I was invited to try an Afternoon Tea at the Intercontinental Hotel, Park Lane, London and as someone who drinks mugs of coffee on the go between wine tastings, I accepted with some trepidation.
On arrival, I was shown through the spacious lobby to the open and airy Wellington Lounge tea salon. There were a few others sitting at tables but all was quiet and subdued; no mobiles ringing or loud talkers here. The staff were smart in their light green outfits, but not imposing in any way. The windows let you see the busy traffic and pedestrians outside, but are perfectly soundproofed so you could not hear any of it. Bliss.
The Intercontinental Hotel offers a range of afternoon tea menus, including a Jubilee Tea (with the Queens favourite cakes of course) and a Botanical Tea, which I decided to try. It is named Botanical as it reflect the Hotels location overlooking the great parks and highlights the skill of the resident chefs to use plants and flowers to infuse and enhance both the tea and the food.
Tea starts with a cardamom and vanilla infused Champagne cocktail, which allows you to view the list of teas at your leisure. There was a good range of teas from the more exotic locations around the world, and some that are only blended for the Intercontinental hotel. I opted for a Japanese green tea from Mount Fuji. It arrived in a nice little pot, and a large open teacup. The large cup will let the tea get cold quickly if not drunk, but I was told that if I wanted more tea I just needed to ask. This I did later on and my pot was replenished without any fuss.
The sandwiches arrived, topped by a palate cleanser of Kentish pears filled with pear and juniper juice. I have no idea how they managed to make them but they livened the taste buds – exactly as they were supposed to.
There was an assortment of open sandwiches which included lobster and prawn with caviar, rolled beef stuffed with asparagus on beetroot bread, guinea fowl in a coarse grain mustard mayonnaise, and my favourite, London eel on white bread.
After the sandwiches came warm scones and jam; traditional strawberry and a delightful quince and cardamom, plus a pot of Devon clotted cream. There were two types of scone, one buttermilk and the other with citrus peel in it. Both tasted great with cream and jam on, the quince more suiting the citrus scone as the two flavours really complimented each other. We were reminded that if we wanted more of anything we just needed to say – which is good as you don’t need to worry if you use up all of one jam and want some more.
After another perfectly timed interlude, deserts arrived. The range of cakes in four colours are inspired by the colour of the seasons apparently, and you can definitely see the attention to detail in each. Whilst looking the least exciting, the blueberry macaroon was one of the most mouth-watering deserts I have ever tasted, filed with smooth liquid blueberry chocolate. Rich, filling and to die for.
Finishing of the last of my green tea I realise that 3 hours have passed; but the calm environment and superb food left me with a feeling of being total refreshed and replenished. The service was impeccable, the environment first class and at a level others would do well to try and achieve.
Tea at the Intercontinental Hotel is without doubt an experience that should be enjoyed at least once in a while. The ability to have a few hours of relaxing downtime, with great tea and food, away from the bustle of London makes this haven of tranquillity a must visit location.