Thursday 28 August 2014

The Joys of Afternoon Tea

August Bank Holiday this year marks five years since Alan and I met (technically 31 August but it's so much more fun to celebrate when there's an extra day to do it!). In some ways, it seems strange. Five years already?! On the other hand, how can it have been only five years? Either way, it seemed like a good excuse for a bit of a celebration.

In previous years, we've gone for a visit back to where we had our first date - at the Tate Modern. Although neither of us is that keen on modern art, it really brought us together that first day as we sat talking over plenty of tea/coffee in the cafe, followed by a wander round some of the crazy exhibits, and we love repeating the experience and looking out for any exhibits we remember from back then.

This year, being pretty heavily pregnant (34 weeks!) we thought something less energetic might be in order. Obvious answer? Afternoon tea.

Last year my excellent Maid of Honour Phillipa organised a fantastic afternoon at The Chesterfield Mayfair for part of my hen party. I came home raving about the food and service at the time, and had spent the last year telling Alan I wanted to take him back there. So, booking made and off we went. I was a little bit nervous - you know when you've built something up in your mind and then you start worrying that maybe it wasn't as good as you thought you remembered it? But I needn't have worried.

We were greeted by a smiling waitress who congratulated us on MiniPearTree and was very excited to hear how soon our due date was. We were seated in the conservatory area, a lovely light room with lots of greenery and a waiter came along to take us through the extensive menu.

The afternoon tea on offer seems to change fairly regularly - for my hen party last year most of us chose a traditional champagne afternoon tea but there was also a chocolate themed tea along with both vegetarian and gluten-free afternoon tea options. This time round, the main afternoon tea on offer was 'Afternoon Bee', with honey from the hotel's own bees and a range of cakes also incorporating honey.

Two things I always look for in a good afternoon tea are the variety of teas on offer and the sandwiches - I love a place which offers something a little bit different from/additional to the standard cucumber/egg mayonnaise.

The Chesterfield doesn't disappoint on either count. The list of teas is both extensive and diverse - I chose the Elderflower and Lemon Verbena which has been brought in especially for the Afternoon Bee, while Alan chose the Chesterfield Chocolate Tea, which as the waiter explained was introduced as an accompaniment for the chocolate themed tea last year but was kept on the menu due to popular demand.

Both teas were absolutely delicious - mine was light, citrusy and refreshing and Alan's was like a beautifully smooth and light hot chocolate but without the usual cloying heavy sweetness.

Sandwiches - ahhh, the sandwiches. In my opinion the Chesterfield offers the best afternoon tea sandwiches around. The egg mayonnaise came with watercress on basil bread to add extra dimensions, the ham and cheese came with generous layers of both, along with red onion chutney and onion bread. Our favourite by far though was the chicken with grain mustard mayonnaise and almonds - delicate but zingy. I hope they keep those on the menu.

We were offered more sandwiches of our choice (which we accepted enthusiastically, both opting for some more chicken and a sneaky extra ham and cheese for me) and more scones (which we were sad to turn down), along with lots of top ups of tea, which of course is an essential!

We really enjoyed the scones, although by the time we'd finished working our way through the sandwiches the scones (one plain and one fruit each) were no longer as warm as they probably were to begin with. The accompanying jam and cream were both simple and fresh.

We only sampled a couple of the cakes before admitting defeat - the chocolate honeycomb in particular was dreamy, like a delicately smooth Crunchie bar. The chocolate mousse flowerpot with chocolate soil, little flowers and a tiny sugarpaste bee was very cute, if a little rich for my tastes. Best in small doses!

The hotel was more than happy to let us take the remaining cakes home in a box (always a sign of excellent customer service!), and the kitchen even added a couple of extras of our favourites for us. They also presented us with a little teddy bear in honour of MiniPearTree which was such a lovely gesture. We've named him Chester and he's sitting on the mantelpiece waiting for cuddles in October!

Mmmm, cake...

We're already looking forward to making plans to go back next year, possibly with MiniPearTree - I believe the hotel will be offering a festive tea over Christmas and will then change again in January, so lots of variety. Highly recommended - there's a reason this place has won prizes from the Tea Guild.

This isn't a sponsored post and noone asked me to write this review - we just had a fantastic experience and wanted to let others know.