I’ve written about the chocolate afternoon teas at The Podium restaurant at The Hilton on Park Lane before, but when they got in touch to say they’d revamped their offering and asking if I’d like to come back and try it, I jumped at the chance. I grabbed a friend and we headed down to Park Lane on a shockingly sunny Sunday for a relaxed afternoon of indulgence.
The Podium Restaurant hasn’t changed since my last visit. I like it because it has a nice balance of style and comfort. It’s smart and sophisticated but also family friendly. That’s a contrast to the ultra-stylish afternoon tea I enjoyed at The Chancery Court Hotel, which is a stunning venue, but very formal and probably isn’t the kind of place you would take a young family.
When we arrived, we were offered water and a complementary glass of champagne. The champagne is not normally included in the price, but the restaurant have been kind enough to include a free glass for Chocablog readers (details on how to claim that at the end of this post).
Once we’d settled in with our drinks, a nice man came around with two wooden boxes containing jars of tea for us to choose from. One box contained caffeine-free herbal options if that’s your thing, but we both opted for a fully caffeinated option. The tea arrives in pots with a choice of milk or lemon, and some cute little egg timers. The waiter helpfully let us know how long we needed to let our teas steep, and before we knew it, the food started to arrive.
The sandwiches at The Podium are the same as on my previous visit. You’re presented with a long plate with five amazing looking open sandwiches; smoked salmon & horseradish, honey rost ham & Pommery mustard, prawn mayonnaise and baby gem lettuce, cucumber with cream cheese and egg and cress. They looked good before, but if anything I would say they were even more refined than my last visit. They were all beautifully presented, fresh and delicious.
If you have special dietary requirements, there are plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free sandwich options available if you ask the waiter beforehand.
Of course, it was the sweet stuff we were really interested in, and as soon as we’d finished, the waiter arrived with a tower of delicious treats. On the bottom layer were the scones – a choice of plain, raisin or chocolate-chip, while the top two layers contained a range of chocolate cakes and patisserie.
The scones were wonderful. Still warm and incredibly light and fluffy, they were perfect with the clotted cream and fresh strawberry jam. There was also a chocolate spread for them if that’s your thing, but when it comes to scones, I’m a traditionalist.
The first thing you notice about the cakes is just how colourful they are. There are lots of candy pinks and yellows going on, and the whole thing looks a little like a sweet shop.
The middle tray has the freshly baked cupcakes and pastries. There’s a Battenberg cake, Sachertorte, raspberry cupcake and red velvet cupcake. There is a lot of sugar here so everything is quite sweet, but they’re tasty nonetheless. I particularly enjoyed enjoyed the richness of the Sachertorte, but that’s more personal preference than anything else.
The top tier is home to the miniature fancies, and the first thing you’ll notice is that they sit on a tray made from solid chocolate. The Podium’s chefs use Valrhona chocolate throughout, and this sizeable chunk of chocolate is actually very tasty. Don’t forget it – and if you find yourself unable to finish, one of the waiters will happily put it in a doggy bag for you to take home and enjoy later.
On the tray are a white chocolate & cherry cheesecake, red velvet & orange tuile, milk chocolate cremeux, pistachio macaron with Valrhona Manjari filling, iced shortbread butterfly, orange & chocolate profiterole, and finally a lemon & rasberry marshmallow cone and meringue lolly planted in a tall glass of pink and white swirled sugar.
The latter was initially a bit of a disappointment as it looked amazing and my friend and I had both thought the glass was filled with sherbet powder. If I could make one change to the whole tea, it would be to change the sugar for sherbet so the cone and lolly could be dipped in it.
That said, they were very nice, with the flavour of the cone being reminiscent of those old penny ‘fruit salad’ sweets. Lots of childhood sweetshop memories here.
The rest of the selection was pretty good, although my personal preference would be for a little more of the dark side. But my tastes probably don’t match with the average chocaholic, who probably has a sweeter tooth than me.
As with my previous experiences at The Podium, the service was excellent, with staff always on hand when needed, but never in the way. All in all, we had a very pleasant and relaxing 2 hours and left feeling full and satisfied.
I’ve now experienced several different chocolate afternoon teas around London, and I think this one has a great balance of style and fun. There may be more sophisticated venues, but The Podium is probably the most relaxed and welcoming. I always enjoy my time there and I’d happily recommend it.
‘Confessions of A Chocaholic’ Afternoon Tea is available at The Podium Restaurant at The Hilton on Park Lane. 2pm – 6pm Daily. £29.50 per person.
22 Park Lane, London W1K 1BE. Tel: 020 7208 4022
Quote ‘Chocablog’ when booking for two and receive a complimentary glass of champagne each.