As soon as I saw the menu for Afternoon Tea at 108 Brasserie, I knew it was going to be special. It wasn’t just the floral themed menu or the delightfully descriptive nature of the Afternoon Tea precisely doing what it’s supposed to by taking me somewhere far away; it was the enchanting poem that clinched it for me because all I could imagine upon reading that poem was relaxing in a dreamy English Country Garden sipping tea, eating dainty pastries and delicate sandwiches. As I was about to found out, it was something quite spectacular.
The Pantry at 108 Brasserie is located within the Marylebone Hotel, part of the Doyle Collection of hotels. Some of the hotels in their collection are The Kensington where I’m having the Tale as Old as Time Afternoon Tea next month, The Bloomsbury and The Westbury in Dublin. Just shy of 10 minutes from Bond Street tube, The Marylebone is ideally located within Central London not far from Selfridges.
I was excited at the prospect of an English Country Garden Afternoon Tea as I entered 108 Brasserie; the Pantry is tucked away behind the expansive sleek bar fully stocked with all manner of drinks and the dining area. I requested a quiet table to take plenty of photos without interrupting other diners and was pleased to find a table situated next to a plush sofa which was really comfy. The style of the Pantry is modern and cosy with velvet sofa’s, leather chairs and another bar at the back where light lunches and Afternoon Tea is prepared.
I was provided with the menu which is beautifully decorated in delicate colourful flowers and on the first page, the enchanting poem by Cecil Lees which is what immediately drew me to this Afternoon Tea. Included in my Tea was a glass of English sparkling wine and with four to choose from plus a Rhubarb Mimosa with a puree made especially by the hotel, I decided to go for my waitresses’ favourite, the Nyetimber Classic Cuvee NV from Sussex. It was served in a pretty coupe glass rather than champagne flute which I’m particularly fond of. I’ve never had an English take on champagne which essentially, this is, and I must admit, I really liked it. I’d compare it to Prosecco in colour and taste, not as effervescent as champagne but really very nice.
Afternoon Tea has evolved and changed over the years and now, it isn’t just straightforward sandwiches and patisserie, an amuse bouche is sometimes served between savoury and sweet, cakes are ever more adventurous and sandwiches have sometimes been replaced by open tartlets and fillings in more artisan-style bread as was the case at 108 Brasserie.
I ordered English Breakfast tea to have with my savoury course followed by a floral Jasmin Silver Tip Tea from the Fujian Province in China. First to arrive was a small shallow “garden” box with faux grass, a cute mini flower pot containing sugar, a mini preserving jar with homemade rhubarb puree in place of traditional strawberry jam, clotted cream looking very much like a perfect scoop of vanilla ice cream and a pale yellow, blossom scented orange curd to go with the scones as well as rather unusually I thought but still welcome pat of salted butter and as if that wasn’t enough, a sachet of seeds to plant!!I’m hoping it’s lavendar seeds.
Tea was served in a silver teapot with silver cutlery and modern vertical striped tea cup in a cream and taupe colour keeping a modern feel to this Afternoon Tea and laying on the silky serviette, a single spring of highly scented dry lavender which was a lovey touch. I crumbled it in my hands to take in the gorgeous aroma of one of my favourite plants. I was very happy to see the savoury and sweet selection on a traditional china stand, my waiter Andrei was friendly and very hospitable and explained everything on the stand in great detail. I was immediately impressed by the array of both sweet and especially savoury treats on offer. Not a traditional sandwich in sight apart from one but then even that one was quite unusual as I was about to find out.
The scones were plain and the other containing poppy seeds which were lovely and warm nicely tucked up in a serviette resembling chubby babies sleeping snuggly in bed. The second tray contained the savoury section and the top an array of pretty patisserie.
I was more intrigued by the savoury part of the Afternoon Tea and immediately tucked in. Smoked salmon was presented in a dark brown Guinness bread, a coronation chicken tartlet, broad bean and pea humus with shaved Berkswell on sourdough crostini and Dorset crab on compressed watermelon with borage flower.
Most impressive of all was definitely the compressed watermelon, not just vivid in colour but in taste, the most delicious and unusual savoury I’d ever eaten on any Afternoon Tea, the sweetness of the watermelon perfectly complemented the slight acidity of the dressing in the crab, it was a gorgeous bite of many textures and flavours, crunchy sweetness playing with creamy acidity, it was sublime and I definitely could have had more than one.
The Coronation chicken tartlet was probably one of the best tarts I’d had to date, the pastry was so short, crispy and light as it should be and filled with spicy aromatic Coronation chicken. Next was the vivid green of the broad bean sourdough, bright enough to catch Popeye’s eye but not spinach, a creamy puree of broad bean and peas. I’m not a lover of either peas or broad beans or any string vegetable containing beans if I’m honest but if there was anything to change my mind, it would be this cute slice of lightly charred buttery sourdough topped with light, fluffy green humus, the Berkswell adding an interesting dimension to this delightful open sandwich. Finally, the salmon with a lemon cream cheese filling in Guinness bread was beautiful, a dark brown sandwich resembling a large chunk of chocolate. Visually, it was probably the least appealing of all the savouries to eat and although I don’t drink beer/lager let alone Guinness, this little sandwich is worthy of sitting among the other delightful savoury treats on offer, the nuttiness of the bread lifted an otherwise boring sandwich, I loved it. In fact, I just need to point out, I found each savoury on this plate quite stunning to eat, I couldn’t fault anything at all.
Andrei my waiter brought me a fresh pot of the Jasmine tea that I had picked which was very welcome, floral with a pale straw-like hue. Much to my surprise and very gratefully received was the Pantry’s Rhubarb Mimosa which is an alternative cocktail to the English sparkling wine which I particularly wanted to try. I was very grateful to be presented with this pretty pink cocktail with 3 sprigs of lavender, a lovely touch to a cocktail which perfectly complements the English Garden Afternoon Tea, I don’t need to say how delicious it was as I tucked into my scones.
I was surprised to see that one of the scones contained poppy seeds which gave a nice crunch and texture. On this one, I chose to try the orange curd and cream. On the other scone, I spread the rhubarb jam and cream, I really liked both, the orange curd was sweet and fragrant, and the rhubarb had just enough acidity to offset the sweetness. The best part of Afternoon Tea for me is always the sweet course and this was no exception! Not overshadowed by the stunning savoury course in any way at all, four dainty, beautiful looking desserts but packing a punch flavour wise.
The pale violet creamy lavender panna cotta topped with sparkling wine jelly and berries looking like gems suspended in the jelly was just delicious in a cute shot glass. Next, the elderflower and strawberry Battenberg, elderflower is a quintessentially British plant with edible flowers that are highly perfumed usually made into conservers and preserves as well as flavoursome syrups for drinks both alcoholic and non-alcoholic and very popular in desserts, it’s probably my favourite flower for cooking with.
The elderflower also has a special affinity with strawberry and none more so than this Battenberg. Chocolate always makes an appearance in Afternoon Tea and at 108 Pantry, it’s a chocolate and rose opera cake taking 6-8 hours to make I was reliably informed by Andrei. This is to get the signature layers of the Opera cake precise and this one was perfect in every way; the rose flavour was not overpowered by the chocolate.
Finally, and probably my favourite of all the cakes was the light-as-a-feather choux bun of the Rhubarb Profiterole which was filled with cream and the hotel’s gorgeous rhubarb compote. It was a delicate pale pink colour and light as a cloud in my mouth but full flavour. I really liked the versatility of the hotel’s homemade rhubarb compote making an appearance in the cocktail, the jam for the scones as well as in the cakes.
What a joy this Afternoon Tea was and as the saying goes “All good things have to come to an end” it was more like “All good things come to those who wait” and I’ve waited an awful long time to have a special Afternoon Tea. It’s not that I haven’t had amazing Afternoon Teas before such as the ones I’ve had at the prestigious Ritz, The Dorchester and The Savoy but this was unusual, visually stunning and perfect in every way. It really was like eating in an English Country Garden on a bright summers’ day. Everyone was attentive and charming, and I was made to feel very much at home here at 108 Brasserie at the Marylebone hotel. I loved the bar area of the restaurant, so I know that I will return for dinner soon. I can’t convey enough how delightful and very special this Afternoon Tea was. If you want to escape for a couple of hours and be transported to an English Country Garden, make your way to 108 Brasserie NOW to delight your senses in this delicious Afternoon Tea launched especially for spring, I can’t wait to see what’s next on their Afternoon Tea menu.
47 Welbeck Street
London W1G 8DN
020 7486 6600
My gorgeous Rhubard Mimosa was complimentary, Afternoon Tea with English sparkling wine is £42 per person plus 12.5% discretionary charge.