Monday, 25 August 2014

Meaty Goodness: Gentlemen's Afternoon Tea in Mayfair, London

I've never had a sweet tooth, though I'm not sure if that's due to nature or nurture.

We didn't have a lot of sweet foods around the house when I was growing up in the Western Australian countryside, so perhaps I never developed a taste for sugar.

Whatever the case, it's left me cool on the idea of afternoon tea. Though there'll always be a few sandwiches provided as part of a fancy hotel's afternoon tea, they'll play second fiddle to the cakes.

Not so in the Gentlemen's Afternoon Tea, served at the Athenaeum Hotel in Mayfair, London.

There's a distinctly earthy and robust nature to this afternoon meal, as we discovered when the first course arrived and looked like this:

Clockwise from top left, we had a Welsh rarebit sauce to be dipped into with the crossed cheese sticks; a ham hock terrine; a beef and ale pie; and a wild boar sausage roll.

This first course came with a glass of whisky. Of course.

On a more traditional note, the whisky was succeeded by tea from this inventive menu (I had the Borengajuli Assam):

Round two of the Gents' Arvo Tea consisted of these cheddar and crispy bacon scones:

And finally, a sweet component in the form of a sticky toffee pudding with walnuts; whisky fruit cake; and whisky chocolate truffles.

As you may have gathered, the Athenaeum makes a lot of its whisky expertise, being home to a whisky bar and a whisky sommelier.

The verdict? It was all good, and I suspect a lot more filling than the classic cake-based afternoon teas I saw at other tables. As we ate late for an afternoon tea, about 5.30pm, that was dinner sorted.

It struck me that this would be just the afternoon tea for the James Bond of Ian Fleming's books. Fleming loved describing the sensual pleasures of food and their part in Bond's highly disciplined life, and this sort of beefy fare would have been par for the course.

Apt, as we were eating it in Fleming's old stamping ground of Mayfair.

Of course, you can go too far in applying the "gentleman" tag. Narrelle said she also enjoyed the Gentlemen's Afternoon Tea; she loved the complex tastes, the whisky and the "mature and sophisticated" experience.

And she didn't end it giddy from a sugar high, she added. Stirred, basically, but not shaken.

The Gentlemen's Afternoon Tea is £34.50 at the Athenaeum Hotel, 116 Picadilly, Mayfair, London. More details at www.athenaeumhotel.com.

Disclosure time: On this trip I was hosted by the Athenaeum Hotel.