Thursday, 13 December 2012

'Japanese Rituals' Afternoon Tea At The Halkin by COMO, London

The Halkin by the COMO group is a luxury hotel situated in a quiet residential area in the heart of Belgravia, one of London's best locations and close to the famous shopping destinations of Knightsbridge and Sloane Street. Elegantly understated and oozing class the hotel is internationally recognised as one of London's most stylish with an intimate ‘home from home' ambiance.

If your looking for a new innovative and alternative take on the traditional afternoon tea look no further, The Halkin has teamed up with chocolatier William Curley, one of the UK’s foremost chocolatiers, who has been named Britain’s best chocolatier by the Academy of Chocolate no fewer than four times.

Scottish born William who became the youngest Chef Pâtissier at The Savoy, where he met his Japanese wife Suzue – also a highly respected pâtissier. William and Suzue, have injected the traditional British tea experience with an infusion of beautiful subtle Japanese flavours. The ‘Japanese Rituals’ tea experience combines a colourful range of patisserie delights that enthral and tantalise the taste buds.

Afternoon Tea is served in The Halkin Bar, the chic and contemporary lounge that offers a quiet serene haven where you can 'zone out' and re-energise away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Upon our arrival we were greeted with a warm welcome and barely needed to consult the menu, except to choose from the range of teas to go with our afternoon tea. The staff where truly exceptional, and please do believe me when I say you are in good caring hands, with staff that go above and beyond the norm to ensure you have a faultless and truly wonderful time. Nothing is to much trouble and they are more than happy to go through the selection of teas on offer and help with your selection with a few recommendations.

For me I love to start my afternoon tea with a champagne cocktail and I always love to see whats on offer, the Halkin has created a fantastic and creative selection. I took a fancy to Valentine which is a combination of Hendricks gin, with raspberries and basil and topped with Louis Roederer champagne, the champagne of choice at the hotel. Another special mention must go to 'Brass button' which is a mixture of Plymouth gin shaken with grand marnier and orange juice topped with champagne. The champagne cocktails where perfection and something I urge you to try, as it really sets the tone for the rest of the afternoon.

Whilst sipping on my cocktail the waiter describing all the treats on offer in detail, I had a feeling this afternoon tea was going to be extra special and I wasn't wrong. With patisseries mixing some interesting combinations everything from green tea, creamy wasabi, floral jasmine and tangy Yuzu I just couldn't wait for the tasting to start.

With the delectable array arriving at our table, everything was presented to perfection. A delicate row of full sized sandwiches with fillings such as Scottish smoked salmon, king prawns and poached corn-fed chicken breast. The king prawn was particularly delicious served with mustard cress and cocktail dressing, they truly where sandwiches to make Britain proud. On request more sandwiches can be brought to your table, which are all included within the price, so don't hesitate to try more, as you will definitely desire more.

This may be a new innovative take on afternoon tea, but traditional elements such as freshly-baked succulent plain and raisin scones, which where perfectly warm and fluffy and are far from understated, served along side clotted cream and jams. Whilst tucking into the scones my tea was then presented. I opted for White Peony, also known as Pai Mu Tan, it is a sweet, mild tea made from unopened tea buds, as well as the two newest leaves to sprout. The freshly harvested leaf is allowed to wither dry in the sun. The natural oxidation which takes place during this withering gives White Peony beautiful, plush flavours. The nose is warm, floral and rich, like fruit blossoms. The liquor is golden and bright. Clean, succulent floral-fruit flavour and rounded mouthfeel. If you are beginning your exploration of white tea, or even just tea in general, the White Peony tea will serve as a wonderful introduction.

Being that the common denominator between British and Japanese cultures is Tea and although the British may be renowned for their drinking of this beverage, no one quite knows how to make such a beautiful brew as the Japanese. The teas on offer showcase a selection of 'rare teas produced by JING TEA'. JING is run by Edward Eisler and his team, JING celebrates the core meaning of Asia’s ancient tea rituals, distilling the essence into a tea experience which is right for the modern, hectic world. By travelling thousands of miles each year, they source definitive examples of Asia’s finest teas and accrue an extensive knowledge of the tea cultures from which they originate. Just a few of the selection included black teas; Jasmine pearls, Keemum and whole rose, Russian caravan and Gyokuru white; peony, Taiwan jade and finally herbal infusions ginger with acacia honey, rose buds, lemon verbena and don't forget trying more than one is most definitely encouraged.

Next up the stunning cake stand of delicious treats that have been mesmerizing me since they where placed on the table. Each is so full of different tastes that with every bite a new flavour is released. Apricot Wasabi Entremet, which has layers of pistachio sponge, chocolate cremeaux, wasabi ganache, and apricot compote. The Dark Chocolate Pyramid Mousse, with jasmine crème brulee, caramelised mandarin and chocolate sponge, is a delicately flavoured sweet. The Chestnut and Yuzu Almond Sweet Pastry Tart is created from an almond and chestnut sponge, Yuzu marmalade, and chestnut mousse topped with Italian meringue. The Raspberry and Green Tea White Chocolate Casket has raspberry mousse, green tea crème brulee and green tea sponge. Simply delicious! It is impossible to pick a favourite as each of the amazing cakes is a whole new experience.

It's hard to imagine that anyone could improve on the age-old tradition of afternoon tea, but the Halkin Hotel, along with William Curley, have found a way to elevate that tradition to couture cuisine. With impeccable service, there is a real enthusiasm that is sometimes lacked at afternoon teas, but for me if there is one hotel that has the most knowledgeable and genuine staff providing excellent service, for me it would be the Halkin.

So go ahead, treat yourself to the flavours of the east at a truly worthy price of £37.50 for the ‘Japanese flavours’ tea and £47.50 for a champagne afternoon tea. This is definitely one treat worth indulging yourself in

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