Are you that person who spots a leaflet for a competition in the post, sighs in frustration about how it made its way to your doorstep, discarding it in the belief that it is a time-wasting con?
Or are you that person whose heart beats to the rhythm of eternal optimism, who trusts in the National Lottery’s proclamation that “It could be you” and who truly subscribes to the view that if you are in it, you may just win it. I fall into the latter category and no amount of teasing from my friends and family has stripped me of that.#Winning – and I finally did!
A couple of months ago, I was lounging around in a fluffy, snow-white robe in Bali when I got a most-exciting tweet from Sunny in London informing me that I had won a competition she ran in conjunction with Zomato UK. And the prize? A 24 Karat Gold Afternoon Tea at the luxurious St James Court Taj Hotel in St James Park, an area of London I called home in my pre-marital life. And so after years of believing I’d eventually win a competition – I did!
24 Karat Gold Afternoon Tea at St James Court Taj Hotel
The first week of January is an atypical time to indulge in afternoon tea. We’re supposed to be blending spinach juice and eating salad and as a result, the Kona restaurant was quiet when I arrived with Pumpkin and my sister.This didn’t deter the staff from making an enormous effort to be courteous and helpful. They knew their menu, gave proactive, helpful suggestions and showed a professionalism and courtesy that impressed me. 24 Karat class was apparent throughout the afternoon both metaphorically with this service and literally, with elegant gold leaf sprinkled with sophistication across the delicacies served. It was hard selecting a tea from their vast array of white, black and green teas, as all sounded tempting in the soggy December air. Between us, we ordered an aromatic, spiced Indian Chai and a sneak peek inside revealed a busy teapot harbouring star anise, orange peel and cloves amongst other things. My mango green tea held a light and fragrant note that floated across the table and evoked memories of fresh mangoes my sister and I ate by the dozen on childhood holidays in India.
Ordinarily at this stage, one discusses the sandwiches but what I loved at this tea was this supreme plate of savoury magic was so much more than that. Aside from the Chorizo, black mustard and Comte sandwich on display, we were also treated to a homemade beetroot bread and minted cucumber pinwheel, egg mayonaise with golden quail’s egg, smoked salmon with caviar on rye bread and a mixed vegetable tartlet. I must admit I preferred this to the conventional sandwich platter, a little fresher and less dense on the post-Christmas belly. (NB, the savoury menu we were served seems to have been updated as compared to the website menu at the time of writing this post so check with the restaurant if you have any queries).
Shortly before embarking upon our sweet treats, they re-affirmed just how classy an afternoon tea this would be with a refreshing marinated plum, thyme and rosemary compote palate cleanser.And then the moment of truth arrived (let’s be honest, when you say the word afternoon tea, it’s really the cakes and scones that spring to mind!). The desserts were nothing short of beautiful, oozing elegance and decadence. An array of mini scones at the base (raisin, plain and chocolate chip), which were irresistibly soft and moist to perfection. I’d have liked them ever so slightly warmer but I’m not sure whether this was because they were brought out lukewarm or whether they were nicely warm and I just spent too long taking photographs! Either is quite feasible!
The desserts included a white chocolate dome with popping candy, a strawberry tart, champagne jelly with raspberry foam and a white chocolate lollipop and last but not least, a mini opera cake, which was more akin to an artistic masterpiece than a dessert (I am so jealous of the talent of pastry chefs!)With over a decade of afternoon teas in London under my belt, I am wary of turning into that overly critical Londoner, no longer capable of being wowed by this quintessentially British experience that I have always loved so much. But when you come across a place that masters taste, presentation, customer service, and quality as well as Kona at St James Court, you can breathe a sigh of relief that it still retains the same magic as it did the very first time.
And as for the gold? Those who can relate to my Indian heritage will understand the significance of gold in the culture. If you attend a wedding, you don’t give a registered kettle or toaster, you give gold. If you are trying to impress your new mother-in-law, you wear gold. And no one but no one will accept silver as an alternative. Now, personally, I’ve never really bought into this gold-phenomenon craze but…seeing it through this new medium, I might just be converted!