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The Langham's Bijoux Tea Will Give You A Sconegasm

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  Site Where: 1C Portland Place, London, United Kingdom, W1B 1JA
October 7, 2011 at 3:30 PM | by | ()

Initially, it was love at first sight – we’d never seen anything so exquisite. Then, it was reputation – once we heard Britney was a fan, we wanted in as well. So that’s how we ended up trotting along to the Langham London this week, to try the new Stephen Webster Bijoux Tea that launched last month.

First thing to know – book ahead. Weekends can book up to five weeks in advance. Weekdays are a little easier, since there are three sittings. On the day we went, there was space for the 5.30pm sitting. But you don’t want to risk that – book about a week in advance.

Second thing to know: the Bijoux Tea isn’t the only one on offer. There’s also the Wonderland Tea (the standard one, £38) High Tea (£38, served from 5-6.30pm with things like crumpets and fruit cake) and the 1865 Langham High Tea (£40, served from 7-8.30pm, including cold canapés and fruit). The Bijoux Tea is more expensive, at £49pp. So what do you get for your extra cash?

Absurd prettiness, for a start – the tea is a work of art, and you’ll probably feel guilty about destroying it. But hey, it’s there to be demolished.

There are three courses to the tea, as with a normal one: sandwiches, scones, and cakes. But that’s as close to a standard afternoon tea as you get. Instead of smoked salmon and cucumber sandwiches, you get “smoked salmon and cream cheese with cucumber pearls”; instead of chicken, it’s poached quail breast with grapes and violet (yes, violet). The traditional egg sandwich is a duck egg – an actual duck egg – perched on a nub of bread, while there’s also one with lobster and piquillo peppers on a sub roll and a tiny apple-shaped, green icing-covered choux pastry filled with foie grass and apple.

Sandwich verdict: we’re massive fans of traditional finger sandwiches at teatime, but these work well and they’re not as weird as they sound. If you want something more esoteric or fancy than the norm, these are for you. We don't normally eat foie gras (because it's morally repugnant and we don't generally like the taste), but we tried this, and we have to admit it was very good.

As are the cakes. They’re designed to reflect Stephen Webster’s latest jewellery collection. They are beyond beautiful. And they are also delicious. The best thing about them is that, although it looks like a sugar load, each cake is actually very light. Nothing is overly sweet – the red peppercorn and dark chocolate shortbread tastes more cocoa-ey than cloying chocolatey, for example, and the pistachio mousse is pretty refreshing, too. So eating the entire plate is actually far less difficult than it looks.

And then there are the scones. You’d think they’d be the most boring part of the tea, but, whoah, they are actually its triumph. You get a plain one, one with raisins soaked in Louis Roederer, and a chocolate and marinated orange one. They’re all melt-in-the-mouth light, the raisin one has a great tart aftertaste, and the chocolate one – a plain scone with chocolate drops in – is quite possibly the best scone we ever had. And we grew up in Cornwall, where people eat scones about seven times a day. In fact, these caused us to have our first ever sconegasm.

In short, it’s a pretty phenomenal experience. Your waiters are also trained tea sommeliers so they pour a good cup, and the vibe in Palm Court is far less stuffy than we’d imagined – people in jeans (it’s smart casual), trendies hanging out and people looking much more relaxed than they are at some of the other grand dame hotels. Although not quite relaxed enough to steal some scones. Believe us.

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