There is a special magic that falls over London at this time of year, a shimmer that only appears between late autumn twilights and inky early winter evenings. I’ve had a touch of the Grinch about me this year, but spending the afternoon enjoying the festive afternoon tea at the Connaught Hotel cast the Christmas spell over me, with a twinkle of fairy lights dancing between champagne bubbles.
Disclaimer: We were invited guests of The Connaught Hotel, but my ruminations, glittery dress and exacting afternoon tea standards are all very much my own.
The festive magic shows itself, dancing subtly between hung baubles, notes of laughter and the glimmer of festive dresses that we pulled out of our wardrobes with sheer glee.
Angie, Binny and I met just on the cusp of the day – where daylight changes place with the velvet darkness – the perfect time to linger over a glass of Laurent Perrier Rose Champagne. It was made even sweeter by the afternoon tea that was to come, crafted by the experienced Connaught chefs, who look after the Jean-Georges terrace.
It was lovely to return to this epicurean corner of Mayfair so swiftly – I had only graced (?) Helene Darroze’s dining room just a few weeks earlier for my birthday lunch. This time, however, the foyer has been hung with incandescent baubles, beribboned and a Christmas tree straight out of a fairy tale.
The indulgent festive afternoon tea at the Connaught Hotel begins with black truffle feuillette, a treat for the taste buds with a smooth hit of salt noted umami.
Our sandwiches soon arrived with a flourish; egg & truffle mayonnaise with watercress on onion bread, roast ham & butternut squash with white miso and black pepper in a walnut bread – a scrumptious alternative to plain ham, cucumber with Greek yogurt, lime and mint in herb bread, H. Foreman’s smoked salmon with chipotle not to mention the Coronation turkey with coriander mayonnaise. They were all delicious, sumptuous versions of classics.
It wouldn’t be a festive afternoon tea at the Connaught Hotel without fluffy scones, which were brought out once we had had our fill of sandwiches – plain and raisin served with home-made strawberry jam, lemon curd and Cornish clotted cream – plump, delicious and perfectly glazed.
The top tier was everything that little girls dreams are made of; a delicate festive orange made of orange and hazelnut praline, filled with orange mousse, a miniature Christmas log of raisin shortbread, filled with caramel and chocolate crémeux & an apple spiced mince and cinnamon cream speculoos shaped like a jolly Father Christmas.
They were all delicious, but my favourites were the Christmas tree sculpted chestnut cupcake with walnut sponge and pear, and a charming passionfruit jelly topped with coconut cream and a snowflake.
But, the crowning glory was altogether more indulgent again…gorgeous gingerbread men and a spiced chocolate fondue.
** Beautiful image of the fondue demonstration kindly provided by Angie, hands were my own and Binny’s **
It was our own corner of festive cheer. The tables around us were crowned with their own tiers of afternoon tea and the gentle hubbub of tinkling glasses. It was the perfect way to spend a festive afternoon, Grinch or no Grinch in the corner.
I feel like our smiles say it all. Possibly better than every one of the 700+ words in this post.
Jean-Georges itself is a beautiful place – curated art from Louise Bourgois adorns the walls and floor to ceiling windows, with stained-glass accents by Jean-Michel Othoniel, giving merry-makers the perfect vantage point to watch the world of Mayfair go by.
The Connaughts Mount Street Christmas Tree has just been turned on as well – we caught a quick glimpse as we settled into our table – so I’ll definitely need to pop back. Perhaps even on a Christmas Eve Christmas tree spotting wander like last year!
** Gorgeous Foyer Image kindly shared by Binny – my images were merry but not bright… **
Our afternoon was simply magical – the festive afternoon tea at the Connaught Hotel is one to savour and delight in with your favourite people. Take your Grinches.
Is partaking of afternoon tea one of your festive traditions?