It’s London Fashion Week! Which for we foodies, means we have our ears and noses to the ground in search of the most delicious and stylish culinary delights to complement the catwalk.
So last week, I popped into Balthazar, Covent Garden to get my dessert-loving tastebuds around the oh so stylish Matthew Williamson-inspired afternoon tea.
The setting here, as you may well know, is classic brasserie style, with beautiful soaring ceilings, red leather booths, mosaic floors and gold railings which give off a nostalgic nod to a French bistro of yesteryear.
The waiting staff are flawlessly suited and booted and ours had a thick (French?) accent and was brimming with enthusiasm and charisma. He made me and my mum laugh many times throughout the afternoon, including when he brought over the big pots of tea but with a confused look on his face, claiming he’d ‘lost’ his fellow waiter who was carrying the cake.
Alas, our cake stand did arrive moments later. And what a stylish spread it was.
Three tiers of doily-topped plates were filled with finger sandwiches, fresh scones and those five fashion-inspired pastries.
Oh my. This is what you call a fashionable afternoon tea.
There really is no mistaking the designer behind this pastry collection. Matthew Williamson is known for his kaleidoscope of colours and there was no holding back on the vibrancy of these delectable desserts.
The strawberry trifle lured us instantly with its sunshine-shaped sugar rim and popping pink butterfly that looked like it had just landed delicately on top.
We delved out spoons into several layers of strawberry jelly, cream and fruit pieces which were ever-so-sweet.
The pistachio and kirsch macaron was a delightfully crisp mint-coloured green disc which once bitten into, gave way to the gooey texture that makes a quality macaron so unbelievably moreish. Its marzipan-like flavour from the kirsch brandy was an added piece of heaven. And the leaf-life decoration on top made it look like a fashionable head piece or piece of art.
Pronouncing the word ‘millefeuille’ just makes me want to be French. And when it tastes like this, this is no exception. Because the quality of Balthazar’s take on this layered cream pastry was as elegant as it gets. The fact that it contained pecan praline only made it more delicious and indulgent. We like. A lot.
While the black forest gateau was a familiar cylindrical parcel of chocolate, cream and devilishy boozy flavours (which you’d probably yearn to double in size) the vanilla cheesecake (foreground of above image) was a delightfully unexpected flavour and texture.
Its more mellow sweetness was welcoming and it had a mix of biscuit and creamy textures, topped with a pop of fresh green colour. Delish.
We mustn’t forget the delicious lead up to these fashionable cakes which included a selection of four finger sandwiches and fresh scones.
There was egg mayonnaise and mustard cress; smoked chicken and apricot; crab, tarragon mayonnaise and lemon juice; and smoked salmon, butter and black pepper.
Mum and I both thought these fillings were simple yet refreshingly different (and some you could easily try at home) The fresh mint added to the cucumber and cream cheese was refreshingly delicious. Such a big hit, we ordered some more.
The scones were light and fluffy as hoped and the syrupy jam had the necessary thick and juicy pieces of fruit in it. The cream – Devonshire clotted, of course.
For those who enjoy a little tipple with their afternoon tea, the Matthew Williamson Chasing Rainbow cocktail might take your fancy.
We decided to hold back on an entirely sinful afternoon (oh we are good) and settled for big pots of chai and Assam tea.
Several hours of indulgence later, we emerged into a rainy Covent Garden and made a bee-line for the covered market on our way home.
I almost met Matthew Williamson once, at Manchester Fashion Week several years back. Alas, I was too shy to bother him and possibly a bit intimidated to interrupt his entourage. But I like to think we have a few things in common: We’re both northerners, we like butterflies and we both enjoy a brew and big slab of cake.
Give me a bit of parkin or Eccles cake any day, but this is how you do afternoon tea…with style.
Until next time x
The Matthew Williamson inspired afternoon tea is available until 1st May 2015 and is priced at £25 per person with an additional £10 for the Chasing Rainbows cocktail. Oh So London was a guest of Balthazar – all views are my own.
Have you tried the MW inspired afternoon tea or visited Balthazar? Leave a comment and let me know what you thought…
Balthazar Restaurant, 4-6 Russell Street, London, WC2B 5HZ
View the MW afternoon tea menu here
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