I can’t eat another thing. Ever. I have just finished afternoon tea at The Langham, London which has just launched its Bijoux Afternoon Tea with Laurent-Perrier champagne. There are other teas on offer which include the Wonderland Afternoon Tea and the Tea Therapy experience which combines a half day spa therapy with a tea ritual. Palm Court is, it claims, the birthplace of the afternoon tea tradition, serving tea to the cream of London society since 1865 when it opened as Europe’s first Grand Hotel. These days, the journey begins as soon as you push the beautifully carved door that takes you to the wonderful world of savoury and sweet, created by the Executive Pastry Chef Cherish Finden and her team.
As you enter the restaurant the first thing that greets you is an English garden, complete with a white picket fence and terracotta flower pots, created by the resident florist, Adrian Ghione.
Of course, afternoon tea is a ritual and the tea menu is long and varied including teas by Jing, Blends for Friends and Tregothnan but there’s absolutely no need to be intimidated by the choice. Lars, our waiter knows the leaf teas well and suggests two blends that work incredibly with the savoury and sweet delights to come.
We take tea at 1pm and the room is busy with a mix of couples, girlfriends and business meetings. Service starts with a glass of Laurent Perrier NV Champagne which disappears as quickly as it arrives.
But it is after all, afternoon tea and Mr decides on the Sencha which is sweet and grassy, ideal for the Japanese green tea novice. I have the special Langham blend which is a traditionally styled black tea which I had with milk and both pots sit on the base of the three-tier floor standing cake stand. The Hotel sells tins of their special tea so if you really like it you can take some away.
As the tea is poured we’re asked if we had special dietary requirements – they cater for all diets here from vegan to diabetic, dairy-free and those who are intolerant to gluten. Mr does not eat tomato and so once that;s established, a lemon posset arrives with a gold-leaf curl. It’s tart, sweet and everything that anyone who loves lemon posset would want in a spoonful, the perfect palate cleanser.
Polished off in a thrice, the savouries arrive and what a varied choice. You can expect the unexpected here and it’s not just a pile of crustless sandwiches with the usual salmon and cucumber filling on a flavoured bread.
There’s a beautiful shiny green dome, crossed with slivers of apple, that once broken has a generous tablespoon of foie gras, along with minute cubes of smoked duck and crisp granny smith apple. The tastes explode into the mouth and this rich filling is mellowed by the ham, cut with the apple and made easier with the short pastry case it all sits within.
The lobster, cucumber and shisho dressing stuffed bridge roll was decadent and generously filled, maybe a glazed brioche roll would have added that extra sparkle.
Ever wondered what a deep-fried cube filled to the brim with Brie and Foreman’s smoked salmon looks like when it’s cut?
The piquillo pepper flan was pastry-less and served in a small porcelain cup, a sugar topping had been blow-torched to leave a sweet croquant top, scattered with candied pine nuts.
The other roll had garden peas, smoked mountain ham, aged Comte cheese and truffle. The sweetness of the peas popped in the mouth and the smoked ham and mellow Comte was a fabulous combination.
The amazing Cherish Finden left the kitchen and came to speak to the guests, she asked for feedback from the tables “is there anything I can improve on” but then I think she knows the answer to her own question. No. She’s holder of Best Pastry Chef in the UK, 2012 and after tasting her creations there’s no denying how or why she was rewarded with the title.
A short way through the tea, I was offered a cushion for my back, should the already comfortable chair not be quite comfy enough, and it was this attention to detail that sets the Langham experience bar high.
Once we’d polished off the savoury, there was an option to have more sandwiches which we swiftly declined. Next up were the sweet, hand-made Palm Court Bakery warmed scones in a crisp white linen napkin. Some studded with cranberries, the others plain but we covered them both with lashings of Devonshire clotted cream and strawberry jam.
With the scones, I had a pot of Jing Vanilla Black, a rich black tea scented with sumptuous, ripe vanilla and a soft, raisin-sweet finish.
Then it was time for sweet plate.
It was suggested we start with the most delicious elderflower Greek yogurt panacotta, topped with sweet strawberries.
The Ascot Victoria Sponge hat was beautiful and the attention to detail incredible. It also tasted delicious after I overcame the need to stab it with a fork and eat it.
Looking a lot like a skyscraper on the London Skyline the lightly roasted pistachio and apple sour diamond was smooth, creamy and punched nuttiness, there was even a surprise crunch as you neared the base small biscuit pieces rolled in milk chocolate. It was held together by a plastic support but hidden by the shards of chocolate covered in a beautiful chocolate transfer.
Strawberries from Northamptonshire’s Lutton Farm feature in the Battenburg cake, along with lemon and a lime jelly truffle. Crowning the petite checkerboard was a ‘cherry’ chocolate containing a wonderful mix of sour cherry and the mix of sweet and sour was one of the best combinations I’ve tasted in an afternoon tea. The attention to detail didn’t go unnoticed, glitter touches around the cherry orb and a wonderful translucent finish and the pattern pressed into the thinly rolled iced coating were wonderful and stamps Cherry’s work out like no other chef doing the same here in the capital.
A bright orange dome of mango sharpness sat on a short, crisp pastry flower, when cut it revealed a passion fruit and mango mousse with a liquid mango centre. The glitter mirror glaze added a beautiful sheen which added to the jewel-filled plate of confectionary.
We finished the plate with the Japanese Bloody Mary macaron and it was Mr who said he didn’t want it because he was way too full. He asked that I cut it in four, I served him one-quarter at a time and within a blink of an eye he’d polished it all off.
The soundtrack for our tea came from the live pianist who played everything from Les Mis to Les Carpenters.
The Summer season Bijoux Afternoon Tea will be available in Palm Court from Thursday 15 May until Sunday 6th July and costs £52.00 per person or with a glass of Laurent-Perrier Brut at £65.00 per person. If you fancy letting your hair down take the Uber Bijoux tea served with half a bottle of Laurent-Perrier Brut at £128.00 for two.
Langham Hotel, Portland Place, London, W1B 1JA
020 7965 0915
I was a guest of the Langham.