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afternoon tea, doubletree by hilton west end

November 25, 2012 4 comments

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!

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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!

the driver, king’s cross

September 23, 2011 Leave a comment

The Driver, King's Cross

Last night, I went along to The Driver with a friend to use my last outstanding Groupon voucher.  Considering my recent groupon experience at The English Pig, I was slightly nervous of what may lay in store for us.

I really needn’t have worried as we had a fantastic time.  The complete polar opposite of the service that I had received then.

Our waitress (Marta/Martha?) was absolutely outstanding.  She welcomed us warmly to the gorgeous dining room on the first floor, knew that we were on the Groupon deal and asked us for the voucher so she could see what the deal was (two courses with cocktail and coffee for £26 for the two of us – BARGAIN!), supplied us with our menus and then explained that we could have a starter OR a dessert as well as our main, it was our choice (or both if we wanted to pay the extra), that our included cocktail was a bellini but we could just have Prosecco if we liked and that we could have any of the coffees or tea.

She then told us which dishes were new on the menu, which she recommended, which had gone down well at lunchtime and was just very attentive and friendly without being OTT.  It wasn’t like we were the only diners, but we certainly felt that way 🙂

Antelope 'pattie' on lentil and chorizo cassoulet with red onion jam

Yes, my main was really just a ‘burger’.  I have never had antelope before, but it was extremely nice.  lean and meaty with a beefish texture, very slightly gamey but very subtle.  The cassoulet was fabulously flavourful, but then I am very much a chorizo fiend and think it can enhance nearly every dish 🙂

Braised rabbit with celeriac mash and savoy cabbage

I had a taste of my mate’s rabbit, and it was beautifully tender and delicately flavoured with a smooth, creamy sauce and crispy cabbage (which wasn’t the best looking but tasted scrummy!).

Pear and chocolate shortbread with blackcurrant sorbet

This was SO scrummy!  The shortbread was crumbly and moreish and not too sweet, and the pear was tender and peary!  It was slightly warm which I hadn’t been expecting, and was perfectly balanced with the slightly sharp sorbet!

Chocolate pecan brownie with champagne ice cream

This was rich and gooey without being sickly, and the champagne ice creamwas smooth and luxurious.  I only had one bite as I was happy with my own dessert!

All in all, The Driver is a lovely pleace with an unusual and varied menu and absolutely fantastic service, thanks to Marta/Martha!

afternoon tea at the montcalm

March 29, 2011 1 comment

The Girl was very impressed

A few months ago, I had bought a Groupon voucher £19 for afternoon tea for two at The Montcalm.  It was expiring on 31st March so I was rapidly running out of time to use it!

So, I rang them during the week to see what time I could get in at the weekend – and the only time was apparently midday on Sunday.  So I booked it and crossed my fingers that The Girl would behave herself so that I could take her for her first ever afternoon tea.

She was a very good girl on Saturday, so we woke up late on Sunday (well, clocks went forward!) and quickly made our way up to Marble Arch.

The Montcalm is a gorgeous boutiquey hotel, just off of Marble Arch, between Oxford Street and Bryanstone Square.  On one of those many streets of its type in Central London, where you step off of the main road and enter a little idyllic world that you would never have realised was there if you weren’t looking for it.

The staff were all very friendly, completely prepared for the Groupon voucher (which is always a bonus!) and actually seemed to be extra professionally to The Girl, which really made her day.

We had our tea menu and I went for the house blend, which I always do.  And then they delivered everything.

Afternoon tea @ The Montcalm

As you can see, unlike my TLSee Afternoon Tea @ The Howard last month, it was pretty minimalist.

The sandwiches were a lot lighter, and there were less of them (cheese & cucumber, ham, egg & cress), and again, we had half as many scones (one plain, one fruit), but they were light and yummy.  The little cakey bits were gorgeous little bites of loveliness – and nothing like the heavier cakier ones that I’ve had before.

The Girl thoroughly enjoyed it all and did a bloody good job of being ladylike, which I was most impressed with, until the moment she happily chomped down on the chocolatey-topped cake and dicovered to her horror that it was actually coffee flavoured buttercream inside.

Oh how I laughed.  she was very discreet, and just handed over the rest of it to me – which was great as coffee cakes are lush, and there’s not enough of them in the world which haven’t been tainted with walnuts!  i gave her half my macaroon, so she was happy then 🙂

All in all, a far lighter afternoon tea, lovely surroundings, perfect as a pit-stop if you’re shopping on Oxford Street and don’t want to be weighed down after eating too much cake!

chocri – choccie fun!

November 3, 2010 Leave a comment
image

Lots of yummy chocolate!

Last week I succumb to another Groupon offer – after all, how could I possibly turn down the opportunity of creating my own chocolate bars?

So, we got a £15 voucher for £6.75 for Chocri.  in fact, when I told The Man that I was just going to get a bar for me and a bar for The Girl, he demanded I buy two vouchers.

Oh, it was fun deciding what to add to our chocolate , the range of toppings is HUGE.

Our choices were dried banana and peanut butter drops (The Man); gingerbread spice and plum pieces (Me); raisins, sprinles and mini cookies (I chose for The Girl); bourbon vanilla and cinammon cornflakes (another one for me for paying!).  We also got two mystery bars (which have turned out to be dark choc with lime cream and gummy bears and milk choc with cinammon and hazlenuts).  Not bad for £13.50 inc postage.

It’s nice that you can get to name your bars too – as you can see from the photo.

The chocolate is actually really nice, although it’s no Montezuma’s – but I wasn’t expecting it to be in the slightest.  The Girl was extremely excited as we never really buy her chocolate, so it was a really special treat.  she particularly loved the fact it had her name on it – she loves ANYTHING with her name on it!

So, would I go to Chocri again?  Probably – for very special occasions, maybe for presents etc.  The P&P pushes the price up quiet a bit, but I think that’s because it comes in from Germany.

One good point is that they donate to a charity that supports homeless and orphaned children from the region that their fair trade chocolate is from – and have apparently donated over £31k so far.  I’m not sure on the ethics of their trading – so please don’t quote me on it – it wasn’t my reason for ordering or recommending after all – but for those that are interested in it, it might be soemthign worth looking into!

Now I’m off to break myself another square of my self-created ‘Plum Pudding’ 😀

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