There’s no dearth of tempting options for afternoon tea, when it comes to celebrating this favourite of British pastimes.
But if you asked me right now, at this very moment, to pick just the one… my spontaneous response would be Scents of Summers at the InterContinental Park Lane. It’s a scintillating affair which vividly captures the beauty of a British summer….
The tea is served in the hotel’s Wellington Lounge, a bright and airy space with full-length windows, which fittingly add to the sense of the outdoors.
The entire experience is a uniquely sensory one, as the executive chefs have collaborated with Floris London, a ninth-generation family-run perfumery house, to evoke the fragrances you’d associate with summer – from freshly-cut grass to jasmine and rose!
The floral-inspired tone of our afternoon was set by the refreshingly unique palate cleansers presented at the start, wheatgrass and gooseberry shots with wild strawberries…
Before we made surprisingly quick work of our
sandwiches scrolls. Baked with versatile ingredients such as lemon and spinach, the soft and oh-so-colourful breads were wrapped around a host of delightfully creamy fillings.
Think purple Peruvian bread delicately laced with rose-pickled cucumber and mascarpone cream, and mixed pickled mediterranean vegetables rolled in lemon bread (a worthy veggie-friendly alternative to smoked salmon). Our unanimous favourite was surprisingly a spinach-based bread heartily enfolding honey-roast pumpkin and crumbled feta cheese!
Next, we enjoyed a plate of freshly baked scones, smartly sporting perfectly golden egg-brushed tops. The usual suspects featured of course (clotted cream and strawberry jam)…
… But in a summery twist, they were accompanied by Earl Grey-infused butter and a richly smooth lemon curd and pink peppercorn cream, which spread sunshine with each smear!
It was the eclectic selection of teas (created exclusively for the InterContinental by The Northern Tea Merchants), which emerged as the major highlight though.
Each tea we sipped was carefully curated by our affable host, Luigi, to complement the flavour profile of our eats and treats.
The savouries were paired with a musky but lightly-bodied 1st flush Darjeeling from India (for me), a more flowery, hand-rolled “Iron Goddess of Mercy” Oolong from Taiwan (for my father) and a more grassy, umami-rich Gyokuro Asahi Estate green tea from Japan (for my mother), which had a pleasantly lingering after-taste.
The scones went beautifully with the hotel’s special smokey blend of Early Grey, featuring a generous pinch of Lapsang Souchong.
Whilst the final act (wait for it…) saw “N.1 Park Lane”, a delicate black tea enlivened with marigold flowers and chopped Madagascan vanilla pods; and a chocolate tea, which was similar to the N.1 Park Lane but involved the rich addition of cocoa nibs.
But it wouldn’t have been a summer-inspired afternoon without a sparkling glass of Moët’s finest rosé in the mix.
The elegant fruitiness of the champagne led us to the final act, an array of cakes and tea-time fancies inspired by the quintessential English garden! It was almost too pretty to eat… Almost.
We feasted our eyes on bergamot-flavoured macaroons filled with blackcurrant; almond and grapefruit tarts topped with a lush violet and blueberries cream; and a peach melba mousse coated in a white chocolate dome.
At the centre of it all, was a chocolate terracotta pot cocooning a wild strawberries mousse that sat lightly on a rose water-scented sponge and pink peppercorn jelly! It might not be to everyone’s taste but I loved the peppery – almost savoury – note with which the jelly sharply cut through the luscious sweetness of the other flavours.
The scattered summer berries and edible “garden stones” (made of chocolate) were a well thought-out touch too!
Satisfied, we sank back in our comfy armchairs after our last bites and were amazed to realise that it had been over three hours since we’d walked in… I suppose it is true what they say, time goes by quite fast when you’re having fun!
It wouldn’t be fair to attribute it all to the beautiful spread we’d just enjoyed. There was the unhurried ambience too. Not to mention the charming service, particularly from Luigi, who deserves special mention here for his impassioned approach which brought the entire experience to life.
It really was an enthralling afternoon from start to finish!
The InterContinental, 1 Hamilton Pl, London W1J 7QY
I was hosted for the Scents of Summer afternoon tea, but as always, all opinions are mine and mine alone.