I like to think I have an educated palate when it comes to tea-drinking; I begin most days with a cup of vanilla chai tea – a sophisticated choice I believe. My discerning choice is somewhat let down however by the paper cup that my tea is served in. I appreciate that, for a woman on her way to work, this vessel is necessary, but elegant and sophisticated? It is neither.
Are we beginning to devalue Britain’s most treasured beverage by catching it on the move in paper cups? Perhaps so, but for those in the know, this favourite age old refreshment is being enjoyed in true style and at leisure, as it should be, at The Mandarin Oriental’s Bar Boulud in Knightsbridge. I was lucky enough to while away a few hours there on Friday afternoon enjoying the ‘Quatre Heures’ menu which comprises a selection of French and English patisseries and savouries served between 3.30pm and 5pm.
Stepping into the inviting and unpretentious Bar Boulud I realised this is how afternoon tea should be taken. Proper napkins, not paper towels; attentive waiters, not grumpy passers-by; polished spoons, not wooden stirrers – these are the differences that transform one’s experience of taking tea from functional and rushed, to savoured and enjoyed. The ‘Flowers of Provence’ tea I plumped for was beautifully clear, delicately flavoured and went perfectly with the sumptuous patisseries that were on offer. The Passion Fruit Tart and the selection of mini Macaroons were wonderfully sweet, the pate smooth yet rich, but, the pièce de résistance was undoubtedly the Chocolate-Coffee Sphere that oozed creamy moose that was resting atop a thin biscuit. An afternoon spent in Bar Boulud is an occasion we should all make time for in our diaries in order to bring back the pride we once had for this treasured beverage.