The Kensington, London has launched its delicious gluten-free afternoon teas, including complimentary Botticelli Reimagined tickets at the V&A. Gina Baksa tucks in her napkin…
A leafy stroll from South Kensington tube leads you to the four white-stuccoed townhouses that make up the refined Kensington – privately owned by the Doyle Collection. Three interconnected rooms on the ground floor – known as The Drawing Room – have been exquisitely refurbished by Alexander Waterworth Interiors and provide a haven of quiet sophistication. Perfect for afternoon tea and romantic assignations, in addition to relaxed business meetings.
A welcoming open fire dances beside our crisp linen-topped table; heritage China poised to embrace both Classic and Gluten Free delicacies. Executive Chef Steven Gibbs (ex-Hix and Caprice Holdings) has noted the increased demand for gluten-free options and created a special lighter menu all served on gluten-free bread. In the name of research, I try both…
When our waitress greeted us with a warm smile and a bottle of Perriet-Jouët we knew it was going to be a great afternoon. Beginning with several amuse-bouches, I tried red pepper hummus feta on grilled gluten-free flat bread, and a refreshing superfood salad with red chicory leaf. Complementary flavours that paired well with the Champagne. My friend meanwhile, enjoyed her non-gluten smoked salmon gougère (“smooth and light”) with horseradish crème fraîche and a delicious wild mushroom and leek tart with aged Parmesan.
All provenance is sourced from highly respected and local British suppliers – very evident in the quality and the flavour on offer.
Another glass of Champagne and we move into the afternoon tea proper – beautifully served and presented on three-tiered cake stands. We both chose Earl Grey from the Rare Tea Company. All its teas are Fair Trade and sourced from the world’s top plantations. I can honestly say this was the best Earl Grey I have ever had the pleasure to taste – and I’ve had a few thousand cups in my lifetime. Slightly smoky on the nose and palate, smooth, light and well balanced: sheer perfection when savoured slowly.
The mouth-watering sandwich selection (both gluten-free and regular) included: Dorset crab and avocado with lemon purée, Wiltshire ham and tarragon mustard and pea shoots, braised salt beef with English mustard (yay!) and cornichons and perennial favourite, cucumber and cream cheese with baby watercress. Conversation flowed and it was another hour before we sampled the selection of sweet offerings.
The Earl Grey tea provided the perfect accompaniment to the fabulous gluten-free sweet selection of scones, strawberry jam and Devonshire clotted cream. In addition to carrot and walnut gluten-free cake with cucumber and cream cheese icing, vanilla and raspberry macaroon, dark chocolate and cherry panacotta with seal salt caramel, pâte de fruit, and date and almond balls dipped in chocolate and grated coconut. The non-gluten option included Victoria sponge sandwich and plum Bakewell tart with frangipane and almonds. Sweet heaven!
As late afternoon turned into early dusk, lights were dimmed and The Drawing Room transformed into the perfect pre-dinner drink destination. In warmer weather, head for the snug, heated outdoor terrace on the ground floor or if you have room, make your way to the hotel’s Town House restaurant. Or segue as we did, into the snug K Bar. Think clubby wingback chairs, violet velvet sofas with tartan accents – perfect for sinking back and savouring Ben Manchester’s expertly crafted cocktails.
For a very limited time, The Kensington is offering each afternoon tea guest a complimentary ticket to the inspiring ‘Botticelli Reimagined’ exhibition at nearby Victoria & Albert Museum. The exhibition includes the largest collection of Sandro Botticelli’s work (1445-1510) since 1930 and explores the enduring influence of the Florentine painter, from the Pre-Raphaelites to the present day.
Do you need any more reason to visit The Kensington? Afternoon tea is tops, especially when it’s gluten-free and culture-rich.
The Kensington Afternoon Tea is priced at £35 per person, or £45 per person with a glass of Champagne. All served from 12noon to 6pm daily. Call to make your reservation on 020 7589 6300.
By Gina Baksa
The Kensington – Where and How?
109-113 Queen’s Gate
SW 7 5LR
Tel: 0207 589 6300