Having already teased you with a glimpse at the menu for the afternoon teas you can get from the Hilton for just £25 a head, it’s time for me to explain why I think it’s not only great value for money, but a fantastic way to while-away a couple of hours and forget the bad news that pours from every news item and newspaper.
Sitting in some restaurants in London can be like sitting in a goldfish bowl. You just can’t escape hectic nature of the city. In many of these restaurants and coffee shops you’ll be on the victim of people passing judgement as they scuttle off to their next meeting or visit the shop next door to stretch their plastic that bit further. But not in Podium Restaurant at the Hilton, Park Lane. What I loved about the couple of hours I sat there with a chum, was that we could catch up on gossip and talk business without evening realising there was a world outside of our sandwich and cupcake adorned bubble.
On arrival we were escorted to our table by the window, and our host Matti ran through what the afternoon tea entailed. To start we were, of course, given a wonderful selection of teas to choose from – I think that amounted to sixteen in total. I chose the Jasmine Flower Maidens as Matti enthused about it, and James selected the Dragon Pearl Jasmine.
As they were being prepared we were brought a couple of glasses of Champagne which added some fizzy delight to a particularly hectic day travelling down from Warrington. Traditionally I’m not the world’s most ardent Champagne fan, but I thought my ususal tipple would have tarnished the experience to come. The Champagne was, of course, included in the very reasonable price for the Tea. So anyone afraid that they would be charged a significant amount for a glass can be rest assured. Also, I’m no Champagne expert, thus I’ll leave it for others to judge on its quality, but I actually found it agreeable which was in contrast to the Champagne I’ve been exposed to on other occasions.
The Champagne bring a nice lift to proceedings and was a great differentiator between nipping into a coffee shop and grabbing yourself some sandwiches and muffins. As far as I’ve witnessed you can’t get a glass of bubbly and really kick back and relax.
As we were part way through our Champagne two plates of open sandwiched arrived, each with, and I quote from the menu: Foreman’s smoked salmon & horseradish, Honey roast ham & Pommery mustard, Prawn mayonnaise & baby gem lettuce, Cucumber with cream cheese & chives and Egg & Cress. And these were delightful. They were fresh, soft, fragrant and exactly what I needed. We chatted as we tasted each in turn. Once we had finished we were asked if we wanted more. Of course we did. Unfortunately we weren’t aware of the number of cakes and scones that were to follow. Thankfully Matti was and only bought the one plate for the two of us and explained why. This is waiting at its finest. And I’m glad we didn’t insist on more.
When the teas arrived in anticipation of the fancies and other sweet goodies, they were companied by an “egg timer” and were given advice about how long to leave the tea infusing before we should pour. Traditionally I drink “normal” tea but do switch over to fruit or green tea when I’ve had my fill of the milky version, however I’d not tasted tea as refined and delicate as this. It served as a great way cleanse the pallet before trying the gorgeous selection of cupcakes, scones and other chocolaty delights we had to select from. I do think that green tea is a great way to cut through the sweetness that is obviously a part of the cupcakes and the other patisseries as it offers a slightly sour balance that “normal” tea just wouldn’t offer.
We were here to try the two Afternoon Teas they are were offering: the white chocolate afternoon tea there are running as part of chocolate week and then the Halloween afternoon tea that is available for the rest of October. Normally people aren’t given so much as we ordered the two teas when usually people would only order the one each. Andwhen the cake stands arrived ours and the people on neighbouring tables mouths dropped as they just looked out of this world and more than most people would expect to get.
With the very soft and delicate scones came Devonshire clotted cream, a strawberry confit and praline chocolate which I and James just couldn’t get enough of. I resisted finishing all of my four scones off to try some of the other delicacies with the Halloween afternoon tea including Almond paste pumpkin, Miniature toffee apples, Dark chocolate witch hat, White chocolate and raspberry dome, Blood orange chocolate bat. New Style Cupcakes, Dark chocolate and orange and Gooey Toffee whilst the white chocolate afternoon tea you could select from Lychee, raspberry, rose water mousse & sugared diamonds, White Chocolate millefeuille with griottine cherries
Cone of marshmallow & white chocolate ganache, Pineapple crumble with white chocolate jelly, a gorgeous White Chocolate tea pot and Vanilla and white chocolate macaroon along with Chocolate and banana, White chocolate & raspberry, a milk chocolate Flake and a Chocolate cluster.
I must admit the macaroons were soft and delicious; I didn’t get to try the ghost gingerbread men- but James said they were fantastic; the chocolate witches’ hat was smooth, sweet and incredibly moreish with the candied crystals coating the hat adding a wonderful crunch.
I thought the cupcakes were fantastic too. They were moist and the icing tops adding a suitable level of sweetness that encouraged you not to eat each element in isolation but combine the two flavours and textures.
If you prefer milder flavours than the cupcakes within the white chocolate afternoon tea were more reserved. I loved the one with the adorned by a slice of banana on the top, but didn’t get a chance to try the other one, although the sounds from across the table hinted at its quality.
Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to try any of the fancies from the white chocolate afternoon tea other than the Lychee, raspberry, rose water mousse & sugared diamonds which added a softer element to the sweetness of the Halloween afternoon tea. I do wish, however, that I got to try the pineapple crumble. I’ll have to book up next time I’m down.
Of course we couldn’t finish it all off. The shot glass of ‘caramel & chocolate vodka’ tipped me over the edge and left me with no other choice than to ask if we could take the rest with us. Thankfully The Podium Restaurant offer sophisticated cardboard dome boxes to take any unfinished items home with you. This is just another example of the value for money that you get with these afternoon teas.
Afternoon Tea, for me, is about luxurious escapism. You don’t have to jump on a jetliner and whisk yourself off to foreign shores to forget about work. You can pop down there, sit in a relaxing environment and enjoy the sweet fancies they have on offer. That is after you’ve had some Champagne, green tea and open sandwiches. The point is not to rush. Block off a couple of hours or so in your diary, turn off your phone and relax.
You can find out more at the Podium Restaurant website.
And here are some more photos: