Damian Allsop Afternoon Tea At The Wyndham Grand

Posted by in Features on June 6 2012 | Leave A Comment

Damian Allsop is one of the country’s top chocolatiers, so when I heard he was partnering with the Wyndham Grand Hotel in Chelsea Harbour to produce an ‘Eat London’ chocolate afternoon tea, I just had to try it. Regular readers will know I have a bit of a thing for chocolate afternoon teas, and we’ve recently reviewed a number of different interpretations, so there’s plenty to compare it to.

On Monday afternoon, I headed down to Chelsea with my friend Emma Jane and we settled in for an afternoon of indulgence.

The Wyndham Grand is apparently London’s only 5-star all-suite hotel, and it certainly has the feel of a luxury hotel. It might lack a little of the character of places like the Chancery Court Hotel, but it’s welcoming and elegant, with a great view of the harbour and seemed like a pleasant place to spend a couple of hours.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by staff, who unfortunately weren’t expecting us. This was compounded by the fact that our waitress didn’t speak very good English, and explaining why we were there and what we wanted became quite hard work. Eventually, we took a seat by the window and waited for our teas. It has to be said, we did a lot of waiting. I’m not sure if this is simply because they weren’t expecting anyone to be ordering the afternoon tea, or if there was some other problem. But at least we had a nice view and a bar filled with interesting characters to watch in the mean time.

Unlike all the other afternoon teas I’ve tried, we weren’t given a box of different teas to examine and choose from, but instead were shown a simple list in a menu. Obviously, this isn’t a big issue, but there’s something about the experience of opening and smelling various jars of real teas that adds something extra to the whole experience, and it was something I missed. But we chose our teas and they arrived fairly promptly – and in teapots that didn’t drip no matter how hard you tried to make a mess. We were both impressed by this.

We sat and drank our teas (which were very pleasant), and after a fairly lengthy wait, the sandwiches and scones arrived. The waitress explained that the chocolate part of the tea would arrive separately as it contained ice cream, which was fair enough, but the three-tiered tray with a small plate of sandwiches, four scones covered in a napkin and one tier missing looked a little underwhelming. The sandwiches looked nice, but the overall presentation wasn’t great.

And to be fair, the sandwiches were very nice indeed. They were pastrami on rye with mustard & gherkin, smoked salmon & herb cream cheese and cured Manchego cheese and tomato. All were very enjoyable, although the mustard on the first sandwich was overdone and enough to make our eyes water. I still ate it though!

Unfortunately, the scones were stale. They were presented with clotted cream and an apple jam rather than the traditional strawberry. The apple jam was interesting but more like an apple sauce than something I would put on scones. We both agreed that we would have preferred a simple strawberry jam (which was offered), but neither of us really wanted to eat more of the scones.

But finally it was time for the big finale, Damian’s chocolate creations.

The plate full of treats looked impressive. As you can see, the menu gives each item a name of an area of London, based on the worldwide influences on that area that have inspired it. The desserts are:

Brixton Hill (Afro-Caribbean)Virunga chocolate ice cream with banana meringue & passion fruit sorbet

Presented in a cute little glass with a scoop of sorbet, a scoop of ice cream and amazing sticks of meringue, this was an impressive dessert. The ice cream was rich with the sorbet providing a nice tartness to cut through it, and the sticks of meringue were light and delicious. My friend was less keen on the sorbet, but I wish there had been more than one of these to share.

Edgware Road (Arabic)Pistachio ice cream dipped in a lemon white chocolate

A total triumph. These egg-shaped blobs of white chocolate presented on a spoon don’t look much, but break into them and they’re filled with a deep green pistachio ice cream that has an amazing flavour. As the rich, satisfying pistachio melts, you get the slightest hint of a lemony zest on the back of your tongue. This one has to be tried for yourself.

China TownDark chocolate & roasted peanut brownie soy caramel ganache & ginger crunch

This one we weren’t so keen on. An intriguing mushroom-shaped piece, we both found that the brownie just didn’t have any flavour to it. The caramel was nice, but couldn’t really compensate for the lack of flavour.

Harrington Gardens (French)Petit pot au Macae chocolate, apricot compot, lavender crisps

I presume the Macae in question here is Valrhona’s Macaé Pure Brazil chocolate, made into a mousse with an apricot compot in the middle. The chocolate was delicious, and while the compot was nice, I don’t think it was really needed. The ‘lavender crisp’ on top didn’t work at all, unfortunately. It was soggy and tasted of nothing. I have to assume that Damian designed it to be an actual crisp, and that it hadn’t been stored correctly. A bit of a shame, but the mousse definitely stood on its own.

Soho Square (Italian)Baked tiramisu, Masala gel, coffee & almond crunch

I wasn’t so keen on the texture of the tiramisu, but the other elements of this piece worked very well. A nice combination of flavours, with the coffee & almond chocolate pice having a very nice balance.

Brick Lane (Indian)Mango lassie chocopop

We finished with the lolipops, which were simple and fun. The filling was very fruity, and although I’d have preferred a lighter texture, that’s more down to personal preference.

To sum up, there were elements of this afternoon tea that were outstanding, and elements that were just ‘Ok’. We had a very enjoyable afternoon, and I’d recommend everyone tries the pistachio ice cream at least once. But our visit was also let down by stale scones and poor service. Those things should be fairly easy to fix, and if the hotel can get them right, then I would definitely recommend a visit. Damian’s creations are always worth trying, and I do think this is potentially a great outlet for his work.

Damian Allsop’s ‘Eat London’ Afternoon Tea is available until 30th June 2012 at The Wyndham Grand Hotel, £28 per person.

Hotel guests and non-residents can book the Chocolate Masterclass with Damian Allsop – From 11am-2pm on Saturday 9th June 2012 – £40pp

Eat London Package (Weekend Rate) – Wyndham Grand London is also offering a special rate of £178pp on either Friday 8th June or Saturday 9th June which includes overnight accommodation, breakfast, the Chocolate Masterclass and the Eat London Afternoon Tea. Quote ‘Damian Allsop’ when booking.

Phone: +44(0)20 7823 3000.

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Comments On This Post

  1. Ron P.

    What a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.

    High Teas & Chocolate must be in the air now that I see your article, Dom, and this other one I saw last week which has a beautiful picture of Matisse’s chocolate pot: http://www.c-spot.com/chocolate-census/daily-review/?pid=1689.

    I think I shall try some tea and chocolate today.

  2. Classic miscommunication with our waitress – when we introduced ourselves as being there to do the review, the young lady said “ah ok, Daily Mail voucher”…! Err… no love. The pistachio / white chocolate egg was the highlight, but I’ll let your readers decide if that is enough to merit a visit.

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