The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea at the InterContinental London Park Lane

Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane. Wellington Lounge.Musical note On the first day of Christmas Musical notemy true love gave to me Musical note a partridge in a pear tree ~ in the form of a partridge pie, washed down with a whiskey/pear/Champagne cocktail. Intrigued? I hope so, because I am about to tell you about a most fantastic Christmas Afternoon Tea in London.

In the past week alone, both Mr. Tea and I have been approached by people seeking a recommendation for Afternoon Tea in London. Without hesitation, we suggested (as we always do) the InterContinental London Park Lane. No surprise there, for readers of this blog already know how impressed I am with the service and tea food at the InterContinental, and I was very excited recently to be invited in to try their Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. And, once again, the experience was flawless.

The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea

The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea at the InterContinental London Park Lane is the perfect holiday indulgence. The only non-indulgent thing about it is the price.

Executive Chef Paul Bates is a master at creating and crafting a sophisticated themed Afternoon Tea (check out the Wellington Afternoon Tea) and his Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea, based on the English Christmas carol, is an absolute delight!

Eleven Pipers Piping
It is, after all, the season to be merry, so what better way to start a Christmas Afternoon Tea in London than with a tall, elegant flute filled with good cheer and topped with a sprig of decorative winter holly.

The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea begins with a festive cocktail of Champagne very subtly flavoured with Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or Highland Single Malt Scotch Whiskey and Xanta Pear Liqueur (a nod to the pear tree where that partridge is hiding).

You may be asking yourself, as Mr. Tea and I did, “Whiskey and Champagne?” Trust me, it works and it works fabulously well. Splendid!

P.S. I like to think of the effervescent Champers bubbles as Nine Ladies Dancing:

Festive Champagne Cocktail. The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane Wellington Lounge.

Partridge in a Pear Tree
Once all those pipers and dancing ladies have left the tea table, it is time for some of the rest of the pressies from your true love, and they arrive on a 3-tier server. The gift giving begins with a Mountbatten Estate partridge and morel mushroom pie. The melt-in-your mouth pastry was flaky and buttery, and the warm filling was rich and savory. A starter like this is perfect for a winter’s day Afternoon Tea:

Mountbatten Estate partridge and morel mushroom pie.The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane. Wellington Lounge.

Tea Sandwiches

The tea sandwiches in The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea have been cleverly devised.  To make the most of all those lovely flavours found in tea sandwiches, it is best to eat them in order from mildest to strongest, and it did not escape me that the tea sandwiches here were plated in just that order. It is precisely little things like this that set Afternoon Tea at the InterContinental London Park Lane apart:

Tea Sandwiches. The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane. Wellington Lounge.
Three French Hens
The sandwich course begins with a French hens egg mayonnaise and cucumber in wholemeal bread sandwich. The light, delicate egg mayonnaise was a nice contrast to the crunch of the thinly sliced (but not too thin) cucumber.
Two Turtle Doves
A squab and wood pigeon white bread sandwich is next. I had never eaten squab or wood pigeon before, and found it reminiscent of chicken – but with much more complexity and flavour. It was really, really good and now I wish I had ordered seconds! (Seconds are encouraged by the Intercontinental at teatime.)
Ten Lords a-Leaping
No Afternoon Tea is complete without a salmon sandwich, and The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea version is a Speyside Scottish salmon with ‘Lord of the Hundreds’ cheese in granary bread sandwich. The combination is lovely, the salmon being nicely lifted by the strong, almost Parmesan-tasting cheese. (The unusual name of this cheese, which is made in a village dairy in Sussex, refers to tax collectors who worked on behalf of the local Lords who, during Saxon times, would oversee a region consisting of 100 Shires.)

 

Desserts

Your true love has definitely saved the best gifts for last:

Desserts. The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane. Wellington Lounge.Twelve Drummers Drumming
Dark chocolate torte drum, rolled in crushed walnuts and complete with mini drumsticks:
Dark Chocolate Torte Drum. The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane. Wellington Lounge.Eight Maids a-Milking
A three-milk flan, cranberry and mandarin compote:
Three-Milk Cranberry and Mandarin Flan. The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane. Wellington Lounge.Seven Swans a-Swimming
Swan shaped choux bun filled with Strawberry Chantilly and sprinkled with air dried raspberry:
Strawberry-filled Swan-shaped Choux Buns with air-dried Raspberry. The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane. Wellington Lounge
Five Golden Rings
Treacle tart decorated with gold leaf and topped with a sugar-spun spiral of five rings:

Treacle Tart with Gold Leaf and Five Gold Rings.The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane. Wellington Lounge.

Tea and Scones

We did of course also have [numerous!] pots of tea, and scones.

The tea menu at InterContinental London Park Lane is extensive, but we opted for their Wellington Blend tea because we fell in love with it during our last visit and, well, there was just no question about not having it again. It’s a delicious blend of Assam, China Black, and Earl Grey tea, softened by English cornflowers and mallow blossoms.

The scones, warm and homemade, are served with Devonshire clotted cream and Chef Bates’ renowned Kentish strawberry jam. I am so glad that they continue to use this particular scone recipe. These scones are flawless, the best I have ever had. Anywhere. You can read why I think these are the best scones in London.

 

Service with a smile

As with the last time we visited, the service we received throughout the tea was impeccable. This time, it was the lovely Indre taking care of us. She was warm, friendly and super-efficient and not only explained the nuances of the food to us, but also kept us updated on what was coming up next. She kept us happy with fresh pots of tea, and provided clean plates between some of the courses. She knew the details of everything, from beverage to the food, and although she had other patrons to look after, managed to make us feel as if we were the only ones in the room. Thank you, Indre – it was lovely meeting and speaking with you!

Team leader Linesh also stopped by our table to say hello and check on us. He, too, was so nice and took time out to explain the creative process behind the crafting of this themed tea. It was very interesting. Pleasure to meet you, Linesh.

 

Conclusion

The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea at InterContinental London Park Lane is an exceptionally superior Christmas Afternoon Tea. Food presentation, taste and quality; service; value for money; atmosphere – it simply cannot be beat.

I highly recommend this tea during the holiday season, and urge you to make a reservation as soon as you can. (You could even make it an extra special holiday afternoon by walking over to the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park after you finish with tea, which is what we did.)

 

Booking details

The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea InterContinental London Park Lane is available 1pm to 5pm, seven days a week between 29th November 2013 to 6th January 2014. The price is £38 per person. It could be the best £38 you will spend this Christmas.

Denise LeCroy. The Tea in England blog. The Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea. Intercontinental London Park Lane. Wellington Lounge

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10 reasons why the Wellington Afternoon Tea could be London’s #1 Afternoon Tea

Wellington Afternoon Tea InterContinental Park Lane LondonThe tradition of Afternoon Tea began in England and the English certainly know how to do it and how to do it right. At every top London hotel that serves Afternoon Tea, the ambience, the tea and the tea food is excellent, a few perhaps marginally better than others.

If beautiful surroundings, excellent tea and delicious tea food form the baseline for Afternoon Tea at every top hotel in London, then what are the factors that would make one Afternoon Tea stand above all the others?

Red question mark

I found myself pondering that question after an Afternoon Tea I experienced last week-end. It was the Wellington Afternoon Tea at InterContinental Park Lane London. And it was the best Afternoon Tea I have yet ever had.  (You can read about it here.)

It was easy to identify the things that made it so special, so here is my list of 10 reasons why the Wellington Afternoon Tea in London stands out above the others:

 

Teacup image with the number 10 in itA take-away box Yes, it’s a simple gesture, but it’s one of those little things that make you feel  pampered. It’s like your own miniature tea hamper and it’s a lovely way to extend the tea experience once you’re back home. Here’s a picture of the Wellington Afternoon Tea take-away box that I brought home with me.

 

 

 

 

Teacup image with the number 9 in itOffering tea for purchase There’s nothing worse for a tea enthusiast than discovering a fabulous tea, then not being able to source it. The Wellington Blend is one of two special teas created exclusively for the Wellington Lounge by London’s Tea Palace. You won’t be able to buy it at the Tea Palace – but you can buy it at the hotel shop.

 

 

 

Teacup image with the number 8 in itHonouring Afternoon Tea The InterContinental Park Lane London is mainly a business hotel, and has offered Afternoon Tea for a while. Two years ago some changes took place and they set out to turn their existing Afternoon Tea into something exceptional. They have succeeded, and to me this shows that they honour and value the tradition of Afternoon Tea.

 

 

 

Teacup image with the number 7 in itThe well-researched theme If you read my review of this tea you will know that I love a themed Afternoon Tea, but many of them go no further than coming up with clever names for the food. There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s fun – but the Wellington Afternoon Tea had real substance behind its theme. Chef Paul Bates must also be a history major to have masterminded a tea sandwich using Spanish Monroyo ham and Monte Enebro cheese – ingredients that are a nod to the Duke of Wellington’s 6-year campaign in Spain. It’s served on potato bread, too – a cheeky reminder that England’s beloved military hero was actually born in Dublin. And that’s just one example of the level of thought that went into the creation of this tea menu.

 

 

Teacup image with the number 6 in it Presentation In a quest to be different, I suppose, I have noticed a growing number of variances in the way that Afternoon Tea is literally being served at table. The last time I had tea at a certain world-renowned London location, an empty plate remained on the tea stand until later replaced with a plate of warm scones . That just didn’t look right, and it just didn’t feel right. At the Wellington Afternoon Tea, I loved the fact that the 3-tiered tea stand arrived at the table filled with food, and that the tea guest chooses when to have the warm scones brought to table. I also really liked that they offer a signature sandwich, and a signature dessert. This allows  those two items in particular to periodically change so as to take advantage of seasonal foods and holidays.

 

 

Teacup image with the number 5 in itTea knowledge The level of understanding and knowledge that our waiter Mohammed had about Afternoon Tea and the tea beverage was incredible. It wasn’t a scripted, rote familiarity but a genuine grasp of what tea is all about. For a tea enthusiast like me, it was a real treat. But for someone who may be new to Afternoon Tea, this kind of guidance and expertise would be priceless.

 

 

 

Teacup image with the number 4 in itValue When I think back to tea last week-end and re-live it through my blog post and pictures, I remain amazed that the cost is only £28. The food alone is worth that price, but add in the level of service and all the other amenities that make up this tea experience and it simply has to be the best Afternoon Tea value in London. Try it for yourself and see if you don’t agree.

 

 

 

Teacup image with the number 3 in itTiming Several minutes after each fresh pot of tea was delivered to our table, Mohammed would return to subtly remove the small infuser basket from the pot. His timing was spot on and the first time he did it, he explained why it was being done. Seasoned tea drinkers know it’s so the brew doesn’t become too strong, but persons new to tea drinking will find the procedure fascinating and perhaps not even realise that they have just been given a very important lesson in the art of making tea. Proof again that Afternoon Tea at Wellington Lounge is about so much more than just eating tea sandwiches and drinking tea. It is about honouring and respecting a tradition that is such an important part of the fabric of English life.

 

 

Teacup image with the number 2 in itTraining  By now it should be apparent to you that Afternoon Tea at Wellington Lounge is taken very seriously by those in charge. They live and breathe it and one of the ways they do that is through a unique training programme that, among other things, allows staff members to go out and experience Afternoon Tea for themselves at different venues in London. What better way for them to see firsthand what works and what doesn’t work at tea, and what a great opportunity to observe the good and not so good tea services currently practiced in and around London. I applaud this kind of diligence, and am very impressed with the results as the entire team at Wellington Lounge personify professionalism at its best.

 

 

Teacup image with the number 1 in it Customer service I have given you nine reasons why the Afternoon Tea at Wellington Lounge stands out among the others in London, but here’s one more and it’s the number one reason: our waiter, Mohammed. From beginning to end, he was friendly, knowledgeable, efficient, professional (yet relaxed) and his timing (on everything from tea brewing to knowing just when to check in with us) was impeccable. He was easy to talk to and very adept at being able to anticipate our needs. I’m sure that the entire team are trained to this high standard, but if you ever have Afternoon Tea at Wellington Lounge, Intercontinental Park Lane London, be sure you ask for Mohammed.  He will treat you like royalty, and you will leave feeling very special indeed. And to Mohammed: Thank you!

 

 

 

 

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The Wellington Afternoon Tea – Flawless and Fit for a Duke

Wellington Afternoon Tea at the Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

As a tea enthusiast who has over the years enjoyed many an Afternoon Tea, I have by now developed a keen awareness of what I love in an Afternoon Tea – and one thing I love is a themed tea. Whilst there are indeed a few elemental things that every Afternoon Tea should contain, the ‘art’ of Afternoon Tea crys out for personalisation and creativity, and nowhere can this be better personified than in a themed Afternoon Tea.

Today I want to tell you about a themed tea that has surpassed all others I have ever had. It is the Wellington Afternoon Tea at Wellington Lounge, InterContinental London Park Lane. And it is in one word, flawless.

 

Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Readers of this blog learned in my post about Apsley House that British military hero and twice Prime Minister Arthur Wellesley, a/k/a the 1st Duke of Wellington, was quite the tea drinker. He travelled extensively through India and Europe on his campaigns, drinking tea and enjoying exotic food. With a taste of his exploration subtly woven throughout, the Wellington Afternoon Tea honours the Duke by using the best of British ingredients infused with influences from his international destinations.

Talk about the art of tea!

 

The Wellington Afternoon Tea

 

Surroundings

With just the right balance of light and space, the ambience in Wellington Lounge is magnificent – sophisticated elegance, yet comfortably informal.

Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane LondonAfternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

I love the view out the window across to Wellington Arch:

Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Table Setting

The exotic green Anthuriums on the tea tables in Wellington Lounge are quite handsome and immediately evoke a sense of the Duke’s worldly wanderings.

The Wellington Lounge tea ware is striking. Its silver geometric design is a fresh change from what you normally see used at tea.

Wellington Afternoon Tea Wellington Lounge InterContinental London Park Lane

Tea Beverage

The extensive Wellington Lounge tea menu offers tried and true favourites, unusual teas, and a few exclusive house blends created through a collaboration between Executive Chef Paul Bates and the London emporium Tea Palace.

For our tea, we opted for their bespoke Wellington Blend, ‘a blend that embraces the spirit of a wonderful English tea. A balance of Assam, China Black tea, Earl Grey and softened by English cornflowers and mallow blossoms.’   It was outstanding – bright and full-flavoured with a gorgeous aroma.  Mr. Tea declared it the best tea he ever had! This from an Englishman. Need I say more? (We even brought a tin home with us. It can be purchased at the hotel shop.)

 

The Wellington Tea Blend Tea at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Tea Service

The Wellington Afternoon Tea is served in the traditional style – with a bit of a twist. The tea stand is brought to the table and displays tea sandwiches on the bottom tier, sweets on the middle tier, and a crowning glory signature dessert on the top tier. The ‘twist’ is a distinctive, independently presented tea sandwich served at the start of the tea.

 

Wellington Afternoon Tea, Wellington Lounge at Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

The Twist

Do you remember my saying how a themed tea crys out for personalisation and creativity? The unique, stand-alone tea sandwich served at the start of the Wellington Afternoon Tea is a perfect illustration of what I mean. Made with Spanish Monroyo ham and Monte Enebro cheese, the ingredients are a nod to the Duke of Wellington’s 6-year campaign in Spain. And it’s served on potato bread – a cheeky reminder that England’s beloved military hero was actually born in Dublin. Well done, Chef!

Spanish Monroyo Ham, Fig, and Monte Enebro Cheese on Potato Bread:

Spanish Monroyo Ham, Fig, and Monte Enebro Cheese on Potato Bread Tea Sandwich at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Tea Sandwiches

The Wellington theme continues with the Duke’s local association reflected in a Chilled Sirloin of Gloucestershire Beef with horseradish sandwich, served alongside an anything-but-boring Hen and Duck Egg mayonnaise sandwich with celery cress on brown bread. And thanks to the Portuguese Sardine with sherry vinegar and honey dressing sandwich, we’ll never forget Wellington’s protection of Portugal from the French army.  Who says history can’t be fun? (And delicious.)

Additional sandwiches are offered, should you desire. The sardine sandwich was so good, I asked for another. Up until then, I had never eaten a sardine in my life and wasn’t particularly worried about it either, but this sandwich was luscious.

 

8 Tea Sandwiches at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Scones

I appreciated that at the beginning of the tea service, our waiter Mohammed (more about him on Friday – a fabulous individual) gave us the option of choosing when to have warm scones brought to the table. This little nugget of information ensures that the customer is served fresh, warm scones precisely when they want them, and that is exactly what happened when the plate of homemade Sultana scones and Buttermilk scones arrived as requested. Generous scoops of clotted cream and strawberry preserve rounded out the interlude, one that is paramount to every proper English Afternoon Tea experience.

The scones were just the way I like them: light and soft on the inside, with a hint of delicate crunch on the outside. It’s my opinion that the hallmarks of a perfect scone (besides taste and appearance) are a good rise; a substantial yet light density; and the presence of a natural break line in the middle allowing it to be gently pulled apart in half.  These scones ticked all the boxes.

 

11 Sultana and Buttermilk Scones with Devon Clotted Cream and Strawberry Preserve at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Sweets

You’re full already, aren’t you? I know! But who can resist cakes at tea time?

In his duties as a military and political leader, the Duke of Wellington spent time in the Netherlands, India, Spain, Portugal, France, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, England and Ireland. The final course of the Wellington Afternoon Tea salutes his global travels with exquisite sweets of Blackberry and Vanilla sponge Bavarois, Coconut tart with Pistachio confetti, Gateau ‘Basque’ with comfiture of black cherries, and Raspberry Meringue with vanilla cream.

Do not let the 2-bite size of these little gems fool you – each one packs a flavour punch that will literally curl your lips with satisfaction.

My favourite was the meringue, whilst Mr. Tea preferred the coconut tart with its shards of fresh, sweet coconut.

 

9 Sweets, Cakes and Pastries at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Waterloo

It all began when the Duke of Wellington was taking care of business in Vienna and Napoleon decided to take care of unfinished business in France by escaping from Elba – so what Wellington themed Afternoon Tea would be complete without a worldly cake offering of the Sachertorte, Austria’s famous chocolate torte. This was my first Sachertorte. The chocoholic in me is saying that it won’t be my last. Read here about the interesting history of the Sachertorte.

Sachertorte:

10 Sachertorte at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Remains of the Day

Even after all these years of Afternoon Tea-ing, it still surprises me how filling tea food can be. The experts at Wellington Lounge know this, and will be happy to box up any leftovers so you can continue the experience later on at home with your own cup of tea.

12 Takeaway Box of Extras at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Conclusion and Recommendation

The Wellington Afternoon Tea at Wellington Lounge InterContinental London Park Lane is from all perspectives the best Afternoon Tea I have ever experienced. There are a number of reasons for this and I’ll be telling you about them on Friday, but in the meantime I strongly encourage you to book in and see for yourself.  You will be treated to beautiful surroundings, delicious food, impeccable service, and unparalleled value. An adventure the Duke of Wellington himself would have enjoyed.

Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane LondonHow to Book the Wellington Afternoon Tea

 

Served Monday to Saturday from 1pm to 5pm, the Wellington Afternoon Tea at Wellington Lounge is priced from £28

Bookings are essential and can be made by ringing +44(0)207.409.3131

InterContinental London Park Lane – One Hamilton Place – Park Lane – London – W1J 7QY

 

 

 

 

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