Baglioni Afternoon Tea

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To finish off Easter Weekend, Molly and I went for tea at the Baglioni, a nice hotel right at the bottom of Kensington gardens.

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They have the option of a traditional afternoon tea, or one with an Italian twist, and we both went Italian. We also chose the Earl Grey Darjeeling, which was lovely to not have to choose between the two, and it was paired with our glasses of Bellavista.

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The sandwiches were absolutely delicious. We both went for the warm focaccia bread first, which was filled with grilled vegetables, like peppers and mushrooms. There was a small panini with parmesan, rocket and bresaola (a crispy italian meat), then 3 finger sandwiches: tomato bread with ricotta cheese and sun dried tomatoes, spinach bread with egg salad and tuna, then a brown bread with salmon and sour cream. They were definitely interesting. I do very much prefer cream cheese to sour cream, but the tuna and egg combination was not as weird as I was expecting it to be, and was actually kind of nice, giving the traditional sandwich a kick.

We asked for our scones next, but they make them when you order them, so they didn’t come until we finished dessert. I also forgot to take a picture, which clearly makes me a terrible blogger, since they were not your traditional scones. They were much denser, kind of a very heavy bread, and sort of dry, but I think that’s because of the kind of bread it was. I was very excited that it came with nutella, clotted cream and 2 jams, with a berry in each. I especially enjoyed the clotted cream melting on top of the nutella, but I have to admit that I did not finish the scones, which was probably a first for me.

The desserts were clearly Italian, and excellent. I am not a fan of tiramisu, but theirs was pieces of cake between two layers of a creamy substance, which was nothing like the soggy cake I don’t normally go for. The lemon tart had the marshmallow topping thing that I adore and the beignet was filled with hazelnut cream. The sfogliatella napoletana was heavenly, the vanilla bean tartlet had a weird texture but tasted really good, and I even enjoyed the soggy white cake, which seemed to be dripping with syrup rather than alcohol or coffee. The cannoli filled with ricotta and chocolate chips was not my favorite, but I think that’s because it might have been dark chocolate.

The atmosphere was lovely and the staff was very nice, getting us a refill on desserts so we could each try everything, even when they weren’t supposed to, but I will have to give this place a 7. The sandwiches and desserts deserve a higher score, but we were disappointed in the scones, which is really a pivotal part of the meal.

 

Castle and Cliffs of Dover

Although we were making a solid effort to spend Easter weekend seeing plays and working on our scenes, Molly, Sydney and I decided to spend Saturday in Dover.

We took the train over from Charing Cross, then walked the half hour from the rail station to the castle, which offered amazing views of the beach and the water. It was an interesting castle, but we only saw the keep and surrounding walls.

This was because Molly and Sydney were very anxious to get to the White Cliffs of Dover. We had to walk another half hour along a country road with absolutely no footpath to get to the cliffs. Once we were there, it was more than worth it. Pictures never do it justice, but the 45 minute walk to the lighthouse was breathtaking. Not just because it is so beautiful, but because the wind literally takes your breath away. It also either helps give you a push in the back so your steps take you farther, or makes you fight for every inch. I am pretty sure I could have let myself fall backwards and the wind would have kept me upright.

The tea room at the lighthouse was full, so we took a bus from St Margaret’s back to Dover, and failed in our search for an Afternoon Tea. We did, however, find ourselves at Brunch, which had an amazing mac and cheese. I am also told that the burgers and chai latte were delicious.

“To reach a port we must sail, sometimes with the wind, and sometimes against it. But we must not drift or lie at anchor.”

-Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

BB Bakery Afternoon Tea

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While Chelsea was still in town, we went for afternoon tea at the BB Bakery in Covent Garden. We slightly cheated the system in order to get in, because you need to reserve 24 hours in advance for their afternoon tea (there are, however, loads of delicious sweets and beverages that you can order without such a thought out commitment).

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Before any decisions were made, we were each brought a glass of freshly pressed orange juice, with an ice cube because the orange must have been room temperature. I never order orange juice and don’t really drink it normally, but I love freshly squeezed orange juice, and I could use some vitamin C, so the OJ was a very welcome treat 🙂

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Chelsea is on an English Breakfast kick, and she keeps talking about it, so I decided to go for the traditional blend as well. One thing we both loved was that the china was different. The cups from the saucers, mine from hers, and even each level of the cake tray.

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This tea is one of the more affordable ones I have gone to, so we were pleasantly surprised to find that half our ‘sandwiches’ were hot. There was a possibly cheese, chive and leek quiche that was delicious, and a warm bready thing with egg and peppers and cheese inside. I realize that if I want to keep doing these blogs where I talk about food, I will have to do more research into what I am given, and find better descriptions than delicious and heavenly. I apologize and will try to do better next time. The other two sandwiches were cucumber (with dill) and a chicken sandwich, which was more of a mini foccacia with grilled chicken and tomatoe. Not your typical afternoon tea sandwiches, but they were exactly what we needed on that chilly day.

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Desserts, I am finding out, are not everyone else’s favorite part of tea, which is surprising for me. I love the sandwiches, yes, but it’s the sweets, and being allowed to try each one that is the real treat for me. I thought the cupcake looked like dark chocolate, so I went to eat it first, but put it aside after one bite. It was moist and not bitter and exactly what a chocolate cupcake should be. The pistachio macaron was also perfect, as was the whipped cream and berry pastry. The crunchy top, soft bottom, cream filled one on the left was soo good, but the marshmallow topping on the lemon tart was pure heaven.

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Scones were brought to us at the end, since they only cook them once you are ready for them. They were interestingly shaped, and kind of smaller than most other ones, but also very tasty.

I would give BB Bakery Covent Garden an 8, mostly because I feel like I can’t just give every place the same score. For the price, it was definitely incredible, the food was delicious, the staff was really nice and it was really cute.

 

Delaunay Afternoon Tea

Last Thursday, Molly and I had the afternoon off, so we decided to have tea at the Delaunay. Since the afternoon tea was under 20 pounds, I assumed there would be no refills, and wasn’t expecting much. I was wrong. Very wrong.

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We walked in to the Counter at the Delaunay, a little pub-like-cafe-restaurant and said we had a reservation for afternoon tea. The waiter then brought us to a different, fancier restaurant with coat check and a humungus booth.

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Once we ordered our teas, we quickly got the drinks (Earl Grey and Assam) as well as the 3 tiered food tray. When we saw there was only one of each dessert, Molly asked if we could get free refills, and they assured us that we could get as much as we want of everything. Color me impressed.

It is a Viennese afternoon tea, so I knew it would not be my traditional fare. There was an interesting eggplant spread with peppers, smoked salmon with cream cheese, cheesy crackers with cream cheese and then a kind of scone topped with jam, cucumber and meat. Different, but yummy. And that black bread is obviously incredibly healthy, right?

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When asked, Molly and I both opted to try both the traditional scone, and the Poppy Seed Gugelhupf. It was recommended that we pair the Gugelhupf with the apricot jam and whipped cream, and the scone with the clotted cream and strawberry jam. The scones, especially the second order, were warm and buttery, while the Gugelhupf was so incredibly soft and moist and I am a huge Poppy Seed fan, so it was amazing.

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The desserts were excellent. My favorite would be the pistachio square with lemon icing in the center, but the rhubarb tart, cheesecake and battenberg each held their own. I even tried a bite of the chocolate mint cake, and the coffee cake, and though they are not flavors I enjoy, they still tasted pretty good 🙂

Molly wanted more sandwiches, and I wanted to try the Battenberg cake that she’d had, but the waitress misunderstood, and we ended up getting refills on all 3 tiers. We tried our darnedest, but we just could not finish it.

I would also give this place an 8, because it is the most incredible value for your money, a very fancy atmosphere, and the food, albeit non-traditional, was delicious.

Tea at Sketch

Chelsea was in town this weekend, and she was a little jealous of all of the amazing teas I have been going to, so on Saturday we decided to go to Sketch.

You can reserve for tea in the Gallery, which is the pink room, but I believe it fills up pretty quickly. Luckily, they do not take reservations for the Parlour, nor for the Glade. The doorman said it would be at least a 40 minute wait when we got there, and he suggested we come back, so we went to check out Liberty, then came back and were seated after a short stint at the bar.

Now, we chose the Glade, and the room itself is painted like a forest, and the light in the middle of the ceiling is made with branches. I am not sure how the red lights and mirrors fit in, nor did I really enjoy the few seconds per hour or so when the red lights ended up right in my eyes, but the overall effect was pretty awesome. Not to mention the space pod bathrooms, which you definitely need to check out when you go. The stalls are basically little space pods where you hear communications between Houston and some kind of space station. Unlike any other toilet I have been in.

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The really great thing was that the food was not only on a level with all of the awesome decor, it was pretty amazing. Chelsea took the Champagne Afternoon tea, and I simply opted for the Darjeeling second flush.

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The sandwiches and pastries come on the same tray, with the promise that scones and another cake will come later.

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The waitress explained everything in detail, telling us which were her favorite, and suggesting that we eat the cheese panini first, since it is hot. It tasted like a delicious grilled cheese. From right to left, we have the panini, the quail egg and caviar egg salad sandwich, the cucumber and ricotta (which tasted sooo fresh!), salmon and cream cheese with salmon egg on top, and finally, coronation chicken with corn and peppers on top. Everything was absolutely delicious, and although I am not one for fish eggs or quail, I did try everything and it was really good. Everything except for the champagne is completely refillable, but we chose to wait until the desserts were done to see if we had room for more sandwiches, and we did not. We did discuss it though, and could not settle on which sandwich was our favorite, we would have wanted seconds of all of them.

Next, we got into desserts. I always try to go from my least favorite to the most delicious, which I often get wrong. I had the coffee tiramisu cake first, which was incredibly soaked in alcohol, then the chocolate mint cake, which the waitress said was her favorite. I was right about eating the tiramisu first, but the cake was actually not as dark as it looked, and very tasty. The mango/passion fruit round (can’t remember which) was so yummy, as were the marshmallows and meringue that came in a little cup. Sooo good. My favorites of the desserts were the pistachio cream puff and the cassis cheesecake.

They asked if we wanted a plain or sultana (raisin) scone, and we both chose sultana. They made it for us fresh, and brought it over hot with clotted cream (the creamy, delicious kind) strawberry and fig jams. I wasn’t sure about fig jam, so I tasted a little bit first, and it was amazing! The scone was also really well done 🙂

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Chelsea took chocolate and I took vanilla rhubarb for our trolley cakes. We were so full at this point, but I made an effort to eat every last bite because it was just that delectable. Chelsea wants me to start rating the teas I go to, and if I had to rate Sketch, I would give it a 9/10. Not sure if I will go back and rate the old ones, but I will try and put a score from now on.

Wales

Last Sunday, I felt like I should have something more to do than just saying goodbye to my parents, and so I took a day trip to Wales. Cardiff to be precise.

The bus ride was about 3 and a half hours long, but I was dropped off right in front of the castle at 11:30. I was slightly in a time crunch with lots to do, so I went straight into the castle and booked the house tour that started in a half an hour. You see, there is one admission fee for the castle as a whole, but if you want to see the rooms, the clock tower, or get the inside scoop on what movies and tv shows were filmed where, you have to pay extra. My favorite part of the castles is seeing where the people lived, so I had to do it.

Before my tour, I went down to the Firing Line museum, up for the short video (which was for kids, not sure if it was advertised and I missed it, but if you don’t have children, don’t go to the video), and then even more up to the Battlement Walk. I even had time to wander around the Wartime Shelters and across the lawn to get to my house tour.

It was definitely interesting, and since I wouldn’t have been able to see the rooms otherwise, I would recommend paying extra for the tour, if that is something that interests you. If it isn’t, the grounds were beautiful, and you will still have plenty to check out, even if you don’t see the apartments.

When I was done with Cardiff Castle, I walked outside, right onto a hop on hop off bus. If you also plan on doing both of these, buy your bus ticket first, as they will give you a coupon for 10% off at the castle (as well as the Dr. Who Experience) which I didn’t get to use.

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The bus I got on was live commentary, and there were only 3 of us, so he basically sat beside us and told us about the town, trying to cater to our interests, which was lovely. And pretty much a private tour of a lovely city.

After my bus tour, I tried to get to Caerphilly Castle, but the buses are very infrequent, so I spent a lot of time trying to decide if I really wanted to see the castle, or if I would rather just have lunch at Mermaid Quay and call it a day.

In the end, I was waiting for so long on the hop on hop off bus (tours start every half hour), so I decided to bite the bullet and go to the castle, like I had originally planned. (I might have googled it and been reminded how absolutely stunning it is)

I grabbed a bite to eat at the indoor mall, then took a bus to Caerphilly. You save a lot of money if you get a return ticket instead of two singles, and they appreciate you having exact change, if possible.

As soon as I saw the castle in the distance, I knew I had made the right decision. Even if I never went inside and just sat by the lake all afternoon, it would have been worth it. Absolutely gorgeous.

Admission is less than 5 pounds for students, so I went for it, even though I had less than an hour, based on their bus schedule. I powered through, seeing the dragon from Merlin, the leaning tower, and more breathtaking views. I didn’t make it to the hidden passageway, so I guess I will have to come back 🙂

I had some pasta when I got back to Cardiff (since the bus tour also gives you 25% off at Bella Italia) and then got on the bus for a slightly shorter ride home.

 

Stonehenge and Bath

On Saturday, my parents and I ventured out of London to gaze upon the wondrous Stonehenge and the beauty of Bath.

We left around 9 am with Anderson tours, for the hour and a half drive to Stonehenge. What started out with apartments and the city quickly turned into vast expanses of green before we spotted the circle of stones.

The tour included an audio guide, which explains a lot about where the stones come from, how they were brought, what the whole thing might have been for…It was really interesting, and kind of surreal, seeing something that I have seen so often in pictures, but in person. I took pictures of it from every single angle, but I am only going to put a few of them here. Definitely worth visiting if you are spending time in London.

We had just enough time to see what we wanted to see and try a rock cake before the bus ride to Bath. As soon as you approach the city and see all the houses with the landscape…it is sooooo beautiful.

We only had two and a half hours in Bath, and about 30 minutes was spent waiting to get into the Roman Baths. The audio guide tour reveals a bunch of interesting information, but my highlight was still the Baths themselves. Also, we tried the water, which smelt like a warm hard boiled egg, but actually just tasted like hot water.

Since we had so little time before having to get back to the bus, we rushed across town to the Royal Crescent, getting a picture of wax-Jane Austen as we ran, then to the Pulteney bridge, which I believe is the only one with covered shops like that on both sides. We also tried to get some Sally Lunn buns. Unfortunately, they don’t do take away, and we didn’t have time to sit down and eat it there, so we went to the museum and bought a bun with cinnamon butter and ate it on the bus on the ride home. We arrived back in London around 6:30.

As far as recommending Anderson Tours, the guide was really nice and helpful, giving us some commentary on the bus, and Stonehenge and Bath were absolutely lovely, but I do wish we could have left earlier or come back later in order to have more time in Bath.

Afternoon Tea at the Ritz

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While my parents were in town last week, we decided to do Afternoon Tea in style. I don’t just mean because the Ritz is a pretty fancy place; they also have a dress code. No one can wear sneakers, and men are expected to wear a jacket and a tie. Which meant a quick shopping trip before making it to our reservation. Once there, I did ask, and the cloakroom is used to lending out ties, jackets and shoes to people who don’t fit the dress code. So don’t worry, they won’t turn you away 🙂

We were let in a little early, and got to choosing our teas. My dad took the green tea, since he only likes tea to dip PB & J sandwiches into, my mom chose lemon verbena, and I went with Darjeeling First Flush. Everyone was very happy with their choices!

We almost immediately got the 3 tiered plate with sandwiches at the bottom, desserts at the top, and an empty middle. Our waiter gave us a description of everything that he’d put in front of us, and then we dug in.

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We each got one of each of the sandwiches, and it was assumed that they would be bringing us more. (as in we didn’t have to ask, they just told us they were going to get us more). All were delicious, even the ones I thought I wouldn’t like so much, like the ham (they paired it with dijon mustard, which won me over). From left to right, you have cheddar cheese and chutney, which was so good, but the tomatoe bread was the best out of all the sandwiches, then the smoked salmon and cream cheese, cucumber with cream cheese and dill, chicken, egg and then ham. We ate every last one of the first round, as well as the refills.

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The scones arrived just as we were about to start on desserts. My mom loved them, but my dad and I, who actually prefer the taste of brown bread with a bunch of seeds in it, weren’t crazy about them. I mean, they were really good, but just not the best that I’ve had here in London.

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Finally, the desserts. Which were surprising, because the one I thought I wouldn’t like and didn’t even really want to try was actually my favorite. We got refills, even though we said no, because one of us hesitated. There were lemon macaroons, orange and raspberry things, a coconut hazelnut white chocolate thing, and then the chocolate and coffee pastry in the middle, which was by far the most delicious. The cream inside was heavenly!

Finally, we were offered a piece of one of the cakes from the trolley, but we were all much too full, so we went home, stuffed and happy 🙂

Hotel Cafe Royal ~ Oscar Wilde Style

Yesterday, we had another little midday break in our scheduling, so Molly and I ventured to the Hotel Cafe Royal for an afternoon tea in the Oscar Wilde Bar.

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First of all, the room is absolutely gorgeous, with the mirrors reflecting all the gold and making it all the more impressive. Not to mention the pianist who not only serenaded us with Disney, movie and musical tunes, he also took requests from Molly 🙂

Upon the waitress’ and Molly’s urging, I did not take the masculine, Oscar tea, but I did take the golden one, inspired by the details of the room’s ceiling. I forget the name and didn’t actually see any pieces of gold, but it was delicious, even without sugar.

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Our first tray that came out was full of interesting sandwiches. We started at the top and made our way down, beginning with the goat’s cheese and Gruyere muffin. The tube contains tomato juice, that we injected into the muffin. I am not a fan of goat’s cheese or tomato juice, but I still tried it, and ended up finishing it, so pretty good. Next, we had the traditional cucumber and cream cheese, this time on a red bread, and with possibly chives inside. The onion-y taste wasn’t overwhelming, and the sandwich was too good to give up on.

The second level had prawn salad in a bun, followed by a sort of hard cheesy crust thing with smoked salmon and a quail egg on top. The salmon with the egg was absolutely delicious, and reminded me of the white egg sauce my grandmother makes sometimes when we have salmon. The bottom layer had the traditional coronation chicken, which was excellent, as always, and an onion wellington thing, that I let Molly have. I assume it was very tasty, because she was really happy that I don’t like onions, and would have asked for more if she wasn’t so full.

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We next got a palate cleanser, of a lovely fruit juice, paired with the most delectable little cookie.

Finally, we got the scones and the dessert tray at the same time. We both opted to eat the scones first, with clotted cream and incredibly drippy jam. It tasted wonderful, but looks slightly awkward in pictures.

For the desserts, we had a lollipop with a hazelnut chocolate cream inside, and a vanilla sponge cake on the top layer. Molly told me she wished there had been more filling, so I put some lemon curd between the slices and had the filling pouring out with each bite. The paper on the lollipops was edible, we were told, so Molly and I bit right into it 🙂

The middle layer housed the checkered fondant wrapped cake piece, which is traditional for teas, and I absolutely love, as well as the cherry flavored macaroon, complete with Hotel Cafe Royal underground logo. Not the best macaroon I’ve ever had, but it gets all the points back for style!

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The bottom layer had an orange layered cake thing which was surprisingly good, since I wasn’t looking forward to the orange, as well as a raspberry treat. The gelatinous part likes to come free, so bite slowly. Its worth it.

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Intermittently throughout the meal, we got to converse with a toastmaster who was in the Royal NAVY, and had been to both Montreal and California. He could also recite some Oscar Wilde, and was a pleasure to talk to.

It was a the perfect way to spend a long lunch, with a beautiful setting, yummy food, incredibly friendly staff, and I definitely hope to go back 🙂

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Mad Hatter Tea Party @ The Sanderson

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Monday was dance night here at LAMDA, so other than a couple of rehearsals scattered throughout the day, we mostly had the day off. We took advantage by rehearsing our scenes and dances for the performances on Thursday, but I also invited a few friends to join me for a Mad Hatter Tea Party at the Sanderson Hotel.

Since the tea was Alice in Wonderland themed, all of the napkins had riddles on them, the menu was tucked away in a book, and the sugar came in this super cute ballerina music box, that actually played music every time Sydney opened it to get some sugar.

The tea selections came in little vials, with names relating to the story, such as the Queen of Hearts, White Rabbit, or Alice, which is what the 3 of us opted for.

The sandwiches were very interesting, but surprisingly delicious. Some were different takes on the classics, such as cream cheese and cucumber on lime bread or marinated vegetables, but others were completely new to me, such as avocado puree in an ice cream cone, or a scotch egg wrapped in salmon and caviar. There was also a croque monsieur (basically a grilled cheese) and a crab salad bun.

The desserts are where it really got fun, as everything was so whimsically themed. There was a carrot growing in the grass on top, surrounded by marshmallow mushrooms and tootsie roll caterpillars. On the middle level, there was a coffee flavored pocket watch macaroon, a chocolate queen of hearts soldier, a banana bread butterfly muffin and a red velvet/almond lady bug. Then the bottom level held the scones with clotted cream and jam, as well as the drink me potion, in this case, a mango smoothie, I believe.

We thought we were done after we got the cocktails, which Amy and I both gave to Sydney, but they came and brought us garden pots, that were actually passion fruit ice cream, covered in chocolate dust and honeycombs. Absolutely delicious!