London is acknowledged to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It’s been a magnet for tourists for generations. Plenty of celebrated museums, and all free, galleries to admire, and then there is always retail therapy, and that has never gone out of style.
Yes, we have famous buildings by the score and our green spaces are loved by local and visitor alike. Hyde Park, Green Park, Kensington Gardens and Regents Park have great appeal when the sun shines. Tourists enjoying a stroll, mums with energetic toddlers and office workers snatching some rays all take advantage of an hour or so of tranquillity.
But what do we think of when we consider a traditional English summer? Taking a boat trip on the Thames? Some open-air concerts? A picnic? Perhaps all of the above, and if you are fortunate enough to be staying at InterContinental on Park Lane then you can pamper yourself with a bespoke picnic to enjoy at any outside event or even while your riverboat motors under Tower Bridge and past the Houses of Parliament.
Picnics aren’t necessarily just a showcase for curly cheese-and-pickle sarnies. Executive Chef Paul Bates offers some of his favourite foods for the delicious alfresco menu:
Roasted ratatouille, cous cous and chorizo
Chicken salad, shredded and tossed in sherry-hazelnut vinegar dressing
Tuna-salmon sashimi, wasabi and ginger
Lightly poached lobster, mango-basil salsa
Mixed leaf, cos, rocket, mache, sweet cherry tomatoes, bell peppers
Palm heart, artichoke and avocado, light garlic dressing
Sharphams rustic (hard cheese)
This season’s pear chutney
Sinful chocolate fudge brownie
English bakewell tart
Large still or sparkling water.
But there are those rare days (yeah, right) when the sky is grey from edge to edge and there might even be the threat of rain. Tourists should note that it’s almost guaranteed to rain for Wimbledon Tennis or any international cricket match. Nothing worse than damp grass when one is looking for a spot to consume delicious deli fare and some sweet pastries, so consider the alternative venue of a traditional afternoon tea in the classy shelter of the InterContinental’s Wellington Lounge.
The ground floor of this popular hotel has undergone a complete makeover. It’s now light and bright with soft taupe and powder-sage hues. The picture windows offer vistas that are typical of this remarkable corner of London: red buses, black London taxis, iconic architecture and views across to Wellington Arch and Hyde Park. The decor has been designed to “bring the outside in” and it does that in the most attractive fashion.
Try the InterContinental’s own designer Wellington Blend tea, created by Executive Chef Paul Bates in conjunction with Modern Tea Emporium. The tea selection is a delicious companion to the spread of delicate delights. Even the crockery is new and mimics the geometric design on carpets and soft furnishings. The afternoon is an event, attracting both Intercontinental guests and those who are just passing. It’s a hotel that is famed for its quality cuisine at the Cookbook Café, and now in the Lounge.
There are several ‘Teas’ available in Britain. You will see restaurants and cafés offering different ‘teas’ appropriate to the time of day. Traditionally, the upper classes would take ‘afternoon tea’ around four o’clock. A ‘cream tea’ is a lighter version of this. The middle and lower classes would have a more substantial ‘high tea’ a little later in the day, at five or six o’clock, in place of dinner. Working classes had dinner at lunch time and tea nearer dinner time. Sunday lunch was always a full dinner, when high tea might be replaced by supper. Clear?
Afternoon Tea Menu
Speyside smoked salmon, cucumber linguini and Sevruga caviar. A traditional topping with a twist.
Rare roasted sirloin of beef, Piccalilli, chives and horseradish. Who could visit Britain and not try some roast beef?
Steamed Devon red chicken, hen egg mayonnaise and baby red-stalk sorrel. Flavourful and light.
West coast Scottish lobster, shrimps, olive oil tomato emulsion. Rich and decadent and a showcase for some of the best seafood in these isles.
Sultana scones with Cornish clotted cream and strawberry preserve are served after the guest has consumed the lowest tier of the stand, the savouries. Those scones and garnishes make a truly authentic treat alone, and are usually described as a ‘cream tea’.
But Intercontinental provides a full Afternoon Tea, which is rounded off with an overflowing top plate which one would have been gazing at since the arrival of the cake stand. I guess it’s called ‘cake’ stand to draw attention to the goods gracing the summit.
Vanilla and white chocolate cream profiterole.
Mango tranche with blackberry cream has full-on fruity flavour and one can feel noble: it must count as one of your 5 a day.
Dark chocolate torte is slightly bitter and has a sophisticated adult taste.
Preserved infused-fruit Madeira cake is old-fashioned and comforting.
All the above fancies, and some more, might be your reward for a hard day spent touring on an open-top bus, beetling around on a Boris-bike, hiking through designer boutiques and admiring historic sites. Enjoy it. You deserve it.
Selection of teas, cakes, sandwiches and scones.
£25 per person
£35 per person with a glass of Champagne
Monday to Friday from 1pm to 5pm. At weekends two sittings: 1.30pm to 3.30pm and 4pm to 6pm.
Afternoon Tea review by Chrissie Walker © 2018