Earlier this year, I found a new favourite for fine-dining Italian, quietly nestled within the sleek Hari Hotel in Belgravia.
As though the Cacio e Pepe (prepared table-side in a giant wheel of pecorino cheese) wasn’t a compelling-enough reason to revisit Il Pampero, I recently discovered another. Afternoon tea with an inimitably Italian twist…
The newly introduced Napolitea is as stylish an affair as you’d expect of the striking surrounds, which greet you with an unmistakeable air of old world glamour punctuated by a contemporary vitality. The marbled central bar here (manned by a dashingly dapper bartender) beckons as invitingly as the more cosy booths cocooned by a vespa-green lacquer… And quite fittingly, the afternoon elegantly commences with Prosecco served in retro coupe glasses.
The all-Italian spread which follows is ideal for a indulgently-idyll summer’s afternoon.
Working our way upwards, we start with the savoury bottom tier featuring fresh melon wrapped in parma ham and crisp bruschetta topped with tomato and mozzarella. Fresh avocado festooned with creamy burrata is as delightful as it appears, its herby dressing adding a particularly potent punch.
The unexpected blandness of the pea-stuffed arincini disappointingly prove a let-down, but the mushroom and truffle version of these devilishly deep-fried rice balls more than make up for it – with the subtle scent of saffron smoothly cutting through the earthiness of the truffle.
Next: scones lose their place at the tea table, but are worthily substituted by bomboloni – Italian doughnuts encasing cream and strawberry jam fillings respectively. I quibble that the outer dough could be a tad softer and fluffier, but ultimately rejoice in the sticky mess that these delicate treats entail.
The final tier is a lesson in the sumptuous joys of Italian desserts.
We are introduced to sftogliatelle – shell-shaped, filled puff pastries from Naples, thought to trace their origins to the Italian aristocracy associated with the Renaissance. At Il Pampero, the delicately-stacked layers of pastry pack a glorious crunch, giving way to a richly smooth chocolate ganache.
True to its name, the Lemon Delight is a zesty treat and there are also hazelnut bignès (cream puffs which are essentially an Italian take on profiteroles) and Sicilian-style cannoli. The crisp pastry tubes sheath a fresh ricotta filling speckled with chocolate and are offset by little dollops of jelly on top!
All told, it’s been an entirely pleasurable afternoon spent in the company of a dear friend, and one which gives true meaning to living La Dolce Vita…
The Hari Hotel, 20 Chesham Pl, Belgravia, London SW1X 8HQ
For more afternoon tea reviews in London, have a look here.
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