Simon Wittenberg heads to Great Scotland Yard Hotel to sample its new Festive Afternoon Tea, which is in partnership with Floris London.
In the run-up to Christmas, ’tis the season where hotels launch their festive afternoon tea offerings, and the five-star Great Scotland Yard Hotel, which is part of the Unbound Collection by Hyatt, is no exception. The iconic 1820s Grade II listed building, which sits between Trafalgar Square and the River Thames on Great Scotland Yard Street, tucked away behind Northumberland Avenue, was home to the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police for over 60 years until 1890.
Today, the historic brick building offers around 150 beautifully appointed bedrooms and suites, and a choice of eateries, including the Parlour, which was the location of our visit. Until the New Year, guests can try out the property’s unique multi-sensory afternoon tea, devised in partnership with Floris London, a Royal Warrant holder and the oldest English retailer of fragrances.
The Festive Afternoon Tea follows on from the property’s Platinum Jubilee Tea in the summer and the recently unveiled James Bond-themed menu, created by Great Scotland Yard Hotel’s Spanish Head Pastry Chef, Verónica Garrido Martínez. Formerly of Galvin at Windows, she has taken inspiration from the rich and spicy notes of the British perfumier’s luxury scents.
We sat in the corner of The Parlour on a small round table by the impressive leather-clad doors, which was full to the brim on the Sunday afternoon we visited. The Parlour accommodates around 30 people at a time within an intimate space with an art deco feel.
It features a black and white tiled floor and an array of different seating, whilst tropical landscapes adorn the walls – décor chosen by the UAE-based Indian businessman and billionaire Yusuf Alli Kader and his team when he acquired the property for £110 million seven years ago, before opening the hotel in December 2019.
Another bonus with this tea is that pooches are welcome, and during our visit, a couple of four-legged friends sat patiently under tables whilst their owners indulged in what lay above them.
To accompany the Festive Afternoon Tea, there’s a selection of hot beverages on offer, spanning green tea to Jasmine Silver Tip. I settled on the more mellow notes of an Earl Grey, with my guest opting for the full-bodied and complex Sunset Oolong.
The hotel can accommodate dietary requirements, so for the three-tier stand of savouries which arrived first, the roast turkey, celeriac and cranberry finger sandwiches were swapped for some cream cheese, tomato and cucumber with a dollop of cranberry sauce. Very small bite-sized smoked salmon roulade-type sandwiches replaced the salmon gravadlax and caviar.
Biting into these first, the texture was stodgy, and the ingredients, especially the white bread, seemed a touch on the cheap side, with little creativity and imagination to match. The top level of the stand was sparse apart from two small pumpkins, rocket and Montgomery Cheddar quiches, which had some element of flavour, as did the light and airy caramelised artichoke gougères (small puffs). However, the egg truffle mayo on small brioches was a little dry and uninspiring.
It was a relatively subdued start, but after a 15-minute or so pause, the tides turned with the arrival of the next cake stand adorned with beautifully-creative pastries that were a true artistic masterpiece and almost a shame to break apart.
On the upper tier sat glowing green Christmas tree sugar work with different coloured sprinkles to decorate one side of the triangular-shaped fruit cake. Working our way down to level two, and we were greeted by the tangerine and cinnamon baubles with a shiny red glaze and chocolate antlers – a take on Rudolph, and with a chocolate mousse-like centre inside the jelly shell. This is where Verónica Garrido Martínez and her team showed their expertise and ability to create something utterly magnificent.
Sitting next to the baubles was the chestnut Mont Blanc choux, which equally boasted a nice soft centre with a biscuit base and some small meringues and sweet vermicelli as a garnish.
Heading to the bottom tier, and this was furnished with white pumpkin and gingerbread polar bear spheres, composed of a light brown interior and a crunchy biscuit base. Eye-catching and with a nice combination of flavours to match, the concept had been perfectly executed. My only criticism would be that all the aforementioned pastries were a little too generous in size, and nearly a course in themselves, rather than being small and intricate, meaning they couldn’t be enjoyed without having to work for the experience.
A tip here is to go halves with a guest to leave room for the freshly-baked plain and raisin scones, with the remainder to be enjoyed at home at your leisure – something the table next door duly did. On the subject of scones, they were rich in taste, but the apple and spiced cranberry were more like a coulis or a sauce, so it was a little too sour for our liking when sitting on some thick clotted Cornish cream and the sweet pastry.
So, what’s our verdict?
For festive flavours galore, afternoon tea at Great Scotland Yard Hotel brings the brilliance of fragrance to the fore with pastries that are both impressive to look at and sample. Although the Festive Afternoon Tea does have its foibles and is by no means perfect in its delivery, it is still nevertheless an enjoyable way to reflect on the year gone by and gives the means to relax with friends and family in luxurious surroundings during the closing weeks of 2022.
Where and How?
Great Scotland Yard Hotel is located at 3-5 Great Scotland Yard, London SW1A 2HN, United Kingdom. The Festive Afternoon Tea can be booked online at www.greatscotlandyard.com or by calling +44 (0)207 9254 700.
Prices start at £59 per person for a standard booking and £70 a head when adding champagne. The Festive Afternoon Tea is available seven days a week until 2nd January 2023. You can see more pictures of the Festive Afternoon Tea on the Luxurious Magazine Instagram page.
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