberry allergy meant that the mixed berries might just have triggered a reaction. I loved the sound of the orange hot chocolate which you can try with Diplomatico Rum for a £4 supplement and which comes with Valrhona milk chocolate, orange and whipped cream.
Aware of the quantities of food to come, I chose the Rosebery’s own Afternoon Blend Canton Tea which is a light, malty blend of Yunnan, Anhui and Fujian Tea from China, the ultimate pick-me-up on a cold winter’s afternoon. My companion opted for white tea with jasmine pearls from China which was delicate and refreshing before picking a flower tea, served in a pretty, miniature glass tea-pot
The tea at The Rosebery, Mandarin Oriental is unique in offering pairings not only with champagne but with Alsatian Grand Cru wines, Saké or beer. Saké seemed like an excellent idea to me while my companion opted for the Alsatian Grand Cru wines.
At each stage, the wine and saké were offered with an explanation of the pairing concept. Here’s the Riesling Grand Cru Saering 2015 offered with sandwiches. The Christmas selection includes roasted turkey with orange compote, sage and cranberries, confit tuna with spring onion, piquillo pepper, green olives and oregano, braised beef with watercress and horseradish and Portland crab with wasabi tobiko, crayfish, miso and coriander with yuzu. And my two favourites…
I have to confess, I try my absolute best not to accept second helpings of sandwiches when enjoying a tea. Gentle reader, I failed dismally here and simply couldn’t resist having more ‘finest Cotswold egg with black truffle’ and ‘teriyaki salmon with asparagus and pickled ginger’.
These dainty little morsels are a unique way of serving sandwiches. I’m impressed because the result is the perfect balance of filling to bread – with no dry crusts or edges.
Freshly baked cranberry and plain scones come with Devonshire clotted cream and a selection of three confiture – strawberry jam, rose petal jelly and lemon curd. I love the service in the ‘birdcage’ and the pretty honeycomb pots.
Of course, the scones were freshly baked and feather-light. Thankfully they were also dainty morsels as I somehow managed to eat both of mine, despite vowing to cut the carbs.
By this stage, I was starting to regret my gluttony. As a stunning plate of hand-made Christmas pastries appeared, I knew I’d overindulged earlier. From left to right we have ‘Santa’s Beard’ (crunchy chocolate, vanilla crémeux and raspberry confit), ‘Holy Night’ with orange gingerbread, cherry jam and a pistachio bavaroise, ‘Snow Ball’ – crispy rice, chestnut coulis, sabayon crème fraîche, ‘Orange Log’ with praline sponge, citrus crémeux and chocolate mousse and ‘Christmas Tart’ with coconut bounty, fresh pineapple, hazelnut praline and coconut mousse.
We split some of the cakes but I managed to eat the entire ‘Santa’s Beard’, my absolute favourite of the plate – with the tart raspberry confit contrasting beautifully with the dark chocolate and vanilla crémeaux.
It was a close-run thing though and perhaps if I hadn’t eaten so much already the Snow Ball would have won – a delicate white chocolate shell splitting to reveal the lightest of filling
What’s truly astonishing is the detail in these pastries, each of which is no more than 2cm across. The festive afternoon tea pastries came with my favourite pairing, Ume no Yado Aragoshi Umeshu plum wine which we learnt contained 20% fresh plums. “Aragoshi” means to “roughly mashed” and to capture the full flavour of the plums, fruits are pureed into the mature umeshu so that it retains the natural pulp.
As if all this isn’t enough, there are mince pies. But, the wise people at the Mandarin Oriental seem to have worked out that most people simply won’t be able to eat any more and the pies are neatly packed up to take home
The Festive Afternoon Tea at The Rosebery in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel is £62. There’s also a children’s festive Harrods afternoon tea at £44 which includes a Harrods’ Joshua Bear to take home!
There’s a supplement of £18 to add an Alsatian Grand Cru wine pairing, £19 will give you the Saké pairing I enjoyed or you can enjoy a beer pairing for £17. Ruinart champagne is available from £14 or you can enjoy a glass of 2008 Billecart-Salmon for a supplement of £24.
Booking is essential, through the hotel’s website (linked below), or by phone or email. Afternoon tea is served from 12 midday through to 6.30 pm daily.
London SW1X 7L.
Phone: +44 (0)20 7201 3828
For more afternoon tea ideas do check our summary of top afternoon teas in London and out of town.