Have you ever had Afternoon Tea based around coffee? When I saw that the Wellington Lounge were serving High Coffee as part of their Afternoon Tea menu, I was more than intrigued, my taste buds were calling out to try this unusual take on Afternoon Tea. Afternoon Tea is in every essence all about the tea and is part of our culture not just because we British love our tea, but Afternoon Tea is a Great British Tradition however, why can’t there be an Afternoon Coffee? In fact, when I was at the Café Royal Hotel last week enjoying a Festive Afternoon Tea, I noticed that a table had asked for coffee to be served instead of tea and the waiter not at all surprised, happily obliged and provided some delicious looking lattes for them. So, perhaps not that unusual after all, I was really looking forward to this experience.
The Wellington Lounge is located inside the InterContinental Hyde Park, a hotel I’ve never been to. I was struck by how beautiful it was, very elegant and refined, did you know that The Wellington Lounge stands on the former site of 145 Piccadilly; Her Majesty the Queen’s former childhood home.
It is itself a serene space to enjoy an all-day menu of breakfast, brunch, lunch and of course, Afternoon Tea or High Coffee which seems to be a permanent part of their menu. With a colour scheme not dissimilar to coffee, it’s both soothing and comforting to be stilling on plush light fawn beige herringbone sofas, super comfy velvet stripe cushions and almost sheer voile curtains which complement the ambience of the Wellington Lounge. I could see Hyde Park corner from my table but not a bit of traffic could be heard.
In the background, gentle jazz music was playing until the resident pianist took to the helm tinkling the ivories.
When I sat down, I was asked if I wanted traditional Afternoon Tea or High Coffee. Although in the booking I had chosen High Coffee, it somehow wasn’t registered in the reservation and so I was told that the kitchen needed time to prepare for High Coffee and that there might be a wait, please bear in mind when making your reservation to mention that you are having High Coffee not Afternoon Tea. In all honesty, it really wasn’t that long of a wait, it is though a longer ritual than traditional Afternoon Tea because the concept of this experience is to familiarise and accustom the diner with the art of coffee. High Coffee at the Wellington Lounge is an innovative tasting experience of mouth-watering savoury and sweet dishes paired with specially crafted coffees without a single traditional sandwich in sight.
Placed on my table was an old-fashioned coffee mill filled with coffee beans that were stylishly scattered on my table to really get that coffee hit that only fresh coffee beans can provide.
First in the coffee flight was an Espresso Martini, I’m partial to a cocktail or two but I’ve never ever had an Espresso Martini before. It was laced with coffee from Ethiopia, Kahlua and vodka and looked sensational in a beautiful martini glass topped with a single coffee bean, it was delightful. Open sandwiches and warm savouries were the order of the day served on a tall stand by the side of the table, very different but then I like Afternoon Tea to be unusual and this certainly was.
Top tier were my super colourful open sandwiches which consisted of Free-Range Chicken with Celeriac and Sweet Pepper Remoulade on buttermilk bread, Heirloom Tomato Caprese with Watercress Pesto on a Mixed Olive Roll and Smoked Eel with Pickled Onions, Caper Aioli on a Beetroot Brioche Roll. I must be honest here, I simply couldn’t choose a favourite, they were visually stunning and tasted so too. I sometimes get bored with traditional sandwiches and I like to be wowed with something unusual depending on my mood and the open sandwiches I was served was just that, something different, an explosion of not just colour but flavour too.
Then came my warm savouries, a continuation of delicious dishes. This time a Lamb & Rosemary open pie which was just sublime, if I was at home, I honestly would have licked clean the cute little pie dish it was served in. This was followed by a Wild Mushroom Tumble Weed which was like Kadaifi pastry, a Middle Eastern specialty filled with earthy mushrooms and finally, Sun Blushed Tomato Spiral with warm Piccalilli of which there were two.
Everything was delicious, the pastry of the Mushroom Tumble Weed absorbed all the mushroom savoury juices, seriously, I wanted more but there were lots more goodies in store. Accompanying this course was a cold Caffé Fredo made with coffee from Brazil, Guatemala and Colombia. Because it was black, I found it quite strong, but I still enjoyed it and drank the lot.
I was happy to see the return of the palate cleanser. I haven’t had this in an Afternoon Tea for a while and it was a sensation for the eyes and senses as it arrived smoking from the dry ice which was used to present it. A delicious Blood Orange and Ginger Sorbet with bits of sweet crystallised ginger in the base, I really enjoyed it and I felt it was an important part of my High Coffee to cleanse the palate after the intensity of the aromatic Caffé Fredo.
Next the scones which were traditional, you can’t really mess with scones, these were large and super soft Buttermilk Scones accompanied with Devon Clotted Cream and Strawberry Jam.
The desserts were beautiful to look at, a celebration of chocolate which when paired with coffee is a marriage made in heaven. These were served with coffee of your choice such as an Espresso, Latte, Mocha, Macchiato, Cortado or Cappuccino.
I chose Café Latte to accompany my cakes which were; Hazelnut Opera, Bailey’s Chocolate Éclair, Black Forest Gateaux, a Macaron with Salted Caramel and a Lemongrass and Lime Crème Brûlée. I was advised by my very informative and friendly waitress to eat the Crème Brûlée first, so I took her advice. I really do love this popular dessert which is topped with that lovely crispy caramel burnt sugar crust which is always a pleasure to tap until it breaks into little shards, so satisfying and real pleasure to eat. I love that this dessert is so versatile and can be made using all manner of flavours, the lime and lemongrass was light in contrast to the rich cakes to follow. I think my favourite cake of all was the Hazelnut Opera which had a beautiful glossy finish sprinkled with gold dust and the beautifully chewy Salted Caramel Macaron.
To finish off, a final coffee in form of a Caffé Coretto, another very strong brew which is accompanied with a liqueur of your choice, I paired mine with a creamy Bailys which was a perfect end to the most fabulous and unusual “Afternoon Tea” experience I’ve ever had, I hate calling it Afternoon Tea but you get what I mean.
High Coffee at the Wellington Lounge in the Intercontinental Park Lane is an ingenious idea whoever came up with it and I really do hope that other hotels catch on to this idea. If you love coffee, you’ll really love this experience, for me, I adore tea over coffee and I’m a bit of a traditionalist and I also love to have my Afternoon Tea with a glass or two of champagne but that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy High Coffee; I absolutely did and if you love to have a change now and again and go for something different, get yourself over to the Wellington Lounge now where High Coffee is served daily for £42.
All photo’s an opinions are my own.
The Wellington Lounge
Intercontinental Park Lane
1 Hamilton Place,
020 7409 3131