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Le Tea en Rose – a French style afternoon tea in London:
Waterloo Place is home to the five star Sofitel London St James, an unmistakably French styled hotel. I headed there a few days ago to preview a new floral afternoon tea, a limited edition French take on that most celebrated of English events, the Chelsea Flower Show. How would a French hotel group fare challenging the Great British pastime of Afternoon Tea?
The Rose Lounge at the Sofitel London St James is one of the prettiest tea rooms I know. There’s a harpist playing every afternoon, elegant chairs upholstered in rich velvets, chic floral arrangements and an eclectic mixture of art on the walls. Small enough to genuinely feel intimate it’s an excellent place to relax and enjoy tea.
Dammann Freres, granted their licence to trade teas by Louis XIV in 1692, provide the hotel with a distinctive menu of teas. There’s a tea of the month – currently ‘Star Elixir’ which is described as a ‘green tea blend made of meadowsweet, blackcurrant and red vine leaves, elderflower, peppermint and fennel. A cleansing tea with an after taste of mint and star anise’. There are old favourites and fashionable treats – Earl Grey and Strong Breakfast tea rub shoulders with Sencha Fukuyu and Pu-erh Menghai. And, there’s a short list of herbal infusions including Verbena, Camomile and Peppermint. I pick the Sencha Fukuyu, an old favourite that isn’t often on a tea menu, while my companion Madeleine from the aptly named Kitchen Journeys chooses Star Elixir.
What of the food though?
The cake tower arrives laden with sandwiches, scones and pastries. Four seasonal sandwiches comprise ham and cheese on beetroot bread, roast beef with horseradish cream and cheddar, Cornish egg and smoked salmon with cream cheese and cucumber. Beautifully presented and clearly freshly cut fingers that just takeenough of the edge of my appetite without being overfilling.
Scones are light and fluffy. We are served three varieties, plain, raisin and apricot, with a choice of rose scented strawberry jam or lemon curd to complement the clotted cream.
As it should be, the pastries are the star event. Hibiscus jelly with marscapone, raspberry jelly and crystallised rose petals is pretty, delicate and not over sweet.
My least favourite of the pastries is the poppy mousseline cream. But, that might be because I can’t really enjoy the whole thing – I eat cooked strawberries but this is filled with a compote which may or may not be cooked.
Mimosa, filled with mimosa mousseline cream, vanilla sponge, grape compote and yellow sponge crumble is delightful – it brings back memories of the market at Sarlat, where stalls selling bunches of mimosa branches filled the streets with the light of spring, even though the skies were grey.
And anywhere that serves a rose macaron gets my vote, especially when it is filled with fresh raspberries
The Tea en Rose at Sofitel London St James is a wonderful, light and fragrant affair. Quite ladylike, very proper and just a little restrained. The epitome of a Parisienne in London. Perhaps, had the women of France been in charge at the time and the battle been over the best afternoon tea, Waterloo place would have a different significance today.
Many thanks to Sofitel London St James for the invitation to review their new limited edition afternoon tea
Sofitel London St James
6 Waterloo Place,
London SW1Y 4AN