Liz Gill enjoys the delicate, delicious delights of this quintessentially English tradition
As someone who regularly rails against the size of modern food portions – muffins as big as your head, platefuls which would suit a Sumo wrestler – I’m enchanted by the miniaturism of afternoon tea.
I love all those small but perfectly formed cakes and scones, finger sandwiches with the crusts cut off, little pots of jam and clotted cream. For me less is definitely more.
I was delighted therefore to find such delights in the Chesterfield Mayfair’s new Winter Wonderland tea with the added bonus of a seasonal theme. Its welcome drink was a little (natch) glass of mulled wine, its sandwiches included turkey mayonnaise and cranberry and pulled ham hock with spiced apple chutney as well as the more regular smoked salmon and cream cheese, egg mayonnaise and watercress and prawn with marie rose sauce. The breads themselves were given a twist with spinach, beetroot and onion flavours as well as regular white. Cranberries reappeared in one set of scones, the other set being chocolate.
It was with the cakes though that the festive creativity really took off. They included a chocolate yule log, a candied orange and mulled wine slice, a gingerbread choux bun and a Ferrero Rocher macaron. Our favourite though had to be the winter berry tree pot because you could actually eat the pot.
There was even a Christmas tea blend with apple pieces, cloves and cinnamon as well 16 other teas and infusions. Exciting and exotic as some of them sounded – the ‘dancing dragon’ or the ‘silver needle’ – we stuck to the more traditional Chesterfield afternoon blend. We’d had enough excitement for one day. Or so we thought.
As we left the lovely conservatory where we’d had our tea we passed an old-fashioned sweetie stall and were pressed to fill a bag with three choices from the selection on offer. We picked our favourites and added the bag to the pretty take home box in which the pleasant and attentive staff had put the cakes we couldn’t finish.
The Winter Wonderland Afternoon Tea runs until January 2nd 2023 £65 per person, £75 with a glass of Lanson champagne. There is a children’s version for £35. Chesterfield Mayfair Hotel 35 Charles Steet, London W1J 5EB. http://www.chesterfieldmayfair.com tel 020 7491 2622