The Langham, my home away from home and the purveyor of my favourite cocktail in London: The Pink & Gold. This time however, I was there to take Afternoon Tea with Lady L Senior in the beautiful surroundings of the Palm Court.
As we make our way up the hotel steps, the glitz and glamour of this iconic building and its interior fills my mother and I with glee over the delights that await us inside. We make our way to The Palm Court, hand over our coats and are shown to our table, nestled in the corner, the perfect vantage point to take in the atmosphere of this room. The wonderful waiter Richard pours us a glass of bubbly; he must have known that my mother, like me, is partial to a glass or three. The Afternoon Tea we select is the Stephen Webster Bijoux Afternoon Tea. Stephen Webster is one of the leading British jewellery designers and was a Creative Director of the world’s oldest jewellery house Garrard, so the Afternoon Tea is based around his influence, using jewels, pearls, diamonds, rubies and so on to design the aesthetic of the spread.
First up are the sandwiches which are a far cry from the usual sandwiches served up with an Afternoon Tea, no crustless finger sandwiches in sight, just a plate of delicate works of art, so cute and perfectly formed it seems a shame to devour them. The selection includes a wonderfully light Foie Gras and apple pastry case in the most vivid green, but my favourite is the native lobster with piquillo peppers and flying fish roe, slightly spicy but creamy and my mothers favourite the poached quail breast with grapes and violet, which was a unique combination of sweet and fragrant with the meatiness of the quail. Also included in the selection is duck egg mayonnaise with caviar and smoked salmon with cream cheese which is served in a very interesting rye bread that has overtones of chocolate, a great twist of an Afternoon Tea classic.
After a few more glasses of Laurent Perrier Brut Reserve NV it was time to choose our tea to accompany our selection of warm scones. The Palm Court serves over 40 different teas from across the globe including the beautifully decadent Uber Tea Selection which my mother and I opt for on Richard’s recommendation. Lady L Senior chooses the Darjeeling Silver Tip White Tea, a very rare tea with a light caramel sweetness and fragrant aroma. I elect to go for the Pre Rain Jun Shan (Imperial Mountain) Silver Needle Yellow Tea: this tea is one of China’s most famous teas and a favourite of Chairman Mao; only produced on Jun Shan Island in Dong Ting Lake it is very rare and is picked from entirely perfectly formed tinder buds in one harvest in March before the Qing Ming Festival, the tea is light on colour but big on taste, somewhere between an Oolong for it’s earthiness and a white tea for its light colour and fresh aftertaste.
As we enjoy our teas the scones arrive, nestled in a basket and served with Devonshire clotted cream and strawberry preserve. As a twist to the typical scone offerings in an Afternoon Tea this basket includes plain, raisin and the unusual yet very tasty chocolate and marinated orange scones. Mother and I only manage one scone each having somewhat over indulged ourselves on the sandwiches and knowing that coming next was the piece de residence the selection of pastries and cakes inspired by Stephen Webster’s most recent jewellery collection “Murder She Wrote”. The collection is an artistic impression and reinvention of a murder mystery genre using diamonds and colourful stones as its inspiration and since my mother and I both live by the motto “Diamonds are a girls best friend” this was to be the crowning glory of the Afternoon Tea for us.
The cakes and pastries are served on a silver stand next to our table, beautifully decorated, a real “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” moment with each sweet delight presented like something out of a fairytale. Mother and I do not know where to start with such a visually dramatic array before us. I give in to temptation and select the Dagger Dome, looking like a sweet red apple it is actually a Valrhona white chocolate crème with strawberry and white balsamic cake, very sweet and sticky – I feel like Snow White unable to decline the offer of the poisoned apple. Mother singles out the Armadillo Ring, a roasted green pistachio Chantilly with meringue sponge, as the ingredients would suggest this is green and, like the Wicked Witch of the East it is naughty; my mother was definitely melting after one mouthful. Next we both went for the Razor Ribbon Ring, a silver needle jasmine mousse with apricot, the Cinderella of the selection, with one waive of the Fairy Godmother’s wand we were transported to the ball and dancing with the prince, light, soft, delicate, like dancing in glass slippers. The last, and most fun element of the cake selection was the Poisoned Apple, a red peppercorn and dark chocolate shortbread presented on a lollypop and, despite its Snow White connotations, this is far more of a Hansel and Gretel pastry. I can honestly say that I can understand why they were tempted by offerings like this, crunchy with sweet icing that cuts through the spiciness of the shortbread, a great end to a fairytale of an Afternoon Tea.
Now truly under the spell of The Palm Court and the Bijoux Afternoon Tea my mother and I decide it is time to leave, after all our pumpkin awaited us outside, and thanks to the wonderful staff we had “doggie bags” of scones for the journey home just in case we needed to leave a trail back to the wonderfully elegant and sweet temptation of The Palm Court.
The Palm Court
1C Portland Place
London, W1B 1JA