A Melbourne, London & Hong Kong dessert blog
The quintessential high tea experience.
Ideally positioned as a perfect retreat after a bout of Oxford Street shopping, afternoon tea at the Langham London is taken at the Palm Court, a ground-floor dining space. In the mirrored decadence of the serene Palm Court, the melodies of piano and later, a string quartet serenade patrons throughout the afternoon. Formal tables are dressed in brocaded white linens, and surround the cluster of sapphire blue velvet sofas and stools at the centre of the room. The ceilings are high, the seating generously apart, conferring both a sense of space and privacy. Uniformed staff serve the afternoon tea on a floor-standing three-tiered silver service, rather than the unwieldly table-stand commonly used by most high tea institutions that unfortunately block the view of one’s afternoon tea companions.
Afternoon tea was presented on elegant silver-edged Wedgewood porcelain, accompanied by luxe embroidered napkins and a teapot bouquet of velvet red roses. An incredibly extensive range of teas was available, including the traditional Tregothan blends (earl grey, straight unscented blacks etc), an exotic collection of black, green, white and yellow teas heralding from the East, and unique infusions of tisanes, which are teas that use the non-leaf parts of their constituents, for example, the buds, petals, roots. As with every upstanding English afternoon tea institution, a tea sommelier was present to assist the indecisive mind. MoMo & Coco selected the Langham Blend, one of five blends created by the tea sommelier himself. It was described on the tea menu as a “sophisticated blend of Second Flush Indian Assam; for a malty flavour, First Flush Indian Darjeeling; the ‘champagne’ of teas with delicate muscatel charm and Uva season High Grown Sri Lankan; for a light, citrus character.”
The first taste was a palate cleanser — a lightly scented pineapple and vanilla panna cotta.
Afternoon tea then followed with a plate of savouries. No traditional ribbon sandwiches here. Think rarefied savoury canapes – the type that you would like to see at a fine cocktail function. There were two triangles of parmesan and celery cream chesse and coronation chicken sandwiches; smoked duck with foie gras; asparagus with wiltshire ham; smoked scottish salmon mousse with cavia; cornish crab with cucumber and shiso.
And a high tea is not one without scones, of course. A generous basket of scones of two types – raisins and chocolate - served with Devonshire clotted cream and jam. Served warm, and witheld until after the first tier was consumed.
The top tier of the three-tiered stand was the simply unforgettable piece-de-resistance of irresistibles — the most exquisitely hand-crafted “pastries and cakes inspired by the beauty and sparkle of some of the finest jewels from the most famous fashion houses,” as so described on the Bijoux Afternoon Tea menu. Pastry artisans and dessert chefs in Australia should take note of these individually hand-crafted, finely-executed, stylistic irresistibles — this is what a decadent high tea should look like.
The first sweet irresistible sampled was the Asprey Diamond – a sponge-like cake with a thin layer of cream and jam at its heart, delicately iced over with a layer of white fondant, its skirt hemmed with edible, luminous pink jewels.
The next irresistible was the Delices de Cartier — a cute, round cake containing a sponge base with an intensely-flavoured grape mousse centre, its top glazed red and embellished with a touch of irridescent gold leaf and a flake of white chocolate.
And the Bulgari B.Zero — a meringue-based snowman-shaped figure to perhaps resmble a finger, and two encirclements of exquisitely piped violet/blueberry cream, hence the rings of the Bulgari B.Zero. Finished with a mini violet/blueberry macaron, resembling a top-hat.
And the Baccarat Eclispe – bashfully-flavoured strawberry macarons, adorned with an edible, sparkling white diamond, and presented in a nostalgic way of lollypops.
The final irresistible from the tier to be sampled was the perfect finale to a very sophisticated, very English, afternoon tea. Here, the most decadent layered chocolate cake. This stunning irresistible comprised a dark chocolate biscuit base, followed by a layer of rich coffee mousse and, a berry mousse layer. Cloaked in dark chocolate ganached, topped with two juicy tangy raspberries to alleviate the richness, and a white chocolate decoration.
Given that the philosophy of this journal-blog is that MoMo & Coco only photograph and describe, we hate to proffer our opinion. However, we have to say that the Bijoux Afternoon Tea offered at the Langham Hotel in London may just be the contemporary benchmark for all afternoon teas that we have savoured, both before it and since…simply hmmmmm…irresistible…
We therefore dedicate this post as the first of our dessert-only blog. Enjoy!
- Dessert adventure checklist
- Dessert destination: Palm Court, The Langham London, IC Portland Place, Regent Street, London, W1B 1JA, UK.
- Budget: $$$$ (£49pp + 15% service charge).
- Sweet irresistibles: High Tea.
- Must-eat: Available daily.
- The short and sweet story: The quintessential experience.