Afternoon Tea at the Halkin in Knightsbridge
Traditional with a twist of extravagance is the fingerprint of the Halkin. Set back from the bustle of Belgravia, visitors are met with classically styled architecture with a tasteful contemporary flourish. This modern edge to traditional surroundings in turn reflects the food itself.
The Halkin Afternoon Tea is an affordable taste of luxury at £28, or £38 with a glass of Louis Roederer Brut Premier champagne. The relaxed and comfortable service put us at ease, and we were presented with a charming reading of specially commissioned poetry from “Britain’s Tea Poet” Elizabeth Darcy Jones, whose book Distinguished Leaves is currently storming on the tea-centric poetry scene.
The afternoon spread comprised an array of traditional petit fours, fruited and plain mini scones with jam and cream, and the customary range of afternoon sandwiches, each with an up-to-date luxury embellishment.
The quartet of crustless sandwiches added jalapeño and salmon roe (the same vivid orange globes that top Japanese ikura) to smoked salmon and cream cheese. Fresh chives adorned baby cucumber and cream cheese; corn-fed chicken was spiced with turmeric; king prawns and watercress lifted the modest prawn cocktail to a fine dining experience. A puzzling, less positive factor of the afternoon was the dryness of the sandwiches, which seemed to have been left uncovered before service.
Petit fours were presented on contemporary ceramic ware in three tiers, with enough selection for the adventurous palette. Mini lemon meringue tartlets – soft meringue topped with gold leaf flourishes – were pieces of art in themselves. Tiramisu-inspired multi-layered Opera was a creamy delight, followed by crisp, cream-coloured macaroons with raspberries, individually filled with a delicious passion fruit purée. The universal favourite was the chocolate brownie – dense, rich and bursting with whole pistachios.
The most vital component of the afternoon – the tea – was presented by JING, an entrepreneurial venture launched by Edward Eisler, now suppliers to five star hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants. There were tasters of three of their finest floral teas in double-insulated fine glassware. Divine and delicate, the best of the trio was the white peony; warm and robust yet light in flavour. It was followed by the fruity, floral, toasted flavours of Taiwan Jade and delicate greens of the jasmine pearl. A clean and rich-tasting black afternoon tea also accompanied the spread, although a menu of full pots would have been preferred to testers, and more suited to tea of this standard.
Presentation was otherwise exquisite, and serving sizes deceptively generous. Clotted cream was topped with pansy petals, strawberry jam was infused with honey (though slightly too sweet for some tastes). The mango sauce-topped mascarpone mousse “brew” was a pleasant addition, along with strawberry compote adorned with chocolate-dipped physalis, which could have been enhanced only by the addition of a fruity liqueur.
Despite some small imperfections, Afternoon Tea at the Halkin is a treat for both tea and cake lovers, offering a fresh twist on the traditional in both taste and style.
The Halkin: 47/60
Photos: Anjelica Johansson
To book a table at The Halkin, Halkin Street, London SW1X 7DJ, call 020 7333 1234 or visit here.