Who doesn’t enjoy a good afternoon tea? It’s a delicious British institution and comforting. We know exactly what to expect – a 3-tier stand with sandwiches on the lowest deck, a few scones in the mid-section and an array of sweet treats on the top. It’s traditional, and marvellous when done well. But one might crave something a bit different from time to time. Visit COMO The Halkin!
The Halkin is a smart and bijou 5-star hotel in Belgravia. It’s set on a quiet street but has unbeatable transport links via the Underground and fleets of red buses and black cabs. It’s located near Hyde Park and Mayfair with all its high-end retail attractions. Leicester Square and theatreland aren’t far away.
The Bar and Lounge at The Halkin is the venue for a rather exceptional afternoon tea, and it’s courtesy of the celebrated Ametsa with Arzak Instruction, which is The Halkin’s Michelin-starred restaurant. This was never going to be the traditional spread!
The Ametsa offers a departure from the usual stack of savouries and sweets. The influence is distinctly Spanish with hints of Basque. The expected egg and cucumber sandwiches have been replaced by some inspired tapas or pintxos. The Victoria sponge gives way to a range of miniature Spanish desserts. At this time of year, the hotel is celebrating Belgravia in Bloom, and there is a little wedding going on in Windsor, so there are of course some cocktails to reflect those events.
Summer cocktails inspired by Jane Taylor London to celebrate summer
COMO The Halkin has partnered with Chelsea-based milliner Jane Taylor London to create a special cocktail menu in honour of the capital’s summer social calendar. The list includes Amita to toast the royal wedding, and that was my choice of cocktail. A light and refreshing creation of pear purée, vodka, cranberry juice, pineapple purée, and lemon juice.
My guest ordered the Belgravia in Bloom and that was distinctive – I would love the bar at The Halkin to keep this on the drinks list after the floral extravaganza is over. This was a passion fruit margarita made with passion fruit purée, lemon juice, Passoã passion fruit liqueur and tequila. Perhaps the classic margarita treatment of a salt-rimmed glass would elevate this delicious cocktail even more. This is a winner.
But what would afternoon tea be without, well, tea? The Jing Tea list had something for every taste and here we found a tea of character. The Ceylon tea with aromatic spices presented a delicious and exotic aroma before the first sip was even taken. This is a robust beverage so perfect for sipping with the savoury bites.
Those savouries were a beautiful and flavourful presentation of Spanish ingredients in delicate and photogenic form. Yes, lovely to look at, but far too tempting to be confined just to Instagram, an app with which I am only slightly acquainted. There was Egg and Waffle which was a fried quail egg atop an equally diminutively-proportioned waffle. There was a dramatic ‘Txangurro’ – Spider Crab – which was actually a pink and delicate tempura-like shell garnished with crab meat and a snowy foam. Garlic Pintxo was a pinned tower with salty anchovy and sweet caramelised onions. Tomato and Raspberry Soup was a shot of refreshing liquid which was a perfect partner to the crunchy and creamy Iberico Ham Croquettes. Perhaps the most architectural of all the starters was the Txistorra Granary Sandwich filled with fast-cure sausage from the Basque Country. The ‘bread’ was actually white cracker with gem-like seeds embedded in each crumbly slice. The sausage was soft and melting and well-seasoned.
Food is taken seriously here and gastronomic skill is evident
The sweet dishes were just as exciting as the savouries and with the same whimsical inspiration. The whole tea experience must surely be designed to make the lucky recipient smile with expectation. Food is taken seriously here and gastronomic skill is evident, but those efforts are for the pure joy of the tea-taker.
Chocolate with Churros was a little pot of Spain. Mango Torrija is similar to French toast. It was ‘invented’ in the 15th century and is rich and sweet. Ametsa Cheesecake is an individual portion of fruit-topped decadence. Catalan Cream was an impressive jar of smooth custard with a cracking crust – a classic dessert. The most striking item was the Smoked Pineapple: yes, this was actually smoking, under a glass dome. The inky-black chocolate nugget which held a sweet fruity sauce was set atop an ‘ash’ of artfully contrived coconut. Nothing at all Victoria sponge-like at The Halkin!
I have had many an afternoon tea and most of them have been a delight, but Ametsa has a tea that stands out for its quality, imagination, presentation and, surprisingly, its very reasonable price.
Taken in the Halkin Bar and Lounge, each afternoon tea is served with a choice of Jing Teas. For an extra special occasion, guests can indulge with a chilled glass of Spanish Cava. On Sundays, the stylish private dining room is available on a complimentary basis for group bookings.
Opening times and booking
Ametsa with Arzak Instruction afternoon tea is available every day
between 2.30pm and 5.00pm, priced at £34 per person,
£40 per person with a glass of Cava
£42 per person with a Sipsmith cocktail
£48 per person with a glass of Taittinger Champagne
£34 per person with a Jane Taylor hat-inspired summer cocktail
(available from May 10th to July 30th 2018).
COMO The Halkin
Phone: +44 (0) 20 7333 1000