One of the main things that people seem to know about me is that I like tea. And cake. I like it even better when they’re combined. Barely a Christmas goes past when I don’t receive a teapot, a new china cup, a cake stand or a selection of posh teas, and I couldn’t be more pleased about it. The person who knows this more than anyone is of course my Lewis, who spends a good portion of the evening making me cups of tea – so I was delighted at his suggestion of a fancy afternoon tea on Valentines’ Day!
We did some extensive research on great places to indulge in London, and while of course Claridges and Fortnum & Mason were near the top of the list, their waiting lists were acres long. One of the places that came out near the top was The Halkin, in Belgravia, so we eagerly booked our table and prepared for a lavish-sounding lunch.
The Halkin is located down a small street in the heart of Belgravia, surrounded by embassies and heritage buildings, you certainly feel as if you’re headed somewhere special when you arrive. The hotel frontage was lined with fairy-lit trees, which brightened up the dull February weather, and looked very elegant. When we got inside, we were quite surprised to find that the afternoon tea is served in the bar area, instead of a dedicated tearoom, but it was so elegantly designed that we didn’t really mind. Even more surprisingly, there was only one other couple there for afternoon tea, so we felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. The staff were super attentive and so polite, it really felt like a five-star service.
We started the tea with a perusal of the drinks menu; it was an extensive list of coffees and speciality teas but we still settled for our favourites – cappuccino for him, breakfast tea for me. Once we were served our drinks, we were presented with a silver tray full of finger sandwiches. I’m normally so picky with savoury foods but these were delicious; plump, juicy king prawns, silky pink salmon with caviar, spicy turmeric chicken and refreshing cucumber and chive. The staff were happy to serve us seconds of anything we wanted without an additional charge, so we ordered a second tray of sandwiches and demolished those too – why not?
Finally, it was time for the big event – the sweet section! The staff brought over a very tall cake platter, piled with treats, as well as more tea and coffee. We barely knew where to start. There were mini plain and fruit scones, two each, with dishes of Tiptree strawberry jam and indulgent Cornish clotted cream, which we happily dived into. Then we tried the intriguing shot-glass trifles in front of us, which I was really unsure of. It was strawberry compote with passion fruit seeds and mascarpone cream (something I would never order), but it was so delicious! I could have eaten both of our servings quite easily… And then we got started on the real stuff.
We started with a raspberry and passionfruit macaron, again something I wouldn’t choose, but it was pretty good. I probably wouldn’t choose it again but it was nice enough. Maybe I’m just not that big a macaron fan after all. Then we dug into a lavish coffee and chocolate opera cake, which was so indulgent and so, so rich. I wasn’t sure I could eat anything else but I certainly wasn’t giving up lightly, not with two more treats left to go for. To lighten up a bit, we tried mini lemon meringue pies, with a sour-sweet, sharp lemon filling and super-sugary, marshmallowy meringue on top, surrounded by crisp pastry – definitely something I’m going to attempt to recreate at home! In my opinion, we left the best until last, with a pistachio chocolate brownie. It was so delicious I’m not sure I can do it justice; chewy, gooey, rich brownie studded with jewel-like pistachios, topped with firm white chocolate cream. Unbelievably good, and the perfect way to finish a gorgeous tea.
All in all, I absolutely loved this experience and would recommend The Halkin to everybody looking for a relaxing but sophisticated afternoon tea. Every aspect of the food was well-thought out and incredibly well-made, and the staff were discreet but very attentive. Beats a pasta dinner any day of the week…