Sunday, 12 June 2011

tea at the wolseley

wolseley, a london institution
my mum-in-law is in london and both o and i wanted to treat her to something special and something british. it was the perfect occasion to have tea at the wolseley. the cafe-restaurant is a beautiful and old period building. it was originally conceived as a showroom for cars but the business failed fairly quickly. from nineteen twenty seven to nineteen ninety nine it was a barclay's bank (much to o's astonishment who works at barclay's). and since two thousand and three it has been a restaurant. 

i have to confess the tea was a mixed bag of experiences. we ordered a cream tea and an afternoon tea having had a rather substantial brunch of scrambled eggs with toasted bagels and roasted tomatoes and peppers. the presentation was beautiful. i love silver crockery and cutlery and the one at wolseley has character through use. the afternoon tea came with an assortment of finger sandwiches - we loved the chicken and tarragon, celery and cucumber sandwiches. the egg sandwich was a bit bland for my likes and the salmon a bit uninspiring. i think it could have done with some lemon. 

there were three pastries - a pistachio macaroon, a slice of battenburg cake and a strawberry fruit tart. out of the three it was the battenburg which stole the show. the sponge was really moist and the marzipan had a nice rounded almond flavour. the tart tasted good but the pastry was too delicate and crumbled too much for it to be lifted easily with a fork. i did not like the macaroon much. the dark chocolate with the pistachio buttercream and the pistachio shell itself meant that the flavours were too busy. i felt that the dark chocolate overpowered the delicacy of the pistachio. 

on the top tier of the cake and pastry stand were the scones. they were well risen with golden brown tops that glistened slightly. i was a bit disappointed that they were only fruit scones on offer. it would be nice to have a mix of fruit and plain ones. the scones themselves were really nice with a loose crumb and the slight edge that comes from leavening agents usually a combination of cream of tartar and soda bicarbonate. the home made jam was really disappointing though. the strawberry jam was really sweet with none of the tartness of the berries and had no texture having been rendered into a one dimensional puree. it made me want a dollop of my mum's rose scented strawberry jam or even the one at the rose lounge at the sofitel. 

we ordered one pot of the earl grey and one of the wolseley afternoon blend. the earl grey was weak not just in its brew but was missing its strong bergamot aroma. the wolseley afternoon blend was nice and actually fairly strong too. 

so i left on the note of as many ups and down. in all fairness i had been expecting a lot from the wolseley. i mean, it is known as a british icon and therefore i had expected it to give me a quintessentially british afternoon tea. and since it hasn't delivered fully on it i am certain i won't be going back for the tea. luckily for me, o just bought me a vintage teaset for my birthday from (you can have a look at the set here). it is really charming as each cup has a distinct personality and it comes with a three tiered cake stand. there is no better way to treat oneself to tea than at home with scones fresh from the oven so i plan to do that very soon. i just really wish that my mum was here to share with me. and sk too.

p.s. the wolseley has a 'no photography' policy so out of respect i did not even try to sneak any pictures of our tea. i do however have a picture of the outside of the building. it is one of my favourite photographs so i am sharing it with you.

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