so funny i nearly wet myself ;)

The Girl @ Afternoon Tea yesterday
The Girl @ Afternoon Tea yesterday

So, yesterday I took The Girl out for some girlie time, and that started with one of our favourite things – afternoon tea (which I will blog about later).

So, there we were in a rather nice dining room, and she excused herself to go to the ladies room.  When she came back, she was all excited.

TG: Mum, you just HAVE to go to the loo in here!

Me: Maybe

TG: No, you HAVE to. They’re REALLY swanky!

Me: OK, I probably will soon

TG: No. Honestly. Listen. Listen to your bladder. Your bladder is telling you “Go to the toilet”. Listen to your bladder Mum!

Me (standing up, defeated): OK. Where is it then?

TG: *reaches out and rubs my belly area* I’m not sure, just about here I think. *collapses into giggles*

Oh yes. She’s very funny my daughter. Quick too.

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afternoon tea, podium restaurant, london hilton park lane

Back in November, I bought a Time Out 2 for the price of 1 voucher for a Confessions of a Chocoholic‘ afternoon tea at the Podium Restaurant.

Luckily it had a long time til the expiry date, and me and my friend finally got round to using it on Wednesday.

I have had a chocolate afternoon tea before, at Claridges – and I was definitley looking forward to having a similar experience!  Of course, it was totally different, but not any less fabulous!

Open sandwiches
Open sandwiches

So, first of all, (after being served with our champagne – and very nice it was too!) we were given our sandwiches – unlike any that I’ve had in the past, we were presented with a beautiful plate each of open sandwiches – egg mayonnaise & cress, smoked salmon & horseradish, cream cheese & cucumber, ham, mustard & tomato and prawn marie-rose.  We could have had any combination we asked for 🙂  they were lovely and fresh and, being open, they weren’t too filling.

A Tower of Delights
A Tower of Delights

I almost always go for the Assam tea, but felt daring – so for the first time ever I tried Lapsang Souchong (delicious and unbelievably smokey) – which they brought with the main attraction – look at that!  Doesn’t it all look amazing?

In the words of The Orb - these were little fluffy clouds!
In the words of The Orb – these were little fluffy clouds!

The scones were warm, fluffy and light.  We got one chocolate chip one each (which also had a couple of crisped rice bits in them) and one plain and one fruit.  As well as clotted cream and extremely strawberry jam that had obviously been made on the premises, there was a gorgeous kind of praline chocolate mousse.  Scones with chocolate (and clotted cream) – I can NOT stress how good this tastes.  I mean really, chocolate and scones, who knew?!  It sounds so wrong but it was oh so right!

The middle tier was lovely but the least exciting – a Battenberg (and neither of us like marzipan), two small cupcakes (and again, neither of us are that keen on American-style cupcakes – I mean, what is it with all that icing? why do they need it?) but these were quite nice as they had little surprises in the centre.  The sachertorte was VERY scrummy though. Chocolatey and rich.

How pretty do they all look?
How pretty do they all look?

The top tier was the star of the show – a choux bun filled with a chocolate orange mousse and topped with an iced shortbread butterfly; a white chocolate pot filled with chocolate  mousse and raspberries; a macaron that reminded us of those chocolate limes that you used to get in sweetshops; a rhubarb and custard meringue on a stich and a marshmallow ‘ice cream’ in a cone on a stick, both in a glass of sherbert topped with little edible balls and finally a white chocolate ganache/mousse slice filled with cherries that had been soaked in kirsch (I think) and coated in something crunchy.

It was all absolutely amazing – tasty, gorgeous and surprisingly not too sweet.  Fantastic 🙂

So, we were getting ready to leave, happily full but not uncomfortably stuffed when the waiter came over and asked us if we had finished.  I said yes thank you and continued, so he asked again, did we not want any more?  I was shocked – was there another course or something that we weren’t expecting?  And then he pointed back to the tower and asked if we wanted it wrapped.  It was only then that I realised that the glittery ‘wooden’ board that the top tier of goodies had been on was in fact chocolate!  A block of dark chocolate.

I did indeed want to take it home, so he disappeared for a few seconds and then came back with it all packaged in a lovely little box for me to bring home.

Posh Doggie Bag
Posh Doggie Bag

All in all, it was a wonderful experience.  I would thoroughly recommend it.  The ‘Confessions of a Chocoholic’ Afternoon Tea at Podium Restaurant is £29.50 usually, or £37.50 with a glass of champagne.

“afternoon” tea, caffe concerto, tott crt rd

Caffe Concerto Tott Crt Rd
Caffe Concerto Tott Crt Rd

After my disasterous afternoon tea at the Doubletree by Hilton, I was rather wary of the fact that I had another Groupon voucher that was about to expire.

However, I had paid almost half the price for this one – £17 for two of us, and Caffe Concerto are one of the few places that serve afternoon tea pretty late (up til 7pm), so it appealed to a catch-up with my late-working friend, and our love of the naughtiness of ‘afternoon tea for dinner’!

With trepidation, I wandered into Caffe Concerto in Tottenham Court Road, one of a chain of about 13 restaurants around London I believe, even though I had never noticed them before!

These were not the sumptious surroundings like the hotels where I’ve had afternoon tea before, being more of a café / restaurant / coffee bar, but it was all sparkly, clean, bright and nicely decorated.  I was immediately put at ease by the staff who were extremely warm and friendly.

When my friend turned up, we were asked for our choice of teas /coffees / hot chocolate (note that Doubletree – choice!) and pretty quickly our three tiers of loveliness were brought out.

2012-11-28 18.56.20
Three Tiers Of Loveliness

I was so relieved when I saw it – the sandwiches looked fresh and inviting, and there was half each of three rounds, there were TWO scones each and although there were only three cakes, they looked amazing.

The sandwiches were smoked salmon, cucumber and cream cheese and egg mayonnaise – crusts cut off, bread nice and fresh and plenty of filling – nothing out of this world, but very pleasant.

The scones were seductively warm, light, extremely well risen, and we had one fruit and one plain each.  Also, they were obviously aware of the size of their pots and people’s love of cream and jam as the waitress had specifically said “If you want any more cream or jam, just ask me”, and we did ask for another little pot of jam, which was brought quickly and with no fuss.

Caffe Concerto specialise in their cakes I believe, and we were given three random ones – I noticed that the people around us all got a different selection, which I actually thought was a nice touch.  we had a lovely chocolate gateau, a kind of lime cheesecake mousse  that was very scrummy and my favourite, a little apple & blackberry tart topped with crumble and sliced almonds.

On to of that, we had a teapot each, which we got two cups out of, and then we had another teapot each – and being the sad beast that I am, I got very excited because their little teapots were the best pourers I have come across in ages!  There is something rather sublime about a well-designed teapot!

I have to say though, one of the best things about Caffe Concerto was the atmosphere, it was relaxed and perfect for the girlie catch-up we were having and the staff were absolutely fantastic.  They couldn’t be more helpful, they were smiley, friendly and totally approachable.

Also, the food that was coming out for dinner looked really good for the price and the kitchen smelled amazing!

At a normal price of £42.95 for two, it isn’t the cheapest I’ve seen BUT it is good, fresh, the staff are fantastic and it’s a far more relaxed atmosphere than some.  seeing as they have branches in shop-heavy areas (including Westfield!) it’s the perfect place for a shopping-day treat.  And if you manage to get a deal like I did, you just can’t go wrong!

Afternoon Tea Menu
Afternoon Tea Menu

afternoon tea, doubletree by hilton west end

I have been putting off writing this review as I really haven’t wanted to revisit my experience.  If I hadn’t had such great company I would have been absolutely livid that I had wasted half a day’s holiday from work for this.

Yes, I booked with a Groupon voucher, but many of the afternoon teas I have experienced over the past couple of years have been through Groupon, and I haven’t had a bad experience until this one!

First of all, let’s have a look at what I was expecting from Doubletree by Hilton West End.

Groupon offer details from Doubletree by Hilton West End

So, we arrived, and I have to say, the setting is lovely.  The reception is very elegant, and the lounge bar where afternoon tea is served had a contemporary open fire, and was very tastefully decorated in aqua, charcoal, black and silver.  All very nice so far.

It was buzzing and almost every table was occupied.

I wasn’t even asked for my name to confirm my booking, I handed over my voucher and our waitress informed us that she was very sorry as they were extremely busy.  That didn’t sound great, but there seemed to be quite a few staff, so I wasn’t too concerned at this stage.

We were brought our ‘Brut Cuvée’ which was my first surprise.  I honestly thought that Brut Cuvée would be more dry, but this was extremely sweet, almost like a sparkling dessert wine.  I assumed that I must have been wrong (which does happen occasionally) , although it really wasn’t too pleasant.

We then waited at least half an hour for everything else to arrive.  When they brought our tiered stand of goodies, the waitress said “I’ll just bring your tea – English breakfast is OK isn’t it?”…and then rushed off.  being English, we weren’t going to make a fuss, but I thought that this was far from the ‘selection of teas, coffees or herbal infusions’ that we were offered.  And this was the first time I hadn’t been offered a menu or choice!

And this is what we were brought.

The ‘pomp and circumstance’ promised by Hilton

Sandwiches

Expected: Freshly cut finger sandwiches, such as smoked salmon or cucumber and cream cheese, make for mouth-watering savoury morsels

Received: Three small fingers of extremely thinly cut cucumber (no cream cheese) and what I assume was flavourless turkey and cranberry.

Sweet treats

Expected: sweet pastries, toasted tea cakes, and fruit cake will sweeten up the selection.

Received: something a bit like a fondant fancy, but nowhere near even as good as Mr Kipling, sickly sweet. A strawberry tart that seemed like it had been frozen – the pastry was soggy, the strawberry was more like sweet jam and there was barely any creme patissiere.  There were also two mini eclairs that were nice enough, but the moisture on the plate had soaked into them and one of them had been on its side so the chcolate had melted off in the damp and onto the tart.

Scones

Expected:  a sugary finale of clotted cream and fruit preserves adorning warmed, pillowy scones.

Received: one scone each, which is the stingiest I have ever experienced.  I have to say, the scones were actually very nice. However, there was no jam at alll given to us and we had to ask for it.  this wasn’t a mistake, as the people on the tables each side of us had exactly the same problem.

On top of that, the teapot didn’t even hold enough to completely fill our two teacups, so we had to keep asking for another pot, which was always slow in coming – in fact we asked three times for one.

I have never been so disappointed by an afternoon tea.  It didn’t feel special at all, although the surroundings and atmosphere were lovely.  And this was Hilton – I name I expect to be associated with luxury and a bit of glamour!

I really don’t know what to think about it.  Part of me wants to write to Hilton to complain, but I don’t know what I would expect to get out of it.

All I could do was apologise to my ‘date’ – he expected far better than what he got!

the great scone debate

Can anyone NOT like scones with clotted cream & jam?

As you may have noticed, I am a total fan of afternoon tea.  Once you get past the sandwiches, this will ALWAYS bring up the great debate of ‘which comes first’?

So…what do YOU prefer??

afternoon tea, 140 park lane

(Have just realised that this saved into drafts for some reason, so I have only actually published this on 11th November!)

With the purchase of another Groupon voucher, I took my lovely friend for afternoon tea at 140 Park Lane.  I have to admit that I had never heard of the place before, but expected it to be a real treat as, well – it’s in Park Lane, and that’s the second most expensive square on the Monopoly board, isn’t it!

The lounge where afternoon tea was being served is on the ground floor, and was very bright and extremely modern.  The only slight disappointment in the surroundings was that it is on the ground floor, and so unfortunately there isn’t a particularly good view out over Hyde Park, as Park Lane is in fact a very busy road.

The full menu

Our deal included a teapot of cocktails (£34 for two), and we went for the Bruised Apple.  This was really fresh and zingy and light. I really enjoyed it!

Next was a new experience for me with afternoon tea…hot buttered crumpets!  Now I love crumpets, but I certainly wasn’t expecting to see one on an afternoon tea menu!

What’s that doing there?!

I hate to admit it, much as I have a deep-set love of crumpets, I don’t believe that afternoon tea was the right place for it.  You have sandwiches, scones and cakes, as well as any other little pastries, and I think a crumpet was just one stodge too far.  Also, crumpets need to be eaten really hot, with the butter dripping through and oozing onto your plate as far as I’m concerned.  You can’t really do that in a restaurant setting.  So, nice idea, but I don’t really think that it works.  Of course, that’s just a personal opinion!

A tower of yummies

The sandwiches were light and fresh, and featured a different bread for each filling, which is always a favourite quality of mine.

The scones were light and we got one each plain and fruit – there are some places that are a little stingy on their scones, and for some reason only give you 2 or 3 between two people…although I have had my suspicions that this may only be for people on offers.  I can’t prove that though.  If there are two people, there should be two scones!  There wasn’t quite enough cream however, which again is a common issue.  I know that you can ask for more, but we’re English, we don’t like to be any bother, do we?

Cakey goodness!

Finally, it was on to the top tier.  It felt pretty substantial actually.  The fruit cake was fruit cake, but it was a light one, not your standard dark fruit cake with loads of raisins.  It felt more like a light madeira with a bit of glacé fruit in it.  I am not a fruit cake lover, so I ate this first to ‘get it out the way’!

The eclairs were lovely – light choux pastry, filled to bursting with creme patisserie and shrouded in a generous chocolate coating.  The pistachio operas were gorgeous, subtley flavoured with beautiful layers of sponge, cream and with a shiny chocolate top.  The little fruit tartlets were lovely as they actually used chocolate pastry rather than the standard sweet pastry, which gave them a bit of a twist.

My favourite part however, was the unexpected little bowl of lemon posset.  They were a pretty generous portion each, with freeze dried raspberries on the top and had a deep lemon flavour – not too sweet and not too sharp.  Perfect!

All in all, I really enjoyed it, but the surroundings weren’t quite as ‘special’ as I had hoped – the view was a little bit of a let-down and I didn’t really buy-in to the crumpets.  The cakes were great, the cocktail really hit the spot and the scones and sandwiches were fresh and flavoursome.

The Afternoon Tea at 140 Park Lane is usually £23 per person (that doesn’t include cocktails).  I don’t think that’s too bad a price for the quality that you receive!

afternoon tea, waldorf hotel

Homage Grand Salon

As a Christmas present, I said that I would take my ex-mother-in-law (yes, I know) for afternoon tea with me & The Girl sometime, as she has always loved her tales of our cakey exploits.  It took me a LONG time to actually get around to arranging it, but we finally did two weeks ago.

I had managed to get a Groupon voucher for 4 people for afternoon tea (with a glass of Prosecco!) for £58 at The Waldorf Hotel, so my friend came along with us too as part of HER birthday present.  This was the ‘posh’ part and the ‘quirky’ part had been our previous afternoon tea at Drink Shop Do.

To make it a real occasion, we got a cab from me ex-MIL’s in Stoke Newington – which was the most scary, horrible drive I have EVER experienced in my life (apart from a memorable one in Tunisia…) and one that I don’t think any of us was sure we were going to survive!  Thank God it was Sunday traffic, otherwise I think Premier Cars in Church Street would’ve had a major court case on their hands!

Slightly shaken, it was rather lovely to be greeted by a liveried doorman at The Waldorf, and also to be able to be seated ahead of our booked time (the cab was REALLY moving!).The staff couldn’t have been more hospitable.

The Homage Grand Salon at The Waldorf was slightly smaller than I was expecting it to be (we were in an ‘intimate’ corner just off from the photo shown here), but had mirrored walls which made it light and bright, and seemingly larger.  It was completely full too, which was really nice as it definitely adds to the atmosphere, although I have to say, our table was a little cramped and we were unable to fit all of our individual teapots on, and had to have an ‘overflow’ table.

The Girl and my MIL opted to swap their Prosecco’s for juice before me and my mate had considered that we could have nicked theirs and had two each! Doh!  We had both gone for the rosé Prosecco which I have to say was very lovely indeed!

Sandwiches and cakey goodies

The sandwiches arrived and they were very nice.  Soft, yielding bread – obviously made fresh – smoked salmon and cream cheese, cucumber and cheese, ham and mustard, tomato and cheese  and egg mayonnaise.  We managed to distribute them according to silly people’s foibles 😉

Unfortunately, we then had quite a wait for our tea and scones.  The waiter had said that they only bring the tea once people have finished their sandwiches.

Fluffy scones

We each got a fruit and plain scone and they were excpetionally light and fluffy, although unfortunately the jam and cream servings seemed rather stingy.  I think the problem is that you are given one pot of each – and that seemed to be the same for four as it was for two.  There definitely wasn’t enough of either for all of us – and The Girl doesn’t even eat clotted cream, and I didn’t have jam on one of my scones.  I guess we could have asked for more, but being British, we don;t like to make a fuss 😉

Then onto the cakes.  We cut each one in half so that we all had a try of each cake.  there were two each of a selection of four – a blueberry macaron, a strawberry and cream tartlet, a chocolate and almond meringue type cake and an odd chocolate cone with a blob of jelly on the top.

Yuminess!

The macaron was very nice (but there is only so much you can say about a macaron), the tartlets were exquisite – the pastry was more like shortbread, it was sweet, delicate and very buttery, the chocolate and almond cakes were the ones we were a little dubious of, but turned out to be the best – a chocolate mousse in a soft meringuey ‘sandwich’ and then finally the strange chocolate cone thing.  Finely tempered dark bitter chocolate filled with a berry mousse and then topped with a very sour citrus jelly.  The Girl only liked the inside of her cone, but we managed to polish the whole lot off between us.

It was a lovely afternoon – we didn’t feel at all rushed and had a great chat.  I think The Girl felt very grown-up having girlie time.  It also felt very nice having the doorman hail as a black cab to go back to Stoke Newington – which had a lovely driver and ended up costing less than the death-minicab from Permier Cars!  how does that work!

The Waldorf Sparkling afternoon tea is usually £29.50 per person.  I guess that isn’t too shabby considering it is a very nice Prosecco.  However, don’t go to The Waldorf expecting the exquisite grandeur of The Ritz or Claridges, as it simply isn’t the same league, lovely as it is (but then they are obviously a lot more expensive!).  And don’t be too shy to ask for more cream & jam like we were!

afternoon tea, 1901 at andaz

The beautiful domed stained-glass ceiling of the restaurant

1901 is just one of the restaurants within the Andaz Hotel at Liverpool Street, set in what used to be its beautiful ballroom when it used to be the Great Eastern Hotel.

To celebrate this being the year of the Diamond Jubilee, the have been serving a series of themed afternoon teas – ‘Tea Fit For A Queen‘.  From February to June they have celebrated a different British Queen each month.  For May, it has been Queen Victoria, also known as ‘Empress of India’ and their traditional afternoon tea has this month been given an Indian twist.

I was lucky enough to find an offer of 2 for 1 and went along with my friend yesterday afternoon.

The setting is actually really impeccable, and it was like a little oasis of cool and calm affter coming in from the muggy heat of London yesterday.

There were a few other parties for tea, which they only actually serve 3pm to 4.30pm Monday to Saturday.  The background music suited the setting, all tinkly and backgroundy, and it was only at one point that I realised one of the tracks was an ‘easy listening’ version of Billie Jean, which amused me.

The waiting staff were fantastic, just the right amount of attention but not intrusion, and everything was definitely relaxed and unrushed.  First of all we were brought our sandwiches and a wonderful glass teapot full of an extraordinarily delicious cocktail – apparently Bombay Sapphire gin shaken with Darjeeling tea, strawberry syrup, cacao, and coffee liquor.

Varioius lightly curried sandwiches and Bombay Sapphire Gin cocktail

The sandwiches were delicious – I have never been a great salmon lover, but it often appears within afternoon tea sandwiches. This lightly curried version though was particularly scrummy – as were the chicken tikka massala open sandwich and the vegetable curry naan.  They were all fresh and full of flavour.

Next came the tea, scones and various cakes and goodies.

A tower of yumminess

I have never been served scones with such a choice of toppings! There was one plain and one fruit scone each with a choice of butter (?!), clotted cream, raspberry jam, strawberry jam and even orange marmalade. I had to have half with butter and orange marmalade just for the novelty value. Very nice, but just not quite right!

Cakes and pastries

The selections of sweet things was fantastic – my favourite kind of offering, lots of little delights to try rather than big slabs of cake.  There was victoria sponge (of course), caramel eclairs, chocolate and hazelnut macaroons, little carrot cake cupcakes with lemon frosting and gorgeous little pastry encased dark chocolate ganache with a flavourful burst of orange gel on top.

Even more yum

There was also chocolate and cocount ice and little samosas filled with mango.

I have to say, everything was absolutely perfect – the setting, the ambience, the service and the food. And of course the company.  I loved it. It is definitely right up there with one of my favourites, and if I got another offer, I would definitely go back again (£45 / head is a bit of a stretch for me, really, although I still think it is definitely worth the experience).

Gorgeous!

Menu

‘afternoon’ tea, drink shop & do

Drink, Shop & Do

It was my mate’s birthday on Sunday, and as she is ‘the woman who has everything’, I actually resorted to ASKING her what she wanted.  “Afternoon Tea” was the reply.  I had already booked one afternoon tea that I had a Groupon voucher for, but that isn’t until 1st July!  That seemed an absolute age away, so I thought it might be nice for us to go out with our other best mate for one in the mean time.

This is the same friend that I went with for the TLSee Afternoon Tea before.  So, I started looking for somewhere that we could go for ‘afternoon tea for dinner’ again.  The problem is that she works late *shakes fist*.  So, I resorted to asking the general public via the wonderful @Secret_London as to where we could go that would serve from around 7pm.

I had three or four recommendations for Drink, Shop & Do in Caledonian Road, just a couple of minutes from King’s Cross station.  As the July tea I’ve booked is quite posh, I thought this looked great as it was really quirky and cool.  And they serve their ‘afternoon’ tea until closing. At 11pm Mon-Thurs!

So last night we went along.

It was a really fabulous evening!  As you walk in, the front shop is full of quirky cards, designery / handmade bits and pieces and old-fashioned sweets that you can buy by the quarter.

You go upstairs into the cafe & craft area which had a tantalising display of homemade cakes on show.  It was pretty busy (they wont take bookings for parties of fewer than 5), but we managed to find a table out the back which was a fantastic little room with a domed ceiling and loads of retro furniture and bric-a-brac. (I especially liked the 70s style furry baby deer picture).

Afternoon Tea Menu – May 12

We went for the ‘tea with a twist’ which came with a choice of cocktail from their very appealing menu, along with an extensive choice of speciality teas.

Mrs Pepper Pot

I went for a Mrs Pepper Pot, which I can’t remember exactly what was in it apart from basil and pepper and the fact that it was totally scrummy.  One friend went for what she described as tasting like ‘a kind of hot chai latte with amaretto’ and the other went for something that had a choice of lime, raspberry or lemon sherbert in it.  They were all great!

Yummy stuff! (And cute mismatched china)

The actual food itself is definitely not what you would describe as traditional – there was not a scone in sight (can you actually call it afternoon tea if there are no scones? Perhaps that is up for debate!)  However, it was wonderful and fresh, the sandwiches were simple but tasty (and the bread was fresh and not refrigerated, which in some places it is!).

Our cake tier had a macaroon (we had three different ones), a piece of lemon drizzle cake and the gooiest, richest slice of chocolate brownie I have ever tasted – they were all delicious.  And then the top tier was all retro sweets, which we happily picked at for the rest of our time there.

Look at all those sweeties 🙂

They have loads of board games available and so we ordered another pot of Assam and settled down to play Yahtzee for a while.  In the comforting surroundings, with 80s tunes playing and the whole place in low light with candles on every table, we had a brilliant time.

They have a while calendar of activities that you can take part in, from Rude Scrabble to making papier mache monsters or clay Star Wars figures,  vintage hair and make up or porn dot-to-dot!

We will definitely be going back some time – had a totally lovely evening, am so glad that it was recommended to me and think everyone should give it a try!

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