So, when it came time to choose a fun thing to do with my friend K to belatedly celebrate her birthday, afternoon tea ticked the box. She’d mentioned that she’d enjoyed an Asian-inspired tea at the Buddha Bar before, and wanted to go back, so when a Time Out offer dropped on our laps it seemed serendipitous.
What was rather nice was that during the booking process the very helpful woman I was emailing spotted my blog link in my signature and, just for the hell of it, added an extra glass of champagne to our booking on the house. Which was very sweet (the gesture, not the bubbles) and much appreciated. Even after I managed to knock the second glass on the floor… but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The tea itself is four savoury and four sweet bites each. The fusion flavours are unusual for afternoon tea, but not so brave that they’ll put off the conservative-minded. Savouries were a hoisin duck bun, a deep-fried seafood wonton, tuna tartare on crisp crostini and a crunchy vegetable summer roll, with a couple of dipping sauces. I launched in with the summer roll first, and really enjoyed the tuna, which had a welcome hint of spice; the bun was lovely but the real star for me was the wonton. I could frankly have just gone for a bowl of those then and there…
The sweet half was a rare sugary departure from my usual diet these days; as such the pistachio macaron seemed insanely sweet to me, but with a lovely gooey texture. The dense chocolate mouse was more like a rich truffle cake; this was balanced out to some extent by the light, fruity passion fruit tarts with pastry cases so crisp we gave up on spoons and used our fingers to avoid the inevitably flying bits of dessert hitting anyone else in the room. The winner for me though was the green tea cheesecake; a light whipped topping on a just-held-together crumbly biscuit base. And not achingly sweet (or at least it didn’t seem so after my tongue had been numbed by the other three).
Canton Tea Co. jasmine pearl tea (loose leaf in pyramids) made for a lovely fragrant accompaniment, too. The two glasses of champagne were delicious… right up until an enthusiastic Greek gesticulation from me sent one flying. My appreciation for the incredibly attentive and sweet staff extends to the waiter who was at my elbow in seconds, towels in hand, being generally pretty charming about the whole thing. Luckily, it’s also pretty dark in there…
Speaking of dark, the way to the loos caused considerable hilarity, including one moment where the mood lighting was so… moody… we couldn’t see the door handle to let our way out of the bathrooms. The rest of then space is, as you might be able to tell from the lighting, a fairly exotic surrounding – an unrestrained yet pleasing mashup of Far East, Christmas lights and an incense-laced North African souk.
Would I go again? Yes, though it would, I think, be for an entirely savoury meal. This is in part because of the sugar thing; I found the savoury the part of the tea that I really wished there was more of. The balance was naturally in favour of cake – and large servings of it, at that – whereas my preferences increasingly lie in the other direction. It’s also I think because with a traditional afternoon tea there’s the sort of transitional point of the scones – they lead you from sandwiches to pastries via the gateway drugs of jam and raisins – but here it was a pretty sharp jump from chilli-flecked tuna to chewy meringue.
With that balance restored and a slightly more varied tea menu, I’d sing its praises anywhere; if you’ve more of a sweet tooth than I do and you’re tired of the usual, this is definitely somewhere to try.