Saturday, 9 October 2010
When the alarm goes off on Monday morning, it will be Chocolate Week.
Yes, Chocolate Week. This week was British Egg Week, and that was fun (who doesn't like a nutritious omelette)? But in the end, Egg Week is the sensible Birkenstock of Weeks compared to the frivolous, fancy and blatantly indulgent Manolo of Weeks that is Chocolate Week. Chocolate Week has got to be one of the best excuses to make like Augustus Gloop that was ever invented.
My trusty "if-it-involves-chocolate-and-champagne-you-know-my-number" friend, the inimitable Ms P, was surprisingly quick to put up her hand to help me mark the occasion. We were invited down to Podium Restaurant at the London Hilton on the Park for a preview of 2 special afternoon tea packages: The White Chocolate Afternoon Tea (available during Chocolate Week, from 11-17 October 2010) and the Halloween Afternoon Tea (available from 18-31 October 2010). We also cast our eye over the regular Confessions of a Chocoholic Afternoon Tea.
The decor at the Podium Restaurant is not as glamourous and swanky as you might experience (and pay for) at The Ritz or Claridges. And the melodious live piano tunes that accompany your meal are actually emanating from an organ rather than the grand piano that your ear anticipates. But the setting is relaxed and contemporary, the quality and service are excellent. And, as you nibble daintily on your chocolate chips scones with Devonshire clotted cream, it's easy to visualise a grand piano at all times.
Savoury starters include open sandwiches - egg and cress, Foreman's smoked salmon with horseradish, honey roast ham and Pommery mustard, prawn mayonnaise and baby gem lettuce and cucumber with cream cheese and chives. Each is lovely, but not earth shattering, and perhaps the ham sandwich is a bit of a plain Jane. But we are not here for ham.
Our triple decker tiered stands of pure, chocolately indulgence then arrive. Normally, it's one between two, but we're not taking any chances and we road test two between us.
The White Chocolate arrangement is stunning - so much so, that another table comes over to take a photo. Our eyes are immediately drawn to the gorgeous white chocolate tea pot on the top deck. It is surrounded by lychee, raspberry, rosewater mousse and sugared diamonds, white chocolate millefeuille with griottine cherries, a cone of marshmallow and white chocolate ganache, pineapple crumble with white chocolate jelly and a vanilla and white chocolate macaroon. It's all girly, dainty and delicious.
That's just the top shelf.
Underneath, we have 4 cupcakes - chocolate and banana, and milk chocolate and raspberry. And finally, a selection of scones - plain, fruit and chocolate chip, served with clotted cream, strawberry jam and praline chocolate. (The upcoming menu also advertises a white chocolate and raspberry scone.)
The Halloween Afternoon Tea has more of a childish appearance, but loses nothing in taste. The cupcakes are dark chocolate and orange, and gooey toffee - the flavours are quite mild and hard to detect, other than in the icing, which is probably a good thing to avoid the experience becoming too sickly sweet. The top shelf fancies are "miniature toffee apples" (which are actually glaced cherries), an almond paste pumpkin, a dark chocolate witch hat, a white chocolate and raspberry dome and a blood orange chocolate bat.
All the chocolatey bits are made in-house with Valrhona chocolate (70% cocoa), and - this is possibly the best bit - the top shelf of each stand is presented on a large, edible chocolate plate. If you can't get through it all (we couldn't and we're seasoned veterans), you are even presented with quite a glamourous "doggy bag" to take home the leftovers.
Oh, yes the tea. All teas are from the Harney & Sons - we tried the Hilton Afternoon Tea blend which is designed to accompany the chocolate afternoon teas (full flavoured and smokey) and, my favourite, the elegant Imperial Earl Grey. I loved the timers which also allowed us to known when to pour for mild, medium or strong tea.
The Podium Restaurant's Chocolate Week Afternoon Tea (available 11-17 October 2010) and Halloween Afternoon Tea (available 18-31 October 2010) cost £25 - great value for a gorgeously indulgent way to while away a wintery afternoon. The restaurant also offers its standard "Confessions of a Chocaholic" afternoon tea at all times for £22.50 (or £29.50 with a glass of champagne). All afternoon teas are available daily from 2pm-6pm.
Podium Restaurant, London Hilton on Park Lane, 22 Park Lane, London, W1K 1BE (Tel: 020 7208 4022
Greedy Diva was a guest of Podium Restaurant.