Fifth Floor Restaurant,
When Anna Russell (the 7th Duchess of Bedford), inaugurated a new meal (afternoon tea) in the mid-19th century, it’s unlikely she knew what she’d started. And it’s surprising just how creative food masters such as Harvey Nichols’ executive chef Jonas Karlsson, have become over the last two centuries, with the basic menu format of sandwiches, scones, cake and tea.
Harvey Nichols’ flagship Knightsbridge store offers a stunning Champagne Afternoon Tea, and the experience starts with the décor. Muted tones of mocha and cream greet you as you’re seated at a stylish, modern table – hopefully one of those that offers a view of the high street below (although you have to crane your neck a little to see the traffic). But the eye is drawn upwards to the restaurant’s most impressive architectural feature, an elegant oval ceiling of faceted glass that adds to the impression you’re dining on Olympus served by Armani-suited Ganymedes.
From the bar next to the restaurant I ordered a glass of Perrier-Jouët Rosé, although the tea list includes Nyetimber Classic Cuvée 2005 and Nyetimber Rosé 2007. The smooth, crisp rosé was a perfect match for the first ‘course’, a selection of original sandwiches in miniature: Forman’s smoked salmon poppy-seed bagel with creamed cheese; egg mayonnaise and watercress bridge roll; Saint Agur cheese, air-dried tomato and rocket on poilane; Ortiz tuna focaccia with black olive tapenade. The bridge roll was a rather bland choice, but honour was more than saved by the exquisite flavour and texture of the Saint Agur/ air-dried tomato combination. When I commented on it to my stylish, attentive Ganymede (who bore a striking resemblance to the actor Justin Theroux) he kindly brought me some more.
The second course was, again, a study in miniature, and the wonderful choice of treats included a subtle, nutty Sicilian pistachio cake, homemade plain and fruit scones served with clotted cream and fabulously fruity strawberry jam, a slice of Battenburg cake, a rich Valrhona chocolate and caramel ‘tear’, a tangy lemon and mascarpone tart with delicate pastry, and finally a rather odd choice: a cube of homemade marshmallow. I would happily have forgone the marshmallow for an extra serving of scones, which were fluffy and light, or the excellent pistachio cake.
Karlsson, who came to Harvey Nichols in 2004 from the Orrery, is a master of ‘zakuski’-style presentation (‘light bites’), and the smart, square platters of varying colours and sizes on which each course is presented, sets it off to fashionable perfection.
Fifth Floor’s Afternoon Tea starts at £27.50, with the Champagne Afternoon Tea offered at £37.50 with a glass of Nyetimber Classic Cuvée 2005/, or £42.50 with a glass of Nyetimber Rosé 2007. On arrival, the staff will ask if you have any dietary requirements, and your menu is altered accordingly. There is good wheelchair and pram access too.
For more information, please visit: http://www.harveynichols.com/
**Reviewed by:** Bryony Weaver