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, 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!

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