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Fine Art in Food at The Rosewood Hotel:
One of my first jobs in London was based on High Holborn so I remember when The Rosewood Hotel was home to Pearl Assurance Company. I had a definite case of Office Envy – I did work in Financial Services but our location was nothing like as opulent. Designed by H. Percy Monckton, the Grade II listed building was completed in 1914 and expanded over the next 50 years.
Turning it into a hotel was carried out in conjunction with English Heritage and the end result is an amazing, timeless transformation that has retained all the building’s heritage features.
I’ve been there before for events, but never to just sit and enjoy an afternoon tea, so I was delighted to be invited to review the Rosewood’s new Art Afternoon Tea which is a celebration of the exhibition at the British Museum, Rodin and the art of ancient Greece.
It’s always a good start to be offered a glass of Champagne and at the Rosewood, the house Champagne is R de Ruinart, from the oldest established Champagne House in France, exclusively producing champagne since 1729.
If you prefer something different, there are a range of signature cocktails and mocktails available too, to complement your tea
We chose our teas from an extensive selection including some classic black tea blends and some exceptionally fine options such as Maori Blue and Brume de Jasmin together with a small selection of herbal teas. All the teas are supplied by Mariage Freres.
Classic sandwiches arrived beautifully presented on a marble stand. Corn-fed chicken with tarragon mayonnaise was served on spinach bread and was my companion’s favourite. For me, the earthy notes of dark rye bread with the Scottish smoked salmon and lemon butter made the perfect mouthful. Not that there was anything wrong with the Monkshill egg mayonnaise with mustard cress on caramelised onion bread or the cucumber and cream cheese on heritage wheat bread. Just a lovely selection of contrasting fillings and breads.
Then, just because, we were served a little lemon granita palate cleanser.
Plain and raisin scones were lovely and came with Cornish clotted cream, lemon curd and homemade strawberry and elderflower jam. Neither of us thought the lemon curd worked – but of course, that’s entirely personal taste and there was a classic strawberry jam in any case.
Next a selection of pastries, ‘Les Fleurs du Mal Inspired’. Les Fleur du Mal (literally ‘the flowers of evil’) is a collection of poetry by Charles Baudelaire, first published in 1857, contemporary with Rodin.
The poems themselves are around a hedonistic theme of decadence and eroticism. The pastries are altogether an easier option with a perfect yet acidic berry and violet macaron, lemon and lavender meringue and a jasmine and vanilla choux which seemed far too innocent in this setting but provided a great contrast to the macaron. Almost too beautiful to eat, these were afternoon tea classics that could easily have been found in a French Patisserie.
Finally, a show-stopping selection of Rodin inspired pastries.
I love the menu drawings and explanation of the inspiration for each of these delectable masterpieces. The first, ‘Inspired by The Thinker’ was an Earl Grey infused milk chocolate mousse with chocolate sponge and a chocolate plaque of the famous sculpture. The Thinker was conceived in 1880 and represents Dante, author of the Divine Comedy.
Following on from that, ‘Inspired by The Kiss’, a dainty intertwining of marbled white chocolate topping a raspberry and rose jelly on a white chocolate sponge. The Kiss originally represented Paolo and Francesca, two characters from Dante’s divine comedy.
Inspired by ‘The Age of Bronze’ was my favourite of the trio. Described as a vanilla brulee almond financier with Azelia chocolate Bavarois and a brushed emerald and aged bronze seal, it was just a mouthful of perfection with a delicate balance of chocolate and vanilla cream. And it looked stunning too.
We should have finished at that point but the wonderful team at The Rosewood obviously thought we still looked hungry and another pastry appeared. This one was a white chocolate cube filled with vanilla cream pastry, salted caramel and chocolate. Garnished with a tiny replica of Banksy’s ‘Girl with a Balloon’ we learnt that this particular pastry has proved so popular it is now used whenever there’s a birthday celebration at the Hotel.
Mark Perkins, the executive pastry chef at the Rosewood, has really created his own works of art here and I’m impressed. Visually stunning but more significantly, perfectly executed and beautifully balanced on the mouth I’ll be looking out for his next limited edition afternoon tea. The Rodin Art Afternoon Tea runs concurrently with the exhibition at the British Museum until July 29th
Afternoon Tea at The Rosewood Hotel starts at £55 and should be booked in advance through their website. I remain a huge afternoon tea fan – and this one has just leapt to the top of my favourites list.
Thinking of booking a special afternoon tea?
The Rosewood Hotel
252 High Holborn,
London WC1V 7EN