Ampersand is a boutique hotel located squarely in the ever fashionable area of South Kensington. What struck us the most last weekend at the Ampersand Hotel afternoon tea was how fun the hotel was (in a good way, not inverted commas “cool”). [Disclaimer: We were invited guests of Ampersand but my (many) opinions are only ever my own.]
Every room was clearly styled with an eye for design, but with a cheeky nod to the hotel name and nearby world famous museums of Natural History, Science, my favourite the Victoria & Albert, not to mention the nearby Royal Albert Hall.
After a few hours of walking the delights of the V&A and the current Pearl Exhibition we had worked up quite an appetite and with a lot of catching up to do, my blate +Kelly Michelle and I couldn’t wait to sit down and enjoy our Saturday afternoon treat.
The afternoon tea is served in their ‘Drawing Rooms’ dedicated to the art of afternoon tea and we were snuggled into a cozy corner with chairs/mini sofas perfect for gossiping and a perfect vantage point for eyeing up everyone else’s afternoon teas.
Is your mouth watering yet?
As it’s National Chocolate Week, I couldn’t resist ordering their special Ampersand Hotel afternoon tea, (any excuse) while Kelly enjoyed their Gluten Free spread. When it came to choice of beverage I didn’t resist the Afternoon Tea Tea, and Kelly chose the Peppermint. We even found a Kiwi(ish) mention in the tea menu for bonus points. Well played Ampersand team.
My tea (on the right – Kelly’s Gluten free is on the left) started with savoury gougères (gougères are choux pastry buns with savoury fillings) – and they set the bar very high indeed. Each 3-bite-size bun had delicious fillings that hit the spot for us hungry Kiwis (the ham and the fruit chutney especially). It’s the first afternoon tea I’ve had that doesn’t have ‘bread’ bread, and I have to say I loved it – it means that you don’t fill up on sandwiches, leaving room for the deliciousness to follow.
Gloucester old spot ham, sauce gribiche
Seven & Wye smoked salmon, dill & cream cheese
Cheese & fruit chutney
If I’m going to be totally honest, I didn’t really read the menu as I was sold at the words “Chocolate afternoon tea.” It meant that when the homemade strawberry, chocolate and balsamic vinegar jam hit my scone I wasn’t quite ready for it. At the risk of sounding like a luvvie, I don’t think I’ve ever tasted something quite so delicious. Move over Nutella and your Nutty overtones, this homemade jam is the Jam. Luxurious, softly chocolately spread with a hint of strawberry, it is unctious and the perfect scone condiment. I’m not sure I can bear the disappointment of going back to naked strawberry jam after that.
White chocolate and plain scones served with clotted cream and homemade strawberry, chocolate and balsamic vinegar jam
I also tried a little experimentation – Jam then Cream, or Cream then Jam. I’ve got to say I’m still in the Jam then Cream camp, it just makes more sense. It’s less aesthetically pleasing but tastes SO good.
Our teapots were replenished so we had a little rest and began to watch as the room filled up with late tea-takers. Awaiting us was the piece de resistance, the most indulgent part of any afternoon tea – the pastry selection.
My hands-down favourite? The Apricot and white chocolate mousse. A soft sponge base, apricot couli, white chocolate mousse and a bright red coating, it melted away to delicious nothingness when you attacked it with a teaspoon. Indulgent and light, it was magnificent. My runner-up was also Kelly’s pick of the day – the salty caramel bonbon, then the (garden) mint macaron, and orange and chocolate cake. The intense chocolate cake was great, but has lofty companions to compete against.
Orange and dark chocolate layer cake (piaru porcelana 75%)
Apricot and white chocolate mousse (opal 30.3%)
Salty caramel bonbon (valrhona dulcey 32%)
Intense chocolate cake (ocumare 71%)
Mint chocolate macaroon (organic esmeralda milk 42%)
Ampersand were more than happy to do a gluten free afternoon tea, and I’ll leave the write up to Kelly – watch this space. We found out that all of their dishes are freshly made in the hotel kitchens and to get a taste of their passion, check out Tumblr account for the Apero restaurant (downstairs in the hotel) I found because I’m a Google+ ninja.
The food really fits with it’s surroundings and the ethos of the hotel – great quality and good flavours with side of a cheeky fun to it. The service was fab too – helpful and quite fun but without being in your face. Perfecto.
Truly how much did we love it? Well, I’ve already booked a return for a double birthday afternoon with a very experienced group of Afternoon Tea connoisseurs who are as excited as I am for the Halloween themed Tea (and have been before themselves). That’s how much.
Needless to say, by the end of the leisurely afternoon we were stuffed and very happy. I also had the sugar shakes which was proven out by the following post photos. Let me apologise in advance for their quality, but the rooms were just too cute.
Ps. After our Ampersand Hotel afternoon tea we were lured in by their cocktail menu to the bar downstairs where we spent a good while longer. Girls just love to talk, what can I say?
Burning questions of the day: Cream then Jam, or Jam then Cream?