Half Moon Street
Flemings of Mayfair
The Front Room,
After braving the turmoil and boiling mass of Christmas shoppers on Oxford Street, Regent Street, or any other of London’s crowded streets, there really is nothing like finding a quiet, cosy corner in which to relax and refresh tired spirits.
As its name suggests, stepping into The Front Room off dark Half Moon Street (just off Piccadilly) is like walking into someone’s warm front parlour. The Front Room has a modernist, Art Deco feel to it. Deep, high-backed sofas, chunky, gilt-edged mirrors, ample armchairs with welcoming cushions, and a wall-to-wall bookcase suggest opulence, whilst the acid green soft furnishings and bold wallpaper add a very 2010 touch.
To start, we’re offered an interesting array of teas to choose from. I follow the recommendation from our waitress, and select Delicious Poppy, a blend of Chinese and Sri Lankan black tea with pink Peony and cornflower petals, mixed with the essences of poppy, biscuit and almond. My guest opts for an equally original flavour: Passion de Fleurs, a delicate white tea combined with rose, apricot and passionfruit perfumes. They’re both subtle and fruity, and an excellent match for either sweet or savoury food.
We then decide to mix and match, and my dining partner orders the Traditional English Afternoon Tea with the Perrier-Jouët Champagne addition (although, on request, our helpful waitress substitutes this for a Violet Moon, a Champagne cocktail from Flemings Bar’s original cocktail list). It’s an aromatic mix of Ketel One Vodka with berries, Violette and blackcurrant liqueurs, P-J Champagne and lemon oils. Tempted by the Chocoholics Afternoon Tea, I finally decide on the Martini Savoury Afternoon Tea, served with a gin Martini (vodka Martini also available).
Sadly for him, my choice turns out to be the better one. Although the sandwiches served with the Traditional Tea are billed as ‘freshly made’, the bread is a little dry around the edges and doesn’t do the fillings justice. Nor are these anything special: salmon & cream cheese, egg mayonnaise, cucumber, ham and English mustard, and chicken mayonnaise. There is nothing that stimulates the palate in this menu, despite the scones with clotted cream and jam, and miniature Primrose Bakery cupcakes, being fresh.
The star of the day is the succulent, piquant Martini Tea, which is original and utterly delicious. Flemings’ Head Chef, Simon Henbery, was brought onboard in 2009 (from Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen) to revitalise the hotel’s menus, and to introduce a ‘rustic, mouth-watering European’ flavour – and he does so with style.
Not being a huge Martini fan, I’m very pleasantly soothed by the smooth, delicate Signature Martini brought up from Flemings Bar. Its ingredients include a notable, aged Van Wee’s Genever mixed with essence of apricot, fruity wine, bitter orange and fresh orange oils, which go perfectly with the mini black pudding Scotch (quail’s) egg starter. This is an amazing blend of crunchy coating, warm egg and delicately spicy meat. The following morsel of Ugie smoked salmon and caviar, served on a tissue-thin savoury biscuit, explodes with flavour in the mouth, whilst a chaser of terrine of pork perfectly cleanses the palate.
We nibble excellent homemade cheese straws, olives and tapenade biscuits as we savour our aromatic teas, which, to add another layer of rich detail, are poured from Art Deco-style teapots into cups whose design echoes the pattern of the sofa cushions.
Henbery further invigorates the taste buds with homemade cheese and olives scones, but includes a twist in offering, of all things, Gentleman’s Relish as a spread. The combination of smooth scone texture with tangy, tart paste is inspired.
Filling up the corners with delicious petit fours, the mini choc and chilli tart is excellent. We sit back and bask in the comfort of the sofa, watching poor souls traipse by outside who have passed up the chance of tasting one of London’s top afternoon teas. Still, all the more for us.
The Front Room also serves your choice from a range of cupcakes with a glass of Perrier-Jouët Champagne (between 12 noon–6pm) for £14. Traditional English Afternoon Tea £23.50 per person, or £32.50 pp with a glass of Perrier-Jouët Champagne. Savoury Martini Afternoon Tea (£32.50 pp) must be pre-booked 24 hours prior to ordering, as must the Chocoholics Afternoon Tea (£26.50 pp). Full afternoon teas are served from 2.30pm – 5pm daily. Martinis are £12, Champagne cocktails £12–£14.
Flemings of Mayfair: www.flemings.co.uk
Reviewed by: Bryony Weaver