Posts Tagged ‘cake’
A little while back, a Kusmi Tea boutique opened in Marylebone. It’s like having a treasure chest close to you. Like going to a beautiful parfumerie, but tea-based. Instead of gorgeous bottles: silver tin boxes, some round, others vintage-style tea caddies (sadly, they do not sell the huge ones. I dream to one day have quite a few of these!). Such a luxurious pleasure to flitter from one to the other, opening them, appreciating the perfect shape of the leaves, all slightly different, the alliances with dried fruit, petals. Like opening a storybook each time, taking a journey to a far away country.
The range really is impressive. You think you know, you have some at home, you’ve seen them in the glossy magazines. Yet, it only really hits you when you step into the shop. I was already quite fond of their Genmaicha, a green tea with toasted rice, often nicknamed popcorn tea. Their BB detox – nothing to do with dieting, it is what I would call THE anti-blues tea. You only have to smell it to feel better. Yep, that kind of tea. But there is so much more to marvel at. Like the Euphoria, well named, a blend of Argentinian maté, orange and chocolate. The almond one, as if you had just opened the pod and pressed the core between your fingers. Ginger and lemon, which must be spectacular iced on a summer’s day or as base for a fruit salad. The Zubrovka, that special grass used in vodka, intriguing. I wonder how long it would take to try them all? Could we hope for a Kusmi calendar, one teabag per day?
I inherited from my mother a love for Lapsang. Real ones – one of the first things I learnt in Paris, at the Maison des 3 thés, was that most are fake, chemical aroma. If you look closer, you’ll notice a slight oily substance in your cup, discreet but there. Most often, it is indicated on the packet but very few pay attention to it. This never happens with Kusmi Tea and I love them all the more for it, you can choose with your eyes closed and trust them. They have a classic, of course, but also a smoky Earl Grey (my favourite twist on bergamot), a Samovar, lighter but spicy and a really nice surprise, the Traktir, more intense, citrus notes and cinnamon, really robust structure.
Another amazing creation, if you fancy something really different, the Algothé. Black tea, seaweed, mint. Not too seasidey but a beautiful minerality, very refreshing. Like a light breeze, a soothing spa effect. Quite wow.
Each selection can be bought as loose in a metal tin (iconic, these days for Kusmi), refill bag, tea bag or muslin. On the shelves are all the accessories you need from a bamboo whisk for matcha to infusing spoons. A lifetime of shopping I tell you.
Do take the time to sit down, let the noise of the world fade away as they teach you about the delicacies on offer. There is a small tea room at the back and, oh! a tempting selection of cakes, all made by a French pâtisserie in London. Need convincing? Look below. The chocolate mousse, light in texture, has all the intensity of cacao and you know what? It’s sugar free. Brilliant. I personally fell for the rose cheesecake, crunchy biscuity base, perfect creaminess and a floral syrup for icing. The teapots are huge, such a good deal for £5 when you consider the price of a normal cup of tea from a chain these days! All sweet treats are at £5 and again, in this area and what that level of refinement, that’s not a bad price.
A moment of quietness, finally, in such a rough world.
15 Marylebone High St
London W1U 4NU
It’s a French tradition. Every year, we celebrate epiphany with a King’s cake. Theoretically, it should be done once only. But well, as you find cross buns from January here these days… we fall for the galette des rois the whole month of January. It will be shared at the office – whoever find the fève, the charm, will bring another one for the team. There will be the ones with friends, family. The kids will choose who the slices are for. It’s also a war. In the South, it is more of a brioched cake, candied fruit in Provence, sugar pearls around Bordeaux. Paris is butter, pastry and frangipane, an almond cream. The pâtissiers compete with new flavours each year. If you have to try one, start with the best, Pierre Hermé of course! The Ispahan flavour is on the menu, of course, a rich filling of raspberry, litchee, rose water. Talk about an experience in a single bite… But the 2014 creation will remind you of childhood days, rain on the windows, silence in the room, just the music of spoons. This one is the best vanilla rice pudding you could imagine, so tender, with a layer of intense caramel, light pastry. Elegance, refinement. No wonder we eat more than one… Sadly, you’ll have to be in Paris for this, the London shops do not do pastries yet. Although rejoice! La Pâtisserie des Rêves will soon be opening in Marylebone.
Make you life easier, you can order it online, collect it at the boutique. No wait, already nicely wrapped.
The Rolling Stones are playing in Hyde Park - iconic, such a legend. If you could not get tickets to see them, why not find some comfort at the Hilton Park Lane nearby? Their afternoon tea is renamed the Rolling Scones… Just what you need, sweet rock’n’roll.
There are 4 delicious steps to this treat. The classic sandwiches are presented as open ones, allowing more filling and presented in a lovely line. Forman’s smoked salmon-horseradish, Honey roast ham-Pommery mustard, prawn mayonnaise-baby gem lettuce, cucumber-cream cheese-chives, egg-cress. Then the scones, still warm from the oven, plain and raisin ones. Not only do they come sprinkled with icing sugar, together with the traditional clotted cream and strawberry jam : you can try them with a decadent chocolate ganache… On the upper plate, 4 delicious cupakes with perfect icing in lemon, raspberry, chocolate and toffee, each hiding a heart of cream or red fruit. You will indeed lick your fingers!
And finally, the best of the show: 6 fascinating minatures inspired by the group’s successes. Mick’s famous lips are recreated in biscuit, 78 records symbolised by a liquorice lollipop while She’s a rainbow becomes a psychedelic meringue, as colourful inside than outside. The chocolate macaron takes a musical touch for Between the buttons, Exile on Main Street plays on marzipan dice and superb conclusion, Tattoo You will suprise you with its crunchy pistachio base topped with a creamy cheesecake powdered in red. Brilliant!
Chic, playful and festive. You’ll leave with sugary lips humming your favourite songs.
Served until July 31, 2013
Rolling Stones afternoon tea – £29.50 / person
Hilton Park Lane
22 Park Lane
London W1K 1BE
Afternoon teas are so very British. But the London touch is to constantly reinvent them, make them magical. Here is a most fantastic one, a Thai twist, fusion of two culture. Pure elegance and refined taste, with an extraordinary attention to details, down to the traditional chiselled flowers.
This takes place at Nipa Thai, a gem hidden on the first floor of Lancaster London hotel. Gorgeous chairs, discreet but perfect service, golden sculptures on the wall, curved arum flowers on the tables…
…and a fantastic view on Hyde Park. This is only the first floor and yet, being above the double decker changes everything, almost as if there were no window, as if you were on a terrace and could touch the branches. How did we not know about this? Is this one of London’s most guarded secrets?
First are brought warm towels, lemongrass fragranced. The perfect transition, allowing you to leave the routine outside and relax. Why not ask for a fresh mint tea which will underline the exotic tastes perfectly?
And that is when you go wow. Just wow. There is no other word for it. You were expecting a treat, this is a feast in 4 plates.
First, the sandwiches, remodernised. A vegetarian version, cream infused with green papaya, avocado and just a hint of chilli… Moist bang bang chicken, slightly peppery on caraway seed bread… Rare spiced beed with pickled cucumber on white bread… Thai shrimp salad, so very tasty on tomato bread. What a range of colours, so beautiful you almost want to play dominos with them. the kind of sandwich you take a bite a of, mmmmh, then gesture to your friends they have to try this at this very instant.
For more exotic flavours, switch to the next plate - crunchy spring roll, sweetcorn and vegetable fritters with lemony pan sauce, ravioli hiding a bite of chicken and nuts, sweet, crunchy: I could eat a mountain of those!
Desserts are as extraordinary and could sincerely be in a French pâtisserie, there is a real savoir-faire behind these. It is just difficult to decide where to start! With the banana doughnut and its heart of caramelised coconut rice? Ot the cloud like chocolate mousse cake, made with coconut milk and jasmine, and just a touch of liquid chocolate on top that melts in the mouth? The lychee log is lovely too, wrapped in thin sliced of fresh pineapple. There also is quite a surprising Thai Bakewell tart, cruncy thin pastry, water chestnut layer, silky coconut cream and cherries. Yet my favourite definitely is the sweet sushi: mango, coconut rice pudding, more mango and seaweeds. So different, so fine, so refreshing too.
Of course, there are scones, some plain, others mango flavoured. Just add your clotted cream then choose between a strawberry & basil jam or an orange and jasmine one. It is not just an afternoon tea, it’s an edible poem!
A last note, a Thai shot with lychee jelly, cubes of fresh mango and pineapple, sprinkled with cocont. Melt in the mouth, simply divine.
The most surprising is the price. All this, with such a quality, for £22/person? Really? In London? What are you waiting for? Bring the love of your life, your mum, your best friends!
Thai afternoon tea, from June 01, 2013
Served on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 14.00 to 16.00
Lancaster London hotel, 1st floor
London W2 2TY
Brighton, until June 02, is even livelier than usual: the Fringe Festival is on. Art, theatre, concerts, family workshops, the streets are so very festive! Alpro is sponsoring the event this year and invited me to have a look around as well as sip on delicious #alproccinos et #alprolattes (by the way, tweet your #mugshotmoments for a chance to win a trip to Rome!). Walking form one neighbourhood to another, I was fascinated by the incredible number of cafés around. You feel like stopping every 5 meters. Here are a few we loved:
We love the large industrial space revamped with colours from floor to ceiling, shelves meticously organised, filled withdelicious jams, chutneys, limonades… There is so much to look at you probably will completely forget you have a plate and a hot drink.
100 North Road
Brighton BN1 1YE
A minimalist café, in small touches of design, small splashes of colours. The cakes are divine, the atmosphere very homey,a great place to spend a rainy day with a good book.
Cute clocks here and there, childhood memories, a great sense of humour, mismatched chairs, a mouthwatering collection of cakes. Locals love, love, love this address!
My favourite. For coffee lovers who appreciate a good roast, a fruitiness, care about the origin of the beans. Such a treat to ask for a syphon coffee or a cold drip…
Small Batch Company
17 Jubilee Street
Brighton, BN1 1GE
It’s 11.00 on a Saturday. Chelsea is in full buzz. You are walking along and suddenly you see it in the window. The mountain of festive meringues. The collection of cute éclairs. The so inviting lines of croissants. You won’t even realise you have stepped in the café already, hypnotised, mouth watering. The secret is to go down to the basement room, recently redecorated to a cozy lounge with vibrant colours. Now choose your atmosphere – the tender spring green chairs on the garden side? Or the tall armschairs you just want to settle in for the rest of the day towards the chimney? The room is perfect for parties too – ideal with friends, perfect for children to run around. How, don’t you feel like filling it with balloons?
A look at the menu and that’s it. You forgot the idea of just a quick coffee and a treat, you settle for brunch instead. Eggs royal with a perfect lemony Hollandaise sauce on fragrant salmon and toasted sourdough bread. And a salad – have a look at the counter, they are beautiful. The couscous one is very rich: mint, coriander, pinenuts, spring onions, parsley, tender chicken and juicy jewel pomegranate. Or try the delicious, unctuous Spanish red pepper dip. Wow. A brilliant alliance of feta, almonds, garlic, smoked paprika, olive oil. Divine and healthy, what a perfect combination!
The menu also offers a fabulous selection of freshly pressed juices. The classic ones, of course but also mint-apple, banana and acai, carrot/beetroot/celery/ginger or this one mango, papaya and apple, silky, so very re-energising. Enjoy, stay a little longer. Have another one. Read a magazine. Remember the pastries, plan a sweet break along the Thames later on. Or maybe just come back tomorrow morning for your first coffee with the perfect croissant…
Chelsea Quarter Café
29 Kings’ Road
To make the most of a visit to the Titanic Museum, stop at Bistrot 401 for a treat. Portions are very generous and super tasty, kids have a great special menu, prices are reasonable, plates are real British china with beautiful blue patterns. But really, the pleasure here is in indulging in a cupcake with a sugar boarding pass, a cake with a White Star Line flag, a giant custard cream stamped Titanic Belfast or even a Titanic Quarter Beer… Simple joys in life!
1 Olympic Way
Cake lovers, be warned. Sweet will make your mouth water in no time… Part of the Mollie Makes family, this new magazine brings together decoration tips, pastry chef interviews, recipes… No need to be a pro to get the creations just right and you will find amazing out-of-the-ordinary ideas. Biscuit hats for cups, suprise eggs filled with cake or tinted through lace, vintage style customised jars: a real treasure of inspiration!
At the Royal Horseguard Hotel, details are everything. Afternoon teas are so fashionable they are not a rainy day treat anymore. Birthdays, anniversary, elegant hen parties even weddings, followed or not by a dinner. It makes you dream and smile, transports you to a different, sugary world for a little while. To celebrate spring, until April 07, they will be serving a very special one, inspired by the Mad Hatter’s tea party. Gorgeous china, flowers in cups, there definitely be some magic!
On the savoury side, salmon is first class, Forman & Son, one of the best in the UK. Melt-in-the-mouth, very rich texture, fragrant, not much salt or smoke to let the flavours seduce you entirely, just a dash of lemon juice or caperberries are enough to sublime it. The vegetable bites, roasted aubergine slices wrapped on dried tomatoes and parmesan shavings are worth falling for too. On the presentation evening, I anchored myself to the workshop preparing them. I was amazed by how much attention was brought to the cakes, so much work considering they were making hundreds of them! Look at those: crunchy hats filled with Earl Grey cream and decorated with a white chocolate cup… Mini Battenberg reminding of a chessboard… Decadent chocolate torte delicately infused with thyme, topped with an edible clock, a nice play on words… Irresistible coconut rabbits… Flower biscuit sandwiches on fresh raspberries and a spoonful of jam… Even a “Eat me” passionfruit fizz cake and a “Drink me” potion inspired by bubble drinks, fruit nectar with tapioca pearls. Finally an afternoon tea to fascinate adults and kids alike!
Mad Hatter Afternoon Tea, Until April 07, 2013, £35/adults, £12 per child.
Royal Horseguards Hotel
2 Whitehall Ct
London SW1A 2EJ
All roads lead to something sweet and Pastry Paris certainly is the most wonderful guide to the capital… On one side, amazing pictures of the city – architecture, decoration, famous paintings – on the other its imagined equivalent in sugar. Masterpieces that will make your mouth water, the best addresses in the capital of haute-patisserie!