Afternoon Tea isn't always about scones and Victoria sponge so last month we sent our London blogger, Charlotte Vowden, to sample The Lancaster Hotel's exotic take on our favourite pastime. Here's how she got on ...
I was about to delve into Thailand’s culinary soul via afternoon tea and I didn’t know where to start. While the food laid on rectangular plates in front of me looked familiar – sandwiches, scones and sweets - I knew my palate was in for a few surprises. I took a sip of chamomile tea to give myself some thinking time.
The Lancaster London hotel lies on the fringe of Hyde Park and is known for serving an exceptional afternoon tea, but its award-winning Thai restaurant Nipa now has its very own version.
Prepared by an all-female team of chefs it’s served all at once on dishes down the centre of the table, just as a meal would be in Thailand, and includes typical Thai spices and ingredients such as jasmine and sticky rice.
It made sense to start with the warm savouries so I tentatively dipped a sweetcorn fritter into a small bowl of sweet chilli sauce. It was hot on the tongue and after tucking into chicken and chestnut dumplings then crispy spring rolls smothered in the fiery condiment I was glad to have a cooling palate cleanser – a runny jelly shot containing small chunks of fresh fruit and coconut shavings.
Things got even more interesting on the sandwich plate. Cucumber, not sliced but pickled, was paired with a rare spiced beef and enveloped in white bread. I was impressed to see an often bland sandwich livened up. There was also a smoked salmon substitute - a generous portion of succulent Thai shrimp packed between two slices of tomato bread.
The scones were of the miniature variety, two plain and two mango but I taste tested both the orange and jasmine marmalade and strawberry jam with basil before topping them. The strawberry with basil was a little too strong for my liking, so I transformed my scones into a sticky mess with the orange and jasmine marmalade.
I washed it all down with chamomile then ginger tea but there were Green teas, Traditional teas and Herbal infusions available too. Combinations included mint and tarragon as well as hibiscus, lemongrass, rose hips, mango and passion fruit.
Last but not least came a pudding of Banana and coconut rice doughtnuts, Water chestnut, cherry & coconut tart, Pineapple & lychee log, Milk chocolate & jasmine delice and Mango sushi. Sickly sweet but without a hint of spice they were just what I craved after such a flavoursome series of dishes. The doughnut was my favourite (I suspect a little too stodgy for some) while the mango sushi was the most refreshing.
Thai food is often associated with being fast and prepared in front of you so seeing the flavours lent to a slow food affair is a rarity, it took afternoon tea into a whole new territory. The dishes were bright and brilliant, decorated with sculptured vegetables and leaves making it both a feast for the eyes and the tastebuds. When I visited Nipa it was quiet but I suspect as word gets out about London’s first Thai afternoon tea tables will fill fast.
Afternoon tea is served from 2pm-4pm Friday to Sunday at £22 per person or £32 with a glass of pink champagne.
Nipa, 1st Floor, Lancaster London, Lancaster Terrace, London W2 2TY. Reservations on 0207 551 6039, www.niparestaurant.co.uk
Charlotte Vowden is a travel & lifestyle journalist who is as happy in the mountains as she is sipping champagne and indulging on cake. Writing for The Sunday Times and other national publications keeps her busy but she’s always looking for her next adventure or afternoon tea destination.
DISCLAIMER: As is common in the catering and leisure industry, we were provided with complimentary services for review purposes. Whilst this has not influenced our review, we believe in the full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.