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Scents of Summer Afternoon Tea in the Wellington Lounge:
One of my favourite haunts for Afternoon Tea, the Wellington Lounge at the Intercontinental Hotel, London Park Lane is a light, airy room with classic but contemporary furnishings. Even if all you did was drink a cup of tea or enjoy a glass of champagne, it would be hard not to relax here. I was invited along to review the newly launched Scents of Summer afternoon tea. And, I asked The-Hedonist if he’d like to join me.
At this time of year his diary can be a little hectic – he’s a freelance musician and part time lecturer so exam time means he can be busy from early in the morning to late afternoon.
An hour and a half should be fine
He said, confidently.
I hesitated. Afternoon tea is something that shouldn’t be hurried and, ideally I like to spend two, maybe three hours gradually working my way through the tea menu.
Seated by the window, we were offered a glass of champagne to start though this, apparently, was not the normal order of service for the Scents of Summer tea. Our menu included a list of six rose champagnes and seven cocktails. The idea with this tea is to save the champagne to accompany the pastries at the end of the tea – or enjoy a cocktail. But who would turn down a glass of Moet?
The first of the tea towers arrived, topped by a pretty ‘lawn’ with two shot glasses containing a wheat-grass and wild strawberry palate cleanser. Now, I know I have a strawberry allergy, but wild strawberry? It looked too appetising to miss, so I risked and enjoyed the shot – and am still alive today.
Sandwiches have been replaced with what the Intercontinental call ‘scrolls’. They are delicious and unusual – the selection includes Smoked Salmon and bergamot infused cream cheese on lemon bread, pink peppercorn on thyme chicken with mayo and cucumber on tomato bread, rose pickled cucumber and mascapone cheese on a deep burgundy coloured Peruvian bread and honey roast pumpkin with crumbled feta on spinach bread.
Beautiful flavour combinations, we found these a little too substantial and hard to eat. It was definitely a knife and fork job and somehow that detracted from what should be an elegant, dainty experience. I suspect the solution is for the kitchen to slice the scrolls, swiss roll style so that we can enjoy the flavours without being overwhelmed.
I enjoyed a pot of Japanese Sencha Fukujyu with my scrolls – and would order the same tea again. The staff are particularly helpful at recommending matching teas at each stage from what is an extensive set of options.
By this stage The-Hedonist had realised that his time-frame WAS a bit optimistic. It’s perfectly possible to eat an Afternoon Tea in an hour or so, but doing so spoils the ambience. As the fresh-from-the-oven scones arrived we were offered a different tea – and I happily agreed to try the blend of Lapsang Souchong and Darjeeling that was recommended. Lapsang Souchong is a smokey tea with a unique flavour which can easily overwhelm everything else. Blending in a little Darjeeling makes it easier to drink with food.
The scones came with wild strawberry jam and Devon clotted cream but also with a lemon and pink peppercorn curd and with Earl Grey butter. Both the ‘new’ additions were lovely. I’m fully intending to try making lemon curd and adding pink peppercorns because it was unusual but delicious.
It isn’t often that your waiter appears at the table with a perfume flask. But for this particular tea, the Intercontinental has paired with Floris and before the cakes are served, the table is delicately perfumed. This is the time to enjoy a glass of rose champagne too, in our case Moet and Chandon Rose Imperial, a blend of the three main champagne grapes.
What can I say about the cakes? A picture really does paint a thousand words here, with the beautiful ‘flower garden’ presented to our table. The selection included a Peach melba mousse encased in a ‘peach’ made from white chocolate, bergamot macarons, a Jasmine tea cake and my favourite, the violet cream and grapefruit tart. The ‘Flower Pot’ was a rose water and pink peppercorn jelly with a wild strawberry mousse served in a chocolate ‘terracotta’ pot.
We were guests of the Intercontinental Hotel, London Park Lane.
Scents of Summer Afternoon Tea
The Wellington Lounge
London Park Lane
One Hamilton Place
London W1J 7QY