All posts filed under “Tearoom

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Grazing the “Fashion” Scene

What is “fashion” and what is “fashionable”? Everybody, it seems, interprets those terms differently. I do admit I have a hard time editing content for my London “Fashion” Eat fortnight. If “fashion” suggests “trend” and “fashionable” means “trendy”, we will only be strictly talking about great food with great ambiance populated by fat and skinny bastards like us, won’t we? But, if we take into account the “fashion” and “fashionable” folk and what they actually eat, we will be talking about skipping meals, skimming carb, body conscious or mere cheap eat (so money can be spent elsewhere on clothing and accessories). And, what about London Fashion Week A/W 11-12? It’s, as usual, held at Somerset House and other scattering sites around Covent Garden. Should I also be thinking about where to flash eat but in style to fit my LFW busy schedule, too? So, my more or less London Fashion Eat first post will give you the sites where “fashion” and “food” converge. Have a look and decide for yourself which of “scene” you are into!

(1) THE CARAMEL ROOM, BERKELEY HOTEL

Caramel Room (The Berkeley Hotel) on Urbanspoon

Fashion couldn’t be materialised into food as literally as this. The Berkely’s much talked about Pret A Portea features afternoon tea menu inspired by recent fashion trends and major designer’s labels. Say, you’ll get Zac Posen, Alexander McQueen and Christian Laboutin on your fine china manufactured by Sir Paul Smith. This is not the kind of traditional afternoon tea as one would imagine. While there are still scones and jam and finger sandwiches, the actual highlight is the innovative patisserie. This comes with a tag explicating which cakes are inspired by what. Novelty? Yes, exactly. Personally, I don’t think it’s a mere gimmick but I’d rather have a solid, traditional afternoon tea fix at, say, Brown’s Hotel, the Connaught or Claridge’s, where I can get a slice of Dundee cake or Victoria Sponge. The very proper ones, I mean.

(2) SKETCH THE PARLOUR

Sketch - the Parlour on Urbanspoon

This multi-million project by Pierre Gagnaire has turned an instutition itself after 3-4 years. It is still hip though its iconic egg shell toilets ooze unappetising smell. Years ago, I thought Sketch did the best ever scones in London – light, fluffy and butter-perfect! Now? Well, perhaps due to its proximity to Oxford Street, the funky Gothic-Eclectic decor at the Parlour has attracted the high-street folk than the high fashion fab. The service is laissez-faire, which on this occasion, can be translated into English as unengaging and “let the diners be”.

The afternoon tea is still decent, but considering that it costs £27 per head with no refill, I’d rather go somewhere else and pay a little extra for unlimited sandwiches, cakes and choices of tea. At the Parlour, they do only a pot with no hot water refill. Standard kinda fingers sandwiches, not particularly deep-filled to £27 or enough to balance off the heavy carb. The cakes by Gagnaire are probably ones of the finest in the world – only perhaps outdone by the other Frenchie Pierre (Herme). I quite enjoyed the coconut madeleine but found the canele too rock solid I needed a fist to break. The scones – you’ll get two each – used to be better and are not so stuffy as they are now. And, there was only one choice of fruit scones. The jam of raspberry and orange marmalade was, for the former, sour beyond redemption and, for the latter, bitter beyond .. jam! I was having this last Saturday and wasn’t quite sure if I was actually having scones with jam or with unripe fruit. Enough said, really …

Oh, don’t forget to check out the loo. It’s rather coo..l. That said, as there is no ventilation within the egg shell cubible, you need to pray a bit that the one getting in before you do not leave behind the foul aroma of tea – sorry!- “wee”.

Next!

(3) ROSE BAKERY, DOVER STREET MARKET

After all the bitching, this is my pick of grazing food. Rose Bakery is a much unheard of, least written about cafe. It is a Parisian import tucked in one small corner at the top floor of Dover Street Market. If the weather’s good, you can opt for outdoor seating. Though the view isn’t one of the most stunning, it is one of the most neighnourly. You’ll get to see Mayfair from a point of view of tranquility! There are also a lot of art and fashion magazines to browse, while waiting for your hunger fix.

Wait! Maybe I should say something about Dover Street Market, which itself is an exclusive, rarely spoken about concept fashion store, the outpost of Rei Kawakubo’s Comme des Garcons label. Yes, you walk into the place and there are these people who are dressed to inspire – or simply make you feel fashionably inferior – and sell items that will cost you at least £100 per piece. Rose Bakery, funny enough, is a subversion of all this. Cheap, organic, health-conscious, minimalist food. Think Canela but without the freaking microwaves to warm food up, or enormous quiche a whole family can feast on. Still, the crowd at Rose Bakery is the fashion-minded upper crust and many Mayfair locals.

The humble menu at Rose Bakery is either prepared raw or with the help of one massive oven. Expect really colourful salad options, some of which are super-good; others underseasoned; but they are all very fresh. They also do Specials of the Day, such as Cottage Pie, Mushroom Risotto and Soups.

And my fix? Bacon quiche which was so perfectly cooked and flavoursome. The egg and bacon mixture had this heavenly fluffy, well-risen texture; the cherry tomatos bursting their juice; and the base was just crispy. It came with a salad with light vinegar dressing. I also asked for their Gluten Free Chocolate Hazelnut Brownie. Very moist, leaning towards chocolaty sweetness than bitterness, and with with grainy bites of hazelnut to trigger my palate.

That’s it. In case you want to see the fashion folk in action, you might want to loiter at Tom’s Deli at Somerset House. Great selection of sandwiches and cakes and its side windows just overlook the back stage entrance of LFW main catwalk! Link here x

Enough said,

My head rating for Pret A Portea at the Berkeley Hotel says, “7 out of 10″.

for Sketch the Parlour says, “6 out of 10″.

for Rose Bakery Dover Street Market says, “9 out of 10″.

My heart rating for Pret A Portea at the Berkeley Hotel says, “7 out of 10″.

for Sketch the Parlour says, “5 out of 10″.

for Rose Bakery Dover Street Market says, “9 out of 10″.

CARAMEL ROOM, BERKELEY HOTEL

Gound Floor, Berkeley Hotel
Wilton’s Place
Knightsbridge
London
SW1X 7RL

Tel. 020 7201 1699

www.the-berkeley.co.uk

SKETCH THE PARLOUR

9 Conduit Street
London
W1S 2XG

Tel. 020 7659 4500

www.sketch.uk.com

ROSE BAKERY DOVER STREET MARKET

Top Flr Dover Street Market
17-18 Dover Street
London
W1S 4LT

Tel. 020 7518 0680

www.doverstreetmarket.com

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Dinner Is Served!

Opening its door to the public this evening as of 31st January 2011 at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal was probably the most highly anticipated restaurant opening in the UK in 2010. The problem was (?) that the opening scheduled somewhat in December did not take place. A month or so later, we are having him – them – Heston Blumenthal and his right hand man Ashley Palmer-Watts relocated from the SL6 of Berkshire countryside to the SW1 of London’s poshest end. The venue of this gastronomic rendezvous couldn’t be more grand, with the former dining rooms of Michelin-starred Foliage and Park restaurant conjoined to create this spacious 140-seat dining room boasting the Medieval-looking candle chandeliers, the see-through operational kitchen and, guess what, the pineapple grill!? The place, designed by Adam Tihany, once in full operation, will be serving lunch, afternoon tea and dinner and offer al fresco dining in summer.

Heston Blumenthal is, arguably, Britain’s most celebrated chef right now. His gastrono-genius owes much to his pioneering of the molecular cooking that earned himself not just a PhD, the three red stars at his cradle The Fat Duck but also the title “World’s Best Restaurant 2005″ on the revered San Pellegrino list. Ever since, Heston remained the World’s Second Best after El Bulli (2006-2009) until Noma took over the top spot in 2010 re-arranging the gastro line and making Heston’s Fat Duck the third best place to eat on earth! With the calibre came the high expectations: my meal at the Fat Duck a few years back was sublime, dreamy and theatrical; Heston’s pub grub spin-off next door to FD called The Hind’s Head was solidly amazing; his TV series Heston’s Feasts proved entertainingly popular; and his Waitrose pie range set the new height for affordable supermarket products. This masterchef, it seemed, could do no wrong.

Seated and finally I got to see the menu I spent all day studying online!!

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, before I continued, was not trying to be The Fat Duck. Rather than serving the deconstructed memory food and childhood experience, the menu at Dinner traced back the more historic past, say, from 1390 onwards. Dishes were, for example, Rice and Flesh – saffron, calf’s tail and red wine – and Beef Royal, which took 72 hours to cook!!! On the back of the menu, we were invited to check out the historical sources of the recipes. Of course, the kitchen would not go without the modern gadgety, the kind of cooking that defined the man and many of his disciples. Therefore, this would be the marriage of the old, the traditional with the bombastically modern. It was a paradox but well it worked! Price-wise, the cheapest starter costs £12.5, the most expensive £16; £20 and £64 (to share between two) for mains; and £8- £10 for desserts. The set lunch fares better for budget diners and costs only £28 for a three course meal.

The bread, while I was waiting for the dishes I ordered. The menu itself was overwhelming and made my life difficult as I was torn between so many dishes. At the end? Well, I decided to go for a 4-course meal, so I could squeeze in that extra dish I couldn’t quite make up my mind having.

The first starters arrived. My other bib went for the Meat Fruit – mandarin, chicken liver parfait served with grilled bread – while I ordered Salamugundy, an 18th century dish the name of which I couldn’t quite pronounce. Let’s start with my one, the Salamugundy. It was composed of chicken oysters, bone marrow, horseradish cream and salad leaves. I admit, this was the dish I wasn’t so sure about of the evening. It was a cross between a salad dish and chicken pieces with dipping sauce. Looking back into history, this Salamugundy was meant to be a dish of many disparate things. Here all the combinations were top notch: fresh leaves giving crunch, perfectly cooked chicken pieces with crispy skin on, juicy bonemarrow, extremely silky and mild horseradish cream and batons of some roots I couldn’t quite make out what that added bite, and the vinegar-based jus. My only concern was that these were many things I didn’t find particularly gelling with one another. To me, the dish was lacking balance and would work better if there was a bit less horseradish cream on the plate, therefore allowing the dressing to bind ingredients together. Also, I felt if there were fewer kinds of the leaves, it would make the flavours less diverse. But, maybe it would miss the point of being a historic dish of many things?

That said, my other bib’s Meat Fruit, disguised in form of a Mandarin orange, was D-I-V-I-N-E!! Sweet with a subtle hint of zesty acidity from the jelly skin of mandarin. The parfait within the fruit was so heavenly smooth that I though I was tasting nutella. Maybe a bad association? I was not sure if there was a touch of foie gras incorporated but that did not matter it was the BEST chicken liver parfait I’d ever tasted. It went texture-perfect once eaten with the crunchy toast.

Then came the second round of starters, which I inteded to be the fish course. I had Savoury Porridge and my other bib Roast Scallops. Starting with the porridge, I thought the presentation was reminiscent of Heston’s signature snail porridge. Tasting it, it took me to another horizon. The lightly salted cod cheeks were cooked to perfection; the ribbons of shaved fennels provided a mouthful of freshness and crunch; the pickled beetroots was sweet with a hint of acidity, all of which married off well with the tender porridge that was at times smooth and tickling the taste bud. Overall, it was a refreshingly amazing dish.

The Roast Scallop dish served with Cucumber Ketchup and Borage was interesting. First, the borage? The herb neither of us came across before that rendered a taste of cucumber! Again, very refreshing. The plump scallops were nicely cooked and given contrasting textures from the marinated diced cucumber. The roasted/pan fried cucumber added another dimension of texture to the dish. Sadly, before I grabbed hold off the magic, my other bib shunned me away and accused me of food theft! Next …

The mains … at first we were raising eyebrows because there were three beef dishes on the menu and only two fish options. But, never mind, it was the Great British tradition. We just didn’t do seafood, did we? I went for a Spanish treat of Black Foot Pork Chop, Pointy Cabbage and Robert Sauce, while my other bib ordered Turkey Pudding, the dish that sounded most banal on the menu! My pork chop was sensational. The aroma of the charred meat hit first and got my mouth seriously watering, and tucking in, thiis black foot pork – of Spanish origin and fed with acorn, I’d reckon – boast the marbling effect of fat in the meat. It’s like the Wagyu beef of pork, seriously! Once cooked, the fat melted and the meat oozed juiciness and sweet grease. It was the star by itself. The Robert Sauce – made with white wine, onion, stock and mustard – was intense with a hint of fruitiness and added depth that complemented the pork so well, while the cabbage replaced the richness with a hint of neutrality. I couldn’t be happier  …

Actually, I could …

I had a bite into the unassuming Turkey Pudding, which didn’t quite look like a regular pud.

It looked like this ….

A bit posh, innit?

The turkey was prepared and transformed into this gelatin thing sweet, light and subtle in term of flavours and wrapped around with this crispy sheet of breadcrumb. The pud came with coxcomb and girolle mushrooms. I am not trying to explicate the flavours as, again, I had only a bite into this. All I could say was that that one bite made my perfect pork chop not-so-perfect any more :(

Desserts. I felt I should finish this meal soon before I start killing my other bib for outdoing my dishes!! So I went for this Brown Bread Ice Cream, which was essentially ice cream, salted butter caramel and malted yeast syrup. It would make anybody with sweet teeth orgasm thrice. It was sweet, very sweet and indulgent. Lots of contrasting textures from the sticky caramel base, the cinder toffee look alike and the luscious ice cream. My only criticism was that the size of the dish, especially when compared to my other bib’s dessert, was tiny. And, yes, greedy diners did get very, extremely envious!!

Perhaps, it was my glaring eyes that scared my other bib off from spooning me his Tipsy Cake. His was a spongy brioche-kind-of-cake filled with condensed milk and served with roasted, caramelised pineapple. Yes, those ones that were on the sticks. I didn’t get to taste this dish but the other half kept ooouuuu-ing and aaahhhh-ing. Gosh, I wish I could beat him to death with my teaspoon!

The spit roasted pineapple slices … damn it, see that caramel crust!!!!???

We were about to finish our meal and delighted by the coming of the tea list. Our rare and favourite Vintage Puer tea, recently extinct from Yauatcha was there. The rose bud tea from Iran was a lovely choice for those not wanting to cope with caffeine in the evening. The petit four – we were surprised there was one considering there was no amuse bouche or pre desserts at Dinner – of Earl Grey Tea and White Chocolate Liquid, served with ganache biscuit, was the perfect way to end the evening. It was sweet, aromatic and very robust. A tweak on a lovely English cuppa to end one near-perfect meal ;)

And yes we caught the happy chaps on the way out.

They were very accommodating and informative. Really wishing them all the success and also really wished I ordered that bleeping Tipsy Cake!!! AARRGGGHHHH!!!!

One warning .. the drinks are pricey but well it’s still the Mandarin Oriental at the end of the day.

AFTER THIS POST, WE HAD THE OPPORTUNITIES TO RETURN TO DINNER AND HERE YOU MAY FIND MORE DISHES NOT TALKED ABOUT BY CRITICS AND BLOGGERS.

Enough said,

My head rating says, “9 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “9 out of 10″.

DINNER BY HESTON BLUMENTHAL

Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
66 Knightsbridge
London
SW1X 7LA

Tel. 020 7201 3833

www.dinnerbyheston.com

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal  (opening soon)  on Urbanspoon

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One “Hip” Bar and Many Others

Right! This is the round-up of places I’d been in Bangkok before I move on to reviewing the places in London.

First up was the Minibar Royale, a very hip, “American diner’s” hangout kinda place for Bangkokian celebrities and socialites, serving up easy Western kinda food in a “hip” kinda way. Nothing too fancy or worth a detour for real foodies, really, as most dishes were okay – some totally missed, and very few hit. I came across the super tender Seared Rack of Lamb, Potato Puree, Herb Roasted Mushrooms and Jus Vinaigrette. While the combination was nothing too stunning, the lamb was perfectly cooked and one of the most tender I’d ever eaten. Other savoury dishes, such as Baked Spinach and Cheese and Wagyu Mini Burgers, were something I could cope with. The spinach was a touch too salty for me, while the mini deconstructed Wagyu burgers, though of high quality, were too inconvenient to eat as the leaves, the pickled – whatever should have been inside a burger – were left elsewhere on the plate, leaving me to re-aseemble the burgers myself.

The most disappointing dish of the day was Bacon Wrapped Scallops with Corn Salsa. The combinations were disparate and the flavours crashed with one another. I must say, the bacon was really crispy but as there was hardly any scallop meat inside the wrap but an overwhelming amount of enoki mushrooms in its place, you couldn’t really cake it Bacon Wrapped Scallops, could you? Indeed, the mushrooms were the damning ingredient of the dish – elastic chewy texture and washed out flavours. The corn salsa tasted like plain sweet corn. Period. Luckily, the dessert of Banana Cake I ordered was orgasmic and redeemed the whole average meal. Fragrant, soft and gooey layers of banana and sponge cake that contained the right amount of sweetness, not overpowering the mellowy fruity flavours. I couldn’t enjoy it more.

Another trendy outing at the T Lounge, Siam Kempinski Hotel where Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin is, was equally average. Despite the grand venue, the afternoon tea was adequate. Light, fluffy scones with the clotted cream that was a bit of a let-down. Finger sandwiches were deep-filled but did not ooze out flavours as much as they looked, while the “cake” tier was too Christmas-oriented – mince pie, gingerbread, and the likes – which left one crave for more. The afternoon tea outing cost around 750 baht, including tea, but I feel with this price, it’s better to just go for a lunch set at Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin opposite the T Lounge.

My slightly cheaper lunches fared better when it came to flavours. Taling Pling on Ground Floor at Siam Paragon has been one of my most favourite food haunts when I pass by Bangkok. Almost all dishes there were ace – traditional Thai food with a touch more of refinement and modest twists. Take this Rolled Fishcakes for example. One traditional Thai dish represented in a novel manner. Thin layer of Thai fishcake mixture was rolled along with a thin sheet of omelette, dipped in light batter and deep fried for a perfect crispness. This gave a touch of sweet neutrality and gorgeous crunch to this usual fiery, spongy nibble dish.

The orange prawn curry with omelette was ridiculously appetising. Foreigners beware, this was not the coconut milk based curry that you all are accustomed to but a lighter type of curry, almost broth-like and usually with fish or shellfish, with mostly herbal ingredients ground together to form a paste. The colour was orange but not that there was any actual orange in the curry. Taste-wise, it was sour, spicy, salty and sweet – in, more or less, that order! The prawns were nicely poached and the spongy omelette was sweet and bitter – the bitterness came from the Cha-Om leaves – adding the much needed meaty finish to the dish. Guess what, I drank up the whole bowl!

 

Then the high-end Som Tam place next door to Taling Pling, Cafe Chilli. The place refines Thai street food Som Tam and other North Eastern spicy salad dishes. The flavours were authentic enough, but not to the extent that they were right from the stalls in some dingy alleys. The compromise for that would be the super high quality ingredients Cafe Chilli offered and probably the re-assurance that all the dishes here would be hygiene guaranteed. Dishes of note were Grilled Chicken Rubbed with Tumeric, which came with sweet chilli dipping sauce and Cafe Chilli’s signature salty and spicy Larb sauce, and Tub Warn, a salad of spicy, pan-poached pork liver.

And, to finish this meal and extinguish the heat, I opted for Thai Coconut Ice Cream that came with a traditional selection of Thai toppings, such as peanuts, palm seed in syrup, sticky rice and sweet potatoes poached in sugar syrup. I shouldn’t forget mentioning that Cafe Chilli went extra miles and gave you a separate helping of the topppings for you to DIY your ice cream. Super duper!

 

Last but never least, it was my return to Bo.lan Restaurant, which I had blogged about, to catch up with old friends. You can find the extended review here, but roughly, the place served up amazing, marginal, yet traditional Thai dishes that were herb-oriented and dated back to the court of King Rama V. The recipes were well-researched and refined for today diners. If you happened to have sweet teeth, Bo.lan’s tasting style desserts would take you to cloud nine. Theirs were gastronomic rarities in such a modernised and glabalised Thai era, and if you fancied another helping, do let the missus Front of House know. She’s superbly accommodating and high acknowledgeable; and I’m sure she would probably be able to fetch you another helping ;-)


That’s all, or almost.

And on the way back to London I had a few minutes to grab a Dubai speciality….

The McArabia… not very glam, was it?

Enough said, here are the addresses:

MINIBAR ROYALE

37/7 Citadine Bangkok
Sukhumvit 23
Bangkok 10110

Tel. +662 261 5533

www.minibarroyale.com

T LOUNGE

Siam Kempinski Hotel
991/9 Rama I Road
Prathumwan
Bangkok 10330

Tel. +662 162 9000

www.kempinskibangkok.com

TALING PLING + CAFE CHILLI

Ground Floor Siam Paragon
Prathumwan
Bangkok 10330

BO.LAN

Soi. Pichai-Ronnarong
Sukhumvit 26
Bangkok
10110

Tel. +662 260 2962-3

www.bolan.co.th

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The Haggis Fix (Before the Plane Takes Off)

Good Bye London!

I am getting sentimental thinking I will be away from London (and its restaurants) for two weeks. My destinations, I will not tell you just yet. But, before I leave I need to get something English to stop me going mental on board; I ended up with the haggis with fried duck eggs at The Wolseley.

Well, not quite English? Scottish, yes, and with a touch of French as The Wolseley serves their gorgeous haggis on fried bread with some very rich jus.

When it comes to a meal at The Wolseley, it’s a bit of a mixed bag reaction from me. I feel the place does good breakfast and afternoon tea–the traditional Eggs Benedict are stunning!–the meals–modern European in nature–in between never wow me, and the service is never personal due to the size of the venue. Eggs Benedict-wise, if you fancy one with a twist, I’d recommend Espelette at the Connaught, though. It’s baked and just ridiculously scrumptious, light and refreshing with the confit cherry tomatoes. The Wolseley version is a lot heavier and defies all the health guidelines from my nutritionist!

The Eggs Benedict above are from the Connaught. But, yes, that Haggis and the Eggs Benedict at The Wolseley, I can’t have enough of those.

I will need to finish packing soon, and London, I will miss you very much.

Oh, haven’t you heard Chris Corbin and Jeremy King will be opening another Wolseley–to be called Wolseley Aldwich–on the corner of Drury Lane and Kingsway in autumn 2011? That’s something for everyone to look forward to, isn’t it?

Enough said,

My head rating says, “7 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “7 out of 10″.

THE WOLSELEY

160 Piccadilly
London
W1J 9EB

Tel. 020 7499 6996

www.thewolseley.com

The Wolseley on Urbanspoon

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Afternoon Tea, Jewellery and Chairman Mao!

After Roussillon, I was in desperate need of gastronomic redemption and very badly I hoped the afternoon tea at the Langham pre-booked a few weeks ago would deliver. The accolade of the place as well as its being awarded the Best Afternoon Tea 2010 by the UK’s Tea Guild did calm me down a bit, though you could never know.

Arriving at the Palm Court, Langham Hotel, I marvelled at the grand, modern dining room, ultra high roof, classy velvet sofa and chairs, courteous and smily staff, yet there was no “palm tree” to be seen as the name of the place suggested! Never mind that, I could easily live with only fresh roses in sight. Ambiance-wise, the Palm Court was not one of the most quirky or exclusive–if you were after those, you’d go to Sketch or Claridge’s–but fairly relaxing. The crowd around me was rather touristy, judging from occasional flash lights in the dining room, though they were far from being uncouth; the piano set a rather pro-West End mood with scores from well know musicals in the likes of Sunset Boulevard and Sweet Charity.

Seated, we were given the menu, which lists three different types of the tea meal they offer at the Palm Court. One is the Wonderland Afternoon Tea, described in my own terms as the standard menu; another is the Bijoux Afternoon Tea, the posher option with fancy canape sandwiches instead of traditional finger sandwiches plus cakes inspired by branded jewelleries; the other is the High Tea, served from 5pm with some more substantial gourmet egg dishes. The Bijoux, or more likely the posh canapes, stood out and considering I could get a pot of Pre Rain Jun Shan–rare, picked only once a year and reportedly a favourite of Chairman Mao!–without having to pay a £35 supplement. Yes, £35 extra if you get the standard tea and order the Pre Rain Jun Shan. Outrageous, wasn’t it? That’s definitely what made Chairman Mao such a controversial figure. And to make our bill as controversial as Mao, we also asked for a half bottle of Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve NV.

We kicked off with the pre-dessert of Blackcurrant Mousse and Hibiscus Jelly. Very silky texture; the subtle sourness of the mousse blended nicely with the sweet hibiscus jelly.

The posh canape sandwiches were, indeed, very posh and with mighty delicious fillings. The stellar ones were the Foie Gras Parfait and the Crab with Roasted Tomatoes. The foie gras was smooth, served slightly chilled like a scoop of very sweet and salty ice cream on a brioche bun. Biting into it, the aroma and the delicate flavour of the foie penetrated every millimeter of my mouth. I almost teared up. I thought, for a moment, that must be the best afternoon tea sandwiches I’d ever had until I bit into the juicy crab wrap. There was an explosion of taste, the sweet and sour tomatoes cleansing the fishiness that came with shellfish; the creamy crab meat was well seasoned and balanced with fresh herbs. The others–Salmon, Duck’s Egg, Pepper–were also praiseworthy, though not to the extent of the Foie and the Crab. We finished them all in no time and our attentive server brought us another helping. Very kind ^_^

Also arrived with the sandwiches was this plateful of toxically colourful mini-cakes, which we set aside in favour of the warm scones.

The scones were freshly out of the oven, super warm, airy and the most delicate. I’d say far more superior than those at Claridge’s, Sketch, Brown’s Hotel or my most favourite tea place The Connaught Hotel. In my basket, as I was told, were plain, fruity scones and those infused with orange and chocolate.

The only downside of these scones was that fact that diners were given the choice of only one strawberry jam to go with them. And I could say, after my second piece of scones, as lovely as they were, my taste bud became wearied by the jam. What’s more, the strawberry jam–by Wilkin and Sons–was way too sweet and if you put it on those orange and chocolaty scones would totally kill them! At the Connaught, I recalled being offered four different types of jam and with them you could easily explore the different flavours with different types of scones, hence not making them boring after eating a couple.

Finishing the scones, I returned to the mini cakes, and to my disappointment, the level of deliciousness was not up there with the sandwiches and the scones. I found the flavours to be one-dimensional–sugar infused with carb and tint of colours, really. The financier coated icing was too sweet and so was the cherry and cream filled doughnut; the rose macaroons too chewy and their rose fragrance too bold. The violet-flavoured choux were the only contender of the bunch with the right balance of aroma and sweetness, yet still lacking in other flavour notes to make them exceptional. I also found them not quite resonating the jewellery theme laid out in the menu. Personally I never mind cakes without a theme as long as they are great. Very often themes merely enhance the gimmicky marketing strategies of the place, and I’m afraid to say, this is one of them.

As for the highly priced Pre Rain Jun Shan tea, I rather liked it. The flavour was light, slightly bitter and refreshing, with a gentle aroma, which unfortunately, once put into the very sweet context of the jam and cakes, failed to provide the contrast of flavours to flush the sugar down the throat.

Enough said,

My head rating says, “8 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “8 out of 10″.

THE PALM COURT AT THE LANGHAM

1c Portland Place
Regent Street
London
W1B 1JA

Tel. 0207 965 0195

www.palm-court.co.uk

NOTE: Booking is very essential!

Palm Court on Urbanspoon

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T-Tea-Teasing

Weekendsssssss .. what do I do?

Sleep, shop, eat, sleep, X Factor, Desperate Housewives, sleep, eat, shop, sleep–this is just the cycle of life. The occasional break from banality comes–just occasionally–with some afternoon tea treats. And this weekend I am going to one very special tea place!!

I won’t tell you where it is just yet but promise it will be the first thing up next Monday. As for now, I’m posting a mini afternoon tea list, which will, hopefully before I turn diabetic, evolve into my London’s afternoon tea archive.

No.1: Cakehole Cafe at Vintage Heaven

First up is the BEST low-end, indie tea house. Not really. It’s not a tea house as this Cakehole Cafe is stuck in the back corner of a vintage shop called Vintage Heaven. The shop is located on Columbia Road and opened its door every day. The tea room, however, doesn’t follow the same opening hours and is up for business only at weekends.

What’s it like? One long counter with loads of homemade cakes–expect the basics, such as Lemon Drizzle, Carrot Cake, and the list goes–eclectic tableware, and overwhelming amount of framed embroidery on the walls. It’s always busy, though I don’t think they take reservations. It’s like, you know, playing musical chairs. Sometimes you’ll end up in a communal table but never mind that. It’s funky and fun. I’d say, it’s my imagination of a Madhatter’s party is like!!

So, what’s to order?

CARROT CAKE!!!!

Theirs is the best I’ve ever tasted in my life. Very light, moist, with well-balanced cinnamon and the frosting that isn’t too sweet. Other cakes are great, too. The not so amazing thing is their limited choice of tea and bottled juice, if you’re THAT fussy about juice. And, you know, no matter how much you eat (within human capability), the bill will never exceed £10!! Also, once you finish your cuppa, go for a stroll for fresh flowers at hacked down prices on Columbia Road. Sundays only, though.

No.2: Les Deux Salons

I went to Les Deux Salons for tea the other day, thinking I’d give it a go because I love the food there so much and the ambiance, too. The afternoon tea set priced at about £17 is adequate but lacks the WOW factor.

On the tiers are the freshly made scones, carrot cake and quarter cake, finger sandwiches. Let’s start with the sandwiches. There are three fillings on offer: Cucumber Cream Cheese, Smoked Salmon Creme Fraiche, and Ham and Mustard. I find the filling to be lacking in substance–too much bread, too much spread but not enough meat (or veg).

The scones, to my delight, are warm, light and incredibly fluffy. Texture-wise, I find they aren’t quite scone-like–scones are not meant to be fluffy–but putting that aside, they are delicious. The downside of this dish is that the cream that comes with the set are more whipped than clotted and it melts the moment I spread it on top of the warm scones. There’s only one choice for jam and that is strawberry.

(Looking at my picture, I think next time I’ll get a manicure before snapping shots)

As for the cakes, the quarter cake is lovely. Crusty outside, subtle flavours inside and adequately moist. The carrot cake is tragically stodgy. I have heard the individual portion of Carrot Cake with Glaced Carrot there is just divine.

Now comes the question: if I am not so sure about Les Deux Salons, why do I write about it? I think the tea, coupled with the old school French brasserie ambiance, is good. And checking out LDS’s competitions in Covent Garden–one that comes to mind is afternoon tea at Oliver Peyton’s National Gallery Cafe and Dining Room just across the road–I must say Les Deux Salons are still doing one of the good tea.

Enough said,

My head rating for Cakehole Cafe at Vintage Heaven says, “10 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “10 out of 10″.

My head rating for Les Deux Salons (Afternoon Tea Only) says, “7 out of 10″.

My heart rating for Les Deux Salons says, “7 out of 10″.

Vintage Heaven

82 Columbia Road
Bethnal Green
London
E2 7QB

Weekends Only!

Tel. 01277 215968

www.vintageheaven.co.uk

LES DEUX SALONS

40-42 William IV Street
London
WC2N 4DD

Tel. 020 7420 2050

www.lesdeuxsalons.co.uk

If you fancy a meal at Les Deux Salons, check out my previous posts here (1), (2).

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