Caffeine Charged Alternative to Afternoon Tea – High Coffee at the Intercontinental:
I do love afternoon tea. But, with a few friends who would rather die that imbibe even the finest silver tipped jasmine, the Intercontinental’s High Coffee seems like an excellent idea. With my own bean to cup coffee machine, I’ve come to love fine coffees – and the option of an afternoon tea with paired coffees sounded fascinating. So, off to The Intercontinental London Park Lane to find out more.
The menu has been created to complement a variety of specially selected coffees from Gran Cru coffee plantations ranging from single origin smooth, honey coffees to a rare new Gold Cuvée blend created to celebrate the 80th year anniversary of Italian coffee specialist Caffé Musetti.
Afternoon Tea and High Coffee are served in the elegant Wellington Lounge which looks out over Hyde Park. Unlike many of the Park Lane Hotels, the interior of The Intercontinental is contemporary. The Wellington Lounge is a light, comfortable space – this time with a piano player in situ to add to the ambience.
High Coffee starts with a selection of open sandwiches. Free range chicken with celeriac and sweet pepper remoulade on buttermilk bread, heirloom tomato Caprese with watercress pesto on a mixed olive roll and smoked eel with pickled red onion, caper aioli on a beetroot brioche roll. Delicious toppings with some excellent flavour pairings. I particularly liked the smoked eel with pickled red onion. The bread though was rather dry and biscuity.
We both loved our Salted Caramel Espresso Martini – the best I’ve ever had, with a wonderful crema and a delicate, sweet espresso. Apparently 1934 Blend, 100% arabica with beans from Ethiopia, Brazil and Guatemala).
Warm savouries were a delicious trio of a rich lamb and rosemary open pie, a delicate wild mushroom tumbleweed puff and a tiny piquant sun blushed tomato spiral with warm piccalilli. My favourite was the lamb and rosemary open pie – I’d happily have devoured a full-sized portion!
Served with a Caffe Freddo made from Grand Cru, 85% Arabica and 15% Robusta this was an excellent pairing with the earthy notes of the coffee complementing the savouries perfectly.
A palate cleanser of blood orange and ginger sorbet came complete with dry ice!
By this stage, even after just two coffees I was delighted to have something a little lighter.
The Intercontinental never fails with their traditional scones and this afternoon, even if it was High Coffee rather than afternoon tea, was no exception. Sultana and buttermilk scones with Devon clotted cream and strawberry jam were served with those all important but often forgotten teaspoons.
To accompany our desserts we were offered a choice of Espresso, Latte, Mocha, Macchiato, Cortado, Cappucino or Canarino coffee all made from Paradiso, another 85% arabica and 15% robusta coffee. Apparently, Arabica beans have a sweeter fruitier and softer taste while Robusta has a stronger grain-like taste. Blending the two beans creates what for many people is the perfect coffee. I picked a Macchiato while my companion opted for a Latte.
I have to confess we both felt a little overwhelmed by the quantity of coffee and chocolate at this stage and asked for a glass of Champagne.
The plates of desserts and pastries were immaculate. A tiny hazelnut opera cake was rich and dense with chocolate and nuts. The pinkie-sized Bailey’s chocolate eclair prettily decorated with gold leaf and light as a feather.
Black forest gateau was suitably gooey and full flavoured. And, the macaron came with a delicious salted caramel filling. I particularly enjoyed the light lemongrass and lime creme brulee.
The event finished with a signature Caffe Coretto made from Caffé Musetti’s special 80 years anniversary blend and offered with our choice of liqueur. I opted for grappa – the perfect way to drink an espresso in my view!
For those who want a change from afternoon tea, this is a great option. I have to confess, I found four strong coffees just a little more than I could handle and ended up sipping rather than finishing mine. But, the pairings were excellent – and I’m sure I could become accustomed to a high caffeine life!
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InterContinental London Park Lane
One Hamilton Place, Park Lane
London, W1J 7QY