Welcome back, boys and girls. When last we left our intrepid hero, the question was ” Are ‘top end’ tea places just really annoying?”Let’s find out, shall we?
In the interests of science, we went to The Dorchester.
Earlier in the day, we visited the Hummingbird Bakery on Portobello Road. A real let down, the cupcakes looked great but the tea was NOT loose leaf ‘Tea Pigs’ in NOT silk bags, regardless of the usual arguments about both. Scores 0.
So, cupcakes to go, and a search for tea.
We found Gail’s Artisan Breads across the road. Real loose leaf tea – Tea Palace, not Jing as the handbook suggested – and some nice nibblies. I had this squat sausage roll that they cut in half, sandwich pressed until toasted and served with a chunky tomato sauce, Lady D the Choc Pecan Brownie and we had some plain English Breakfast. And it was pretty plain, and so Gail’s would most likely score in the 60’s if not for the time I spent gazing at their bread, so it’s a 71 (71 ‘Caj’ out of 100 of you’ve not been keeping up).
But enough of that. Fast forward a few hours and it’s Traditional Afternoon Tea at the Dorchester.
The cost of this is more than the cost of our apartment for a night. You could eat out three nights in a row and have change. Not a cheap option.
I went in thinking ‘this better be worth it.’
From the second we walked in, we were transported back to the 1930s and the full flower of the Art Deco movement. Stylish, with some understatement and some bold dramatic gestures.
We kept looking around for Hercules Poirot. In fact, they had a blackcurrant tisane in the menu; I suspect for that very reason.
Our waiter, Patrick, was a lovely man, and with Lady D semi-reclining on a massive sofa and I on a superb armchair, we perused the tea selection.
We decided on a Puttabong Queen 1st Flush Darjeeling, and off trotted Patrick, returning very promptly with our tea. The lovely deco tea service complemented its pale tones and there was much happy slurping.
Next, ribbon sandwiches. Superb! We ate a few, wisely holding back.
By this time, a piano player was tinkling away next to us, mixing jazz classics and playing in a lovely 30s style, even though he slipped in some Billy Joel and Norwegian Wood to see if anyone was listening. And we were.
Our tea needs had moved onto a Keemun Mao Feng – superb, and Patrick bought us a “pre-dessert”. It was a coffee foam mousse in a teacup fashioned from dark chocolate. It was … here’s that word again… superb.
The whole way through, they had been very solicitous about my need to not have citrus. Patrick bought out the jams and I suggested that most good quality jams would include lemon juice. Her hurried off to confer with the kitchen.
After a short interval – a Mao Feng filled one, in fact – Patrick returned with a more senior waiter. He confirmed that all their jams were made at the hotel and that all of them contained lemon juice.
He bought two little jars of a chocolate spread that they offer guests at breakfast in the hope I might find them acceptable. I found it really quite a lovely amount of effort to go to.
Next out scones and something I’ve never had before – clotted cream. The chocolate spread turned out to be basically a version of Nutella for the super-rich, and the cream, scones and Uber-Nutella was a brilliant combination.
Actually, not the greatest scones ever, but add a pile of clotted cream and ultra-nutella to anything and it would be edible. I could probably even choke down a McDonalds burger substitute if it was drenched in clotted cream and hyper-nutella.
Then they pulled the surprise. The chef had assembled a special citrus-free cake plate for me. and here it is:
Note the elegance of the service. Note the incredible plate of little cakes. Note the two jars of mega-nutella, one of which was so strong it fell clean off the table and into my pocket.
Every single one of them was incredible.
Afterwards, they bought around tiny home made ice creams. As they all contained lemon juice, they also magically produced a bowl of raspberry sorbet for me. I had trouble getting it down but I did not want to offend them after the effort they had gone to.
I went to the bathroom, and was amazed at the level of service. There was an attendant to hand you a towel after you wipe your hands, and a lady polishing knobs* in the corridor outside.
There is no doubt that the Dorchester is a money machine, with five sittings per day. It is also obvious that half of those there are used to this; it is their lifestyle.
But the other half were like us – having a treat for a special occasion. So special it rates a 99.
And it was done with elegance, class and distinction. It might have been pricey, but not when you consider you are getting a time capsule back to the 1930s.*Shiny doors are important in a high class establishment