Afternoon Tea is such a fine British tradition but it’s always so interesting to try something different for that mid-afternoon treat. So I was really intrigued to sample the unique Spanish themed tea served at Michelin-starred restaurant Ametsa with Arzak Instruction at The Halkin Hotel.
For this afternoon tea with a twist, the usual finger sandwiches have been replaced with a vibrant array of Spanish tapas.
Chef Sergi Sanz has created the tea based on the principles of Basque cuisine and the tea begins with a traditional skewer or pincho. The skewer was comprised of peppers and an olive wrapped in an anchovy which was a delicious mix of salt, spice and a very slight sweetness from the peppers. Next an Iberica ham and manchego cheese nibble, a tasty bite which I’ve actually sampled before when having lunch in the restaurant. Ametsa with Arzak Instruction is actually a collaboration between Elena Arzak and her father Juan Mari Arzak, who’s three Michelin-starred restaurant, Arzak in San Sebastian, is one of the best in the world. It’s on my bucket list!
Afternoon tea purists will be pleased to see a least one finger sandwich, toasted and containing Spanish piquillo peppers and avocado. Next were pork croquettes and finally my favourite of the tapas dishes, a beautifully crisp spider crab tempura.
A lovely light chilled potato soup also came with the tapas selection as refreshing palate cleanser.`
There’s a choice of Jing teas and I selected a slightly sweet herbal hibsicus to complement the tapas. And also sticking to the Spanish theme, a glass of cava in place of champagne.
The hotel itself is small and subtle, located on a side street in Belgravia, you may not notice it from the outside but inside it’s super-stylish and modern. The hotel looks so new and fresh that I was really surprised to learn it is actually twenty-five years old but regular refurbishments keep it very well maintained.
Now I must say that if soft fluffy scones are your favourite part of afternoon tea, you may be disappointed as this Spanish-themed tea excludes the scone course. I think this can be a good thing as this tea was much lighter and less carb-heavy than traditional tea – perfect if you don’t want to feel too full afterwards and you’re heading round the corner to Harrods or Harvey Nics.
Again bucking tradition, this isn’t served on a tea tower, instead the presentation is more modern on longer plates and slates. I started by dipping my spoon into the sangria and passionfruit shot with lemon sorbet, which was a refreshing way to start off the sweet selection. Next to that was a tasty blackberry yogurt with a biscuit crumble.
I wasn’t such a fan of the third confection, a Catalan cream which was a little like custard and had a very strong taste of cinnamon. Finally Churros with a chocolate dipping sauce to satisfy the chocoholic.
The other plate contained charred sweets – I did check that they were edible as they looked like stones – but actually the outer covering was aubergine with a delicious molten chocolate inside.
Finally was this beautifully presented lime custard and banana tartlet with a gorgeous netting of spun sugar encasing it.
I really enjoyed my Basque-style afternoon tea at the Halkin hotel and it was great to sample one that bucked tradition whilst satisfying both a sweet and savoury tooth. Also it’s definitely a great tea to try if you’re looking for something less heavy without so much bread.
Afternoon tea is £32 and £36 with a glass of cava.
The Halkin by Como
My afternoon tea was complimentary.