The British culinary tradition gets a creative makeover with the Art Afternoon Tea at the Rosewood London, inspired by the capital’s finest galleries and exhibitions
What’s the background?
Executive pastry chef Mark Perkins has looked to the capital’s vibrant contemporary art scene for the inspiration behind this themed afternoon tea. Basing each pastry on an iconic work by a famous artist currently represented in London’s galleries and exhibitions, the Art Afternoon Tea goes beyond mere gimmickry, with each creation a work of art in itself. Current muses include Yayoi Kusama, Banksy, Damien Hirst, Mark Rothko and Alexander Calder, with each figure’s distinctive visual style lending itself well to being interpreted in pastry form.
While afternoon tea should always be a refined affair, I do find that sometimes it errs on the stuffy. There’s no danger of this at the Rosewood. The hotel is one of my favourites in the city because it manages to be both luxurious and non-pretentious at the same time, feeling like a true special occasion while also being a welcoming and relaxing environment. The afternoon tea itself is held in the spectacular Mirror Room, which also offers an all-day dining menu.
Also worth a particular mention is the fabulous staff here. My visit was to celebrate a special occasion (although we didn’t let on until the end), and we were extremely well looked after. Our waiter had a great knowledge of the menu, explaining the inspirations behind the cakes, and had mastered the perfect balance of attentiveness and privacy. Nothing was too much trouble, and we were constantly offered refreshed rounds of tea, sandwiches and everything in between.
What’s on offer?
The sandwiches are kept fairly classic, but well done. The winners amongst my group were the Le Madru Ham, comte and wholegrain mustard, and the coronation chicken (both of which we requested extra of for the second round!). This was followed by the nice, and unexpected, addition of a palate cleanser before moving onto the scones. While the perfect precursor, the main reason to visit here is undoubtedly the petit gateaux.
Speaking purely visually, it is certainly one of the most interesting and exciting afternoon teas I’ve been served, and the care that had gone into the creation and the production of each cake was clear to see. Often with high-concept desserts the aesthetics can outweigh the taste, but I was relieved this didn’t apply here. I have a weakness for cherry and the ‘Alexander Calder’ really hit the spot, with a beautiful cherry jelly paired with a pistachio sponge and bavarois and encased in chocolate. Another standout was the ‘Damien Hirst’, a white chocolate tart, the sweetness cut through with a yuzu curd that sits atop a buttery, melt-in-the-mouth pastry base. When packaging up leftovers, they even kindly slipped a couple extra of these into the box to be devoured at home later that evening.
What’s the damage?
Priced at £50, and £60 with a glass of R de Ruinart, it’s on a par with other high-end establishments. The Rosewood definitely pulls out the stops to just as large an extent as some of the other more traditional establishments, and I wouldn’t hesitate to rank this tea up there with the very best. The Art Afternoon Tea idea suits the contemporary atmosphere of the hotel perfectly, and creates a real point of difference to its competition. I believe they will soon be carrying on the concept into a new menu, in which case I’ll be first in line.
Art Afternoon Tea at Rosewood London, 252 High Holborn, London, WC1V 7EN; rosewoodhotels.com