Category Archives: Afternoon tea

Chocolate Unwrapped in Mayfair

Sampling some of the world’s finest chocolate in Mayfair sounded like a glorious way to spend a Sunday afternoon, so I headed down to the May Fair Hotel for Chocolate Unwrapped, the first show dedicated solely to delicious cocoa goodness.  It was like entering Marie-Antoinette’s boudoir, with an intoxicating scent of chocolate and tables laden with exquisite morsels and pretty, shiny wrappers – I was in heaven!

chocolate festival

Part of the UK’s Chocolate Week, Chocolate Uncovered featured exhibits from 25 of the country’s most respected and innovative chocolatiers and talks from Rococo founder Chantal Coady, the MD of Hotel Chocolat and Visit Mexico.  Samples were unlimited and plentiful and aside from atempting a full-on sugar coma, you could peruse dessert cookery books from Foyles and admire the incredible chocolate sculptures by renowned artists and chocolatiers.

I adored Rococo’s fragrant earl grey and rose scented chocolate bars, Paul Wayne Gregory’s salted caramels, Pacari’s cocoa nibs and Paul A. Young’s gooey ultimate chocolate fudge brownies.

Chocolate dress

Being the geek that I am, I had to make it an educational trip, so I attended the talk given by Visit Mexico and the co-founder of the authenic Mexican restaurant Mestizo, on the history of chocolate and its importance in Mexican cuisine.

I discovered that cocoa was drunk by the ancient civilisations of Central America, including the Aztec and Maya communities from as early as 2000BC.  It was taken back to the court of Spain in 1527AD and eventually reached England in the 1650s and, like gin, was used for medicinal purposes.

But the main part of the talk was the celebratory role that chocolate plays in Mexican culture – chocolate skulls are exchanged like Valentine’s roses on the Day of the Dead and mole (pronounced ‘molay’) is laboriously prepared for weddings, funerals and religious holidays.

mole

Mole is an aromatic sauce that usually accompanies different kinds of meat and is created using a blend of onion, garlic, tomatilla, dried chilli, nuts, seeds, spices and of course, chocolate.  There are many different kinds of mole originating from various regions in Mexico, all with different colours and flavours.

We sampled the brown Mole Poblano, slow-roasted with chicken and it was one of the most complex, flavoursome sauces I’ve ever tasted.  It reminds me a lot of my favourite Iranian dish, Fesen Joon – a textured sauce made from ground walnuts and pomegranate molasses and served with chicken.

Chocolate Unwrapped’s chocolatiers will be hosting a series of talks, tasting sessions and demonstrations around London for Chocolate Week.  There will be also chocolate-themed afternoon teas and set menus at selected restaurants as part of London Restaurant Festival.

Chocolate Week runs from 12-18 October and events will be held at venues across London.  Check out  www.chocolate-week.co.uk for more details.

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Afternoon tea at Yauatcha

Earlier this week, the lovely Sheena Appadoo from Aramis invited me for afternoon tea at Yauatcha.  Sheena keeps me in delightful scents and replaced my summer daily staple of DKNY Be Delicious Fresh Blossom with the richer, Autumnal DKNY Women limited edition scent in gold and bright purple – I’m addicted already!

Back to Yauatcha, I’d already tried the macaroons from their patisserie and my favourite is the champagne flavour embellished with goldleaf, but I was excited to sample ‘the full works’ in the tea room. 

Yauatcha

The michelin starred dim sum restaurant and tea house, created by Alan Yau (he who launched Wagamama and Hakkasan) looks more like a boutique from the outside and is an oasis of calm with low seating, blossom-embroidered banquettes and blue-tinted facades half concealing the kitchen.

There are three types of afternoon tea available and we ordered the Oriental Afternoon Tea for one (£24.50) to share, which comes with a selection of dim sum instead of sandwiches.  I chose a pot of Darjeeling First Flush from a huge range of teas including blue, green, black and white tea.

 The dim sum selection included a baked venison puff, char sui bun and scallop siu mai – the former two were tasty but unusually sweet. I’m always more excited about the cakes and they didn’t disappoint!  There was a layer of sweet sandwiches – a bright pink rasberry and lychee jelly filling packed between layers of fine sponge and one with vanilla sponge and bitter chocolate ganache.

Yauatcha

The top layer resembled a mini version of the patisserie counter and included a rich chocolate macaroon, a lemon and cola tartlet, chocolate chip marshmallow, chocolate financier, a piece of shortbread and a shot of apple and kiwi mousse.

Just as I had worked my way through the sugary layers, then came two mountainous scones (one Matcha green tea flavoured and one plain) with a tray full of oriental jams and mascarpone cream – I was defeated!  From other reviews, I’ve discovered that had we managed to wolf these down too, there were still flavoured marshmallows, mini chocolate slabs and truffles to come!

The service was unobtrusive and we were served at a steady pace, although this should be the case, as we went on a quiet weekday afternoon.

Yauatcha

The only criticism is that they won’t box up the left items to take away, due to ‘health and safety’.   At many afternoon tea establishments like Pret-a-Portea at The Berkeley, they package up what you can’t eat for you to munch on at home. It’s no biggie though, just take a paper napkin with you and drop a scone or two into your handbag, in case you get peckish on the bus.

You can of course go to Yauatcha for a simple pot of tea and a cake from the patisserie, but the Oriental Afternoon Tea is perfect for sampling a little bit of everything in exquisite surroundings and believe me, it’s more than worth it!

Yauatcha, 15-17 Broadwick Street, Soho, London W1F 0DL

Yauatcha on Urbanspoon

Extreme ice cream!

Selfridges is a regular stop on my lunchtime route when I’m at work – in the name of fashion features research, but more just to admire the food hall and add to new jewels and gadgets to my Wonder Room wishlist.

So, with an hour or two to languish away, I headed down the Ultra Lounge to sample the finest ice cream available to humanity at The Icecreamists’ punk-luxe, guerilla ice cream installation.

Icecreamists

The Icecreamists have reclaimed ice cream from weepy, Bridget Jones drudgery and made it seriously sexy, with decadent flavours and extravagant frozen cocktails in a luxurious boutique parlour.  The ‘installation’ is decked out like the backstage area of the ultimate glam rock concert with black PVC sofas, a silver banqueting table and small stage with splashes of hot pink.  The decor gives a nod to Stephen Sprouse’s punky neon graffiti and there is even a souped up icecream van driven by HRH herself!

Icecreamists

We tried a scoop of the Axl Rose-Water ice cream – a pastel pink concoction of rose water, vanilla and dried rose petals.  The ice cream is based on traditional artisan gelato methods, using less fat and less air than American versions, making it smoother, healthier and more flavoursome.

The flavours are classics remixed with crazy names like Obamarama (milk chocolate, funnily enough), Gingiana Jones (Asian spiced ginger), Glastonberry and The Molotoffee Cocktail.  They’re not cheap at £4.99 a tub, but it was the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted, out of Italy, anyway!

But if you want more Heston Blumenthal-style molecular bells and whistles, there’s God Save the Cream – a cryogenic ‘reverse’ flambee cocktail created at your table and served at a ridiculously cold -196 degrees.  Or, save your lips from frostbite with the Sex Pistol ice cream cocktail that promises to get you going with natural stimulants, absinthe ice cream and a shot of absinthe in a pink water pistol.

Ice cream

There’s scheduled live music from opera singers to girl bands and rock boys, so check out The Icecreamists’ Facebook page for more info.

For a better idea of the…ahem, ‘atmosphere’ of the installation, watch models Tolula Adeyemi and Mel Rose’s informative guide, directed by Pussy Glamore’s Marissa Montgomery.  Well, it’s just them getting all sticky and creamy, but why not, ice cream is sexy now, after all!

The Icecreamists’ God Save the Cream installation is open now until 1 November at Selfridges.

London’s best cupcakes?

London is literally flooded with cupcakes and the flavours of the month are becoming more and more elaborate, but Hummingbird Bakery is the original and, in my opinion, the best.

Hummingbird Bakery is more of a cupcake boutique than a mere bakery, bringing American home-baked goodness to Portobello Road and South Kensington.  Cupcakes are kept simple in either vanilla or chocolate with a variety of frosting and sprinkles and of course, the famous Red Velvet – a deep red vanilla sponge with cream cheese frosting.

Hummingbird Bakery

If you’re after an even bigger sugar high, go for a slice of  devil’s food cake, a frosted brownie or order a mississippi mud pie to take home.

You can be assured of the Hummingbird’s amazingness by the permanent queue outside of the Notting Hill store.  My most memorable visit was arriving at 5.15pm, being honoured as ‘the last customer’, which almost caused a riot behind me, and then having my box filled with a few extra complimentary cupcakes – magic or what!

Hummingbird cakes

I was recently given the Hummingbird Bakery cook book and while my first attempt at cupcakes resembled oversized sugary rocks, my mum’s efforts were pretty close to the mark. So, the recipies are admittedly spot on and my rather bohemian disregard of measurements needs to be reconsidered!  Note to self: become a master baker by the end of the year.

Hummingbird Bakery, 47 Old Brompton Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 3JP
133 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London, W11 2DY