There is no delicate pinky waving of gossamer pastries or wafer-thin slivers of sandwiches that leave your appetite wanting at the Italian style Baglioni Hotel afternoon tea, but a delectable selection of molto bene classics that sets this apart as the Maserati of Kensington teas.
Disclaimer: We were invited guests of the Baglioni Hotel but I would definitely take this Afternoon Tea out for another spin on my own dime.
The hotel is a quiet oasis of luxury (well, on the mid-week afternoon that we visited) just across the road from Kensington Palace and Hyde Park, all marble floors and glamorous setting – the perfect place to spend a few hours with good people.
Speaking of whom, it just so happens that this particular day I was catching up with Fiona, from London Unattached for a few hours of relaxation, and to sample their tea. It reminded me of our trip to Italy – expressive flavours, generous portions and an underlying sense of cheeky humour – a refreshing twist to the delicacy of traditional English afternoon.
Sat in an intimate nook of the Brunello Bar and Restaurant the sun shone through the windows, we overlooked Londoners going about their business and gently clinked glasses to celebrating 3 years of friendship (well, according to the message we had received recently from Facebook anyway- I’m fairly sure it’s been longer.)
We began as all the best catchups do, with a glass of Italian fizz (though a glass of Moet and Chandon Brut Imperial or Ruinart is available) as we perused the short but sweet loose leaf tea menu.
Our sleek stand was presented with a flourish worthy of a F1 winners podium, and we tucked in with barely repressed glee to the selection of sandwiches. Egg laced with chives and lavished with mayonnaise, oak smoked Scottish salmon with fresh cream and chives, focaccia layered with bresaola and buffala mozzarella cheese, and a sun-dried tomato and ricotta cheese combination to tantalise the taste buds. After some lengthy consideration, we both voted the salmon as our favourite; a rich and satisfying sandwich nibble, and the focaccia a nod to the Italian heritage.
Our scones were brought to order, freshly taken from the oven. Presented with traditional salvers of clotted cream and jam, we were also intrigued to receive a swirl of Nutella as an ode to La Dolce Vita.
Smoothed upon their light scones, we nibbled our way through several topics, with top-ups of tea as requested.
The crowning glory was the top tier; a Pistachio encrusted cannoli, a trumpet shaped sfogliatina Napoletana, a sweet little Baci di dama (a ladies kiss), a lemon tart served with juicy berries and a custom made Tiramisu in a tear-drop shaped dish.
I couldn’t resist the nibbling the cannoli mid-process, conjuring memories of Italian twilight and New York lunchtimes, and interrupting the traditional sandwiches > scone > sweet procedure that most aficionados follow but I felt like being a rebel that day, what can I say?
They were all lovely, but I think we both fell for the charms of the Lemon Tart. As a caffeine addict, the Tiramisu could have done with more coffee I think, but all was forgiven as Fiona regaled me with tales of her Italian adventures over the years. For Fiona’s story of actually making Cannoli, you’ll have to pop over to London Unattached.
Over the years I’ve been luck enough to try a wide variety of Afternoon Tea. In fact so wide, that last year I ended up going on a tea-tox regime, somehow managing to only enjoy 3 swathes of Afternoon tea, so this was a nice second introduction back in the dreamy landscape of luxurious afternoons.
For a sleek, modern setting the Baglioni Hotel is a lovely spot to while away the hours, and it’s a perfect tea to take a fellow to – who knows, you might even spot a Maserati or two zooming along Kensington Road.
One feels one would approve.