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Marie Antoinette Afternoon Tea at Pont Street:
I know Pont Street in Belgravia best for the austerely beautiful Scottish Church of St Columba. At one time I had a friend who used to sing for services there. I’d never noticed a restaurant – although, discretely sited on the corner of Pont Street and Chesham Place and positioning itself as a neighbourhood restaurant, perhaps that’s not surprising. Of course this particular neighbourhood just happens to be one of the wealthiest in London which perhaps makes the choice of a Marie Antoinette afternoon tea particularly appropriate. What is more intriguing for me is the woman at the top here, Sophie Michell, currently Britain’s youngest female executive chef who has a star studded background not only working her way up through leading restaurants around the world but as chef to the glitterati. I had great expectations of this particular tea.
We arrived to a beautiful table set with iconic wedgewood polka dot china and with a mysterious little box sitting on top of our napkins.
Inside the box, Ruinart edible pearls flavoured with rose and raspberry to add to our champagne, Ruinart of course. The pearls are a fun way to pretty up a glass of champagne – if everyone is ordering cocktails this way you can enjoy your champagne with just a hint of something extra.
We ordered tea. I was delighted to see my favourite silver tipped jasmine on the tea menu, while Madeleine went for a stronger cup of English breakfast. All the teas served at Pont Street are from Jing, one of the leading specialist tea suppliers world wide. While the tea menu is quite short, there’s a good set of options including a green tea and earl grey, with fresh mint tea if you prefer a herbal infusion.
Tea arrived on an elegant stand, the bottom plate with a whole selection of savouries, the next two plates with cakes and sweets. There was more to come though.
We started with the savouries. I particularly loved the foie gras with red onion relish on a tiny round of brioche toast and the hollandaise quail egg tartlet with a whole quail egg which was, somewhat miraculously, soft boiled. The result, if you eat it in one mouthful, an eggy explosion complementing the crisp pastry shell and delicate hollandaise. Cheese balls came with a dainty portion of quince jelly and the smoked salmon on pumpernickel was garnished with a single, edible viola flower.
Then a plate of finger sandwiches. A good, traditional selection – cheese and pickle, ham and mustard and cucumber. Very soft, fresh bread and well proportioned fillings made these very moreish. But, having the cakes and sweets on display meant we were both cautious about accepting seconds!
That turned out to be a wise decision as a plate of fresh scones arrived, with strawberry jam and clotted cream. These were quite crumbly, a perfect excuse to add lots of clotted cream!
On to the cakes and sweets. Pont Street seems to have taken Marie Antoinette’s famous comment rather literally. There were enough cakes to make us both wonder if we’d actually manage to eat everything.
Absinthe choux, which sounded slightly scary, was filled with a very light absinthe infused cream. Rose macarons were crisp on the outside and nicely chewy inside. The rose flavour didn’t really sing for me, but perhaps that was simply the overwhelming quantity of cakes.
The fondant fancies were pretty in pink with wonderful soft vanilla sponge.
Our generous slices of Chocolate opera cake were, thankfully, very light. And who doesn’t like chocolate cake.
The top plate of the stand had two pretty shortbread biscuits topped with playing card rice paper transfers. Very dramatic and stylish. Champagne lychee jelly with rosewater cream completed what was an amazing tea.
While Pont Street Restaurant isn’t somewhere that would have been on my radar for afternoon tea, the location, in between Sloane Square and Knightsbridge makes it a perfect place for a discreet post shopping tea. Afternoon tea is £35 without champagne or £45 with. Be warned though, don’t eat breakfast or lunch and don’t expect to want supper!
20 Chesham Place, London SW1X 8HQ
Tel: 020 3189 4850