Last Updated on December 4, 2017 by Fiona Maclean
It’s feeling a lot like Christmas at The Langham London:
There’s nothing quite like a festive afternoon tea to start getting me into the mood for Christmas. Particularly when it happens to be at The Langham, London in the elegant Palm Court. Sitting with a glass of Perrier Jouët Champagne in hand, we were really excited at what was to come. It’s only the second time I’ve had afternoon tea at The Langham since Executive Pastry Chef, Andrew Gravett took over. And, I was genuinely curious to see how things might have evolved. The last time I was there, I loved the Wedgewood Afternoon Tea he’d created but thought it was definitely one for a chocolate lover. For the perfect tea, unless it’s intentionally chocolate themed, that was perhaps not quite right. So, I wanted to see how the festive pastries measured up. Well, it’s a good excuse for a little indulgence, isn’t it?
Of course, the hotel is charmingly decorated at this time of year too. There are stunning Christmas trees lining the entrance to the Palm Court and pretty Christmas decorations throughout. But it was the tea we were looking forward to.
At The Langham, there’s always a choice of afternoon tea or high tea, which comes with an extra course of savoury dishes. And of course, we always opt for the latter!
Now, there are also two ‘matching’ teas – one which pairs different cuvées of Perrier Jouët Champagne with the afternoon tea and one which has been developed with The Rare Tea Company and Henrietta Lovell and which pairs different rare teas with each course of the tea. Both sound like remarkable experiences. But, we were aiming for some Christmas Spirit.
As is always the case at The Langham, the sandwiches and savouries were immaculate. I particularly enjoyed the cucumber and cream cheese with chives – a simple combination that can easily be poorly executed. Here, the balance was spot on, both the flavours and texture of the crunchy cucumber contrasting with the piquant chive laced cheese. I loved the Farmhouse Stilton with onion and port relish served on walnut bread too, though I wish I’d taken more care over the order I’d eaten the plateful. This particular sandwich is quite powerful and best left until last. Smoked turkey with marjoram stuffing and watercress served on cranberry bread completed the sandwich trio and there were two more savouries in the form of a delicate duck egg brioche with black truffle mayonnaise and artichoke and a deliciously moreish smoked salmon roll filled with horseradish cream and Lilliput capers. The only fault was mine for not thinking through the order in which to eat the plateful. Plenty of tea helped a lot though – in my case a delicious first flush Darjeeling – and for my friend the Langham House Blend.
As the plates were cleared and the savoury dishes appeared, we were offered more tea – a feature which ran throughout the afternoon. In the interest of research, we were offered the chance to try all three savouries, though you would normally pick just one. If you get the chance to go, I’d recommend following your stomach to decide which savoury is right for you. The cep mushroom arancini with cep and orange puree is the most unusual of the trio and, for a deep fried rice ball, is remarkably light.
Smoked salmon mousse with keta and croutons is a pretty and ultralight mixture that you should pick if you want to eat again that day. But the hedonistic pigs in blanket sausage roll with cranberry and leaf salad is the richest and most substantial option and, perhaps for that reason, the most ‘Christmassy’. Or is it just that mum would always make sausage rolls for Christmas? I don’t know.
Next, scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream – served warm from the oven wrapped in a napkin. The Langham has never failed to produce excellent scones, light, fluffy and meltingly soft. And they are generous with their portions of cream and jam so that there’s no need to ask for extra.
Finally the piece de resistance of the tea – the pastries. If I can find any fault it is that the plating somehow doesn’t quite showcase what are a remarkably good set of cakes. Each one has its own place on the plate – and although there’s plenty of chocolate, it isn’t quite as overwhelming somehow.
Eternally pistachio is a pretty, miniature Christmas wreath made with crunchy choux, pistachio cream and cranberry jelly, topped with some dried cranberries and pistachio nuts. I’m not sure how you make green crunchy choux but I can attest to its deliciousness and the crunchy pastry contrasted beautifully with the soft cream and the piquant cranberry toppings. The tiny, perfect ‘It’s Christmas’ Jivara and mandarin sphere with cinnamon cream was the kind of tiny Christmas pudding I’d love as an end to a decadent Christmas Lunch. St Nicholas, a quirky Santa’s hat of a cake is made with passion fruit rolled in a light sponge with lightened coconut ‘snowflakes’. Gold, frankincense and myrrh is a take on the Wedgwood afternoon tea original ‘One in a Million’ and a delicious mixture of caramelised puff pastry with salted caramel and vanilla. Finally, the ‘Light of the World’ candle is a delicious chocolate candle, hollowed out and filled with chestnut cream, blackcurrant and spice.
Then, just when you think it’s all over, a little plate of mince pies appears –
Looking back at the original Wedgewood afternoon tea, there’s just one less chocolate based pastry – but somehow it seems much more balanced. And, I personally love the move to Perrier Jouët Champagne, with the beautiful art-deco bottle design. Somehow it seems very fitting for the elegant surroundings of Palm Court. We couldn’t quite work out how to take our bottles home though…
The Langham Festive Afternoon Tea starts at £62 per person including a glass of Perrier Jouët Grand Brut NV. High tea, with the extra savoury dish, has a premium of £8.00
Afternoon tea runs from 12.15pm to 5.30pm
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Palm Court at The Langham
1 Portland Place
Marylebone, London W1B 1JA
Disclosure: We enjoyed tea as guests of The Langham Hotel, but all comments are editorially given.