5 February 2014

Afternoon Tea at the Intercontinental, Park Lane - Reviewed

I've walked past the Intercontinental Park Lane many times, and never thought to pass through the hallowed doors (to be fair I never would have thought they would let any of us Kiwis in, but that's another story). So, when hunting for Christmas themed Afternoon Teas came up, we couldn't resist the choux swans winking merrily at us for a blogger date ('blate' for the lingo lovers) to catch up and gossip over.
 
By the time we had Christmas shopped ourselves out around Old Spitalfields market (my new discovery, what a place!) and tripped back through London to Marble Arch, I can tell you we were two hungry bloggers. Once we had taken our seating and were tempted with the Botanicals Afternoon Tea menu, all thoughts of the themed Christmas tea flew out the window.
 
"Celebrating the hotel's location overlooking the iconic Royal Parks, this delicate and whimsical tea mixes citrus, berries, spices, and herbaceous botanicals for a taste of spring."
 

Tea for me is a luxurious treat, a meal to be savoured with good friends and should be an experience. This tea is pitched as a sensory experience, and it really was. Playful, exploratory and left us eager to try each new delight.
 
We started with cocktails - a cardamom and vanilla infused champagne for me, and a fruity mocktail for my blate (I'm not sure which kind, bad blogger I know), and can confirm that mine was lovely.
 
Cardamom and vanilla infused champagne
 

We began the meal with a palate cleanser - a 'botanical pear pearl drop', served daintily on a bed of moss. It was a sign of great things to come.
 

These sandwiches caused some rather heated tea-side debate in our mission to decide which we loved the most. We loved the more interesting flavours - there was no fawning cucumber and cream cheese, or egg and cress to be seen here. Our overall favorite? The flaked smoked eel - smoky, beautifully textured, and perfectly matched with it's accompanying horseradish, cucumber and apple relish. Mmmmm.

The guinea fowl ran a close second (there was quite a bit of hmmm, the guinea fowl, no, the eel, no, the guinea fowl. It was quite taxing I can assure you), with the gamey poultry providing a superb counterpoint to the creamed sauce, and crisp celeriac. We enjoyed the Trout & Salmon, with wasabi caviar, but felt that the asparagus and beef needed a little something to live up to the plate counterparts. Possibly even just a little herbed salt to give it a pop.

The open sandwich format worked really well - it meant not only a feast for the eyes, but we weren't overwhelmed with bread. Also, see that selection below? It was mine, all mine. The helpings were really generous which made our hungry bellies very happy. It also meant narrowing down the best flavour was made much easier. You can't always tell with just one taste.

Free range guinea fowl with crisp celeriac
Smoked eel, horseradish, cucumber and apple relish
Nettle marinated asparagus rolled in  Sirloin of beef
Smoked trout and artichoke pesto wrapped with Speyside smoked salmon, wasabi caviar
 



You may be able to tell by the next few photos that we were a little late for our table (it was the last sitting that day) as I hadn't quite factored in the distance between Marble Arch tube and the hotel, because after a while to enhance the mood - or subtly get rid of us, I'm not sure- - they turned the lights down. Low. But despite making photographing (subtly) somewhat hard, the tea & delicious food kept coming and we soldiered on.

The scones were nice, the citrus peel leaving a piquancy in the mouth not normally associated with buttery soft scones, and the quince preserve was great.

 Citrus peel and butter milk scones, with strawberry jam, quince preserve and Devon clotted cream 


 
You know that we went to the Intercontinental Westminster shortly afterwards, and whilst we enjoyed ourselves were disappointed by the sharing of the best elements of the teat tier, and slightly disappointing nature of the cakes of offer. This in part was due to the below. Four high-quality patisserie, each with something interesting or delicious.
 
Each patisserie was an exploration for the tastebuds, a surprise for your fork and subject to much spirited discussion as we nibbled through each item. The Macaron was fabulous. It appears at first glance to be a normal macaron with a bit of topping and a baby macaron balanced on the crown. In reality the Blueberry dessert is half macaron, half spongey top, filled with a scrumptious creme brulee and topped with a small macaron. We delighted in every surprising bite.
 
I'm not going to bang on about every dessert, but they we all lovely (the celeriac didn't really bring anything to the table but we still loved testing and trying each layer) and the exploration of flavours and textures made the afternoon tea not only delicious, but a great deal of fun.
 
Hazelnut bakewell topped with salted caramel  cream, apple and rosemary mousse
Mandarin tart
Victoria plum and celeriac torte
Blueberry crème brûlée macaroon



For the array of delicious tastes, good service and luxiourious surroundings, at £38.00+ service this is one tea that I'd highly recommend and seriously want to go back to. What I never understand is (usually skinny) people that go our for afternoon tea, but leave most of the plates untouched. Whether it's because they don't ever eat, because they are fussy or because they are just weird I will never know. If you don't like gamey, fishy, smoky or umami flavours don't order this tea (they have a few others) but mark my words, you will be missing out.

It's a lovely hotel, all beige with highlights of tan and black and subtle prints dotted throughout, and it's quite therapeutic to watch harried shoppers dash past the window as you relax into the insanely comfortable chairs. Half chair, half chaise longue they are quite fascinating pieces of furniture to get into, but slightly difficult to want to leave. But then again, why would you want to?

So; are you a gamey, fish, smokey or umami flavour fan?


38 comments :

  1. This looks like an interesting and different afternoon tea. I woud l have tried it! Not sure about the moss though lol

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    1. It was really cool. With the moss, they had a little slice of banana leaf so your spoon didn't actually touch it.

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  2. I have been really into new sandwich toppings lately and am very sad I do not think I will be able to get my hands on any smoked eel!

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    1. I think you'd struggle to get it here as well to be fair. Have you tried 'coronation chicken'?

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  3. You lost me at eel.... I'm sure it has the potential to be tasty, but I could never bring myself to try it! Everything else looks yummy though! xx

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  4. I heard of umami for the first time recently while reading Fran's book! I think I'm definitely Umami and I'm going to add this place to my to-visit list!

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    1. Aha! It's hard to explain the 5th taste - but I suspect it can be found in good Boerewors!

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  5. This sounds right up my alley, but most people I know wouldn't like it, so I'd have to find a sharing partner! I don't eat beef so they can have that one :)

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    1. It really was something scrumptious!

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  6. I love yours restaurant review posts. The other ones as well of course but you are specially great at this and I think you should do it for living... I am not kidding... I just booked an afternoon tea at the intercontinental after reading your review and of course I am going to order the same menu :)

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    1. It's a hobby that I adore that's for sure!
      I'm so pleased you're going - let me know what you think!!

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  7. Wow, this sounds amazing! Especially that champagne, I've never tried any champagne that's had an infusion before.

    Shame they were trying to get rid of you! I hate it when places do that.

    Hmm maybe...

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    1. It was hilarious - but the staff never said anything or hurried us in any way which was a little confusing...

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  8. What an interesting concept for Afternoon tea. I'm a umami fan.

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    1. It wasn't just beautiful, but scrummy! Definitely in my top 3 London afternoon teas!

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  9. I absolutely love dining at the Intercontinental.

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    1. I want to return & check out the cookbook cafe - I hear the brunch is amazing!

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  10. I do love afternoon tea selections! The opportunity to taste so many different mini things at once is not something easily replicated at home.

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    1. I think that's my favourite part. And the champagne of course!

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  11. I am loving the idea of that champagne - cardamom and vanilla, how divine!

    Afternoon tea is a surprisingly tricky one to get right, when it is spot on it is so exquisite. Sadly this happens all too rarely.

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    1. It was blissful. Especially after our lengthy trudge down Park Lane!

      So true Helen, so true!

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  12. LOL I like the Intercontinental afternoon teas a lot! sounds like you had fun!

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  13. Now that's what I call a proper afternoon tea! Sounds totally and utterly amazing!

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    1. It was totally worth it - every bit.

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  14. Gosh I haven't been to The Intercontinental for a long time. Is Theo Randall's restaurant still there? The afternoon tea looks very substantial. Pleased you enjoyed.

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    1. It was our first visit to the Park Lane hotel. Yep, I believe so!

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  15. Oh my! My tummy is rumbling now, I'm off to out tea on!
    Janie x

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    1. Excellent - spreading the tea karma!

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  16. I love a good afternoon tea and I've read many an appetising review, but I reckon this one tops it for taste and interest. How lovely.

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    1. Aww, thank you! We really enjoyed it & I'm glad I was able to convey it.

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  17. How luxurious! I think I may need to come along next time :)

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  18. Afternoon Tea is my all time favourite!! I have experienced many of the London institutions but never this one.

    My wedding reception was Afternoon Tea as we both love it!

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  19. Getting tea is one of my favorite things to do when I visit London. Some of the nicer hotels in the US have tea, but it's just not the same...

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  20. Desserts looks super delicious! I never had a proper afternoon tea (apart from the one at home!)

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  21. Oh my! And there I thought a mug of tea and a handful of almonds constitutes a treat. Looks heavenly.

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  22. Wow, impressive. Dare I say it looks better than the one I had at the Dorchester!

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So, what do you think? Comments are blogging mana; short, sweet, long, loquacious, deep and meaningful...