Sweet Things are Made of These
Now that London Fashion Week is over, we can all breathe out. Nothing tastes as good as chocolate, so we’re off to experience the Montezuma Afternoon Tea at Jumeirah Carlton Tower. The hotel building is looking good for 50. Once the gangly new kid on the block, all Sixties bravura, it has matured (with the help of a subtle facelift) into something altogether more refined. The address is not so much golden postcode as golden place: Cadogan. Jumeirah Carlton Tower is off Sloane Street, home of the Rangers, between Candy + Candy’s One Hyde Park and the only road in London to have an architectural style named after it (Pont Street, keep up). Nearby is of course King’s Road, foodie paradise (Duke of York Square market) and shopping heaven (from Partridges to Peter Jones).
Afternoon tea, really an excuse to indulge between official meals, is high up the list of sybaritic Must Dos. Chinoiserie at JCT lives up to its name. Bedecked with hand painted Chinese wallpaper and gold leaf galore, an army of cheongsam clad waitresses are at your beck and call. We half expect Fan Bingbing to sweep through the revolving doors. Instead, the henna haired resident harpist provides a sense of serenity for the American, Saudi and Marant wearing English guests. A glass of champagne accompanies fresh strawberries before the menu turns choc-a-bloc in full throttle celebration of its cocoa theme (Montezuma was the last Aztec king and a bit of a chocolate fiend). We order a Darjeeling and (Lady Grantham wouldn’t approve) a coffee.
One of the many joys of afternoon tea is having your cake and eating it in whatever order you desire. For the purposes of this feature, we will stick to the order of the menu. Cocoa dusted (a taste of what’s to come) croissants with chorizo and Elemental provide a comforting intro. The sweet meets savoury theme makes its surprising, sensual, debut with a rich curried crab tart topped by white chocolate. A heart shaped white chocolate and parmesan palmier is hard not to love. Another unlikely yet successful marriage is chocolate macaroon with venison. For pescatarians, there’s the opportunity to order off (Montezuma, on Classic) menu, so cucumber and mayo sandwich is a traditional alternative. Back on menu is the cassis imperial chocolate cupcake. This is a fine dark mousse with balsamic blackcurrants filling an edible chocolate case. A sprinkling of pearls completes this sultry indulgence.
It’s time to cleanse the palate. A conquistador shot is an inspired layered composition of passion fruit, white chocolate with basil seeds and coconut jelly. Mission complete. Caraque spicy chocolate tart with popping candy features a pistachio wafer as delicate and colourful as the Chinese wallpaper. Dark mini chocolate caramel loaf filled with liquid salted butter, sweet food in savoury form, provides a jubilant succulent extravagant finale, for now, to cocoa. After this exotically original South American tour de taste, familiar British comfort returns in the form of (Lady Grantham would approve) scones with clotted cream and fruit preserve.
Collaborating with Jumeirah Carlton Tower’s pastry chefs, Eric Lanlard is the master pâtissier behind the Montezuma Afternoon Tea. Brittany born Battersea based Eric worked with Michel Roux in the early Nineties before going solo. His current venture is Cake Boy, a café cum bakery school. As well as numerous TV appearances, he is the Go To Man when it comes to cakes for celebrities. Victoria Beckham, Liz Hurley and Madonna all have him on speed dial. Throughout this autumn, “civilians” as Liz Hurley likes to call the general public can get tarted up and enjoy Eric Lanlard’s Montezuma Afternoon Tea. It costs £40 per person; £50 includes the champers; £55, throw in the strawberries. The service is great, friendly staff who are more than adept at catching eye contact, and a Coutts (of course) bank machine outside the hotel is handy for withdrawing tenners for tips.