My sister and I surprised my Mum with the Jasmine Indian Afternoon Tea at Taj 51 Buckingham Gate for her 60th birthday a couple of weeks ago. As I’ve stayed in a Taj hotel before, my expectations were high.
This hotel is a deceptively regal hideaway, aptly located next to Buckingham Palace. Nestled behind a walled garden in a corner of Westminster, you’ll find the hotel’s elaborately designed buildings, water fountains and their restaurant; Kona.
Inside the restaurant, the decadence continues with fine china and old imperial decor. However, I’m sure you’re all just here to read about the food…
Once seated, we were presented with a booklet containing a huge tea selection. For the first time ever I decided to order a masala tea (with soya milk). I’m not usually a tea drinker, and don’t think I’ve had masala tea since I was a child, but I figured when in Rome and all that.
According to my sister, if you like your masala chai you’d be disappointed, but it wasn’t a deal breaker for me as I’m not the chai aficionado. In future though, I think I’ll be sticking to my trusty coffee, as it wasn’t for me.
We started with a round of salted caramel lassis with chikki toffee crunch. The vegan offering for me was a shot of mango juice with the toffee crunch. While I’m not entirely sure that combination worked, it was a lovely touch which looked just as pretty!
Platters of food; both sweet and savoury were then all brought out at the same time. Delicately spiced pinwheel sandwiches; spiced creamed cheese & kachumbar in beetroot bread and curried egg mayo in sun-dried tomato bread. The egg mayo was my favourite!
Spiced potato toast with fig chutney; these were okay but there was far too much batter on them, however I adore fig jam!
The spiced paneer bhurjee puffs were a hit with everyone, including me as I don’t always like paneer / can’t eat too much of it due to my dairy intolerance. There was just the right amount of minced filling within the crisp star shaped golden pastry – Yum!
The only meat offering was a chicken tikka wrap for Jass, which he really enjoyed. The rest of us had ratatouille-filled sandwiches as a replacement.
We asked for a second helping of these and the paneer puffs before we moved on to the sweet stuff, but I have to say their portions were a bit measly. We were given a small plate with 3 of each to share between 5 people.
Short glasses of royal saffron rice pudding and chandni foam topped with white chocolate crowns.
The star of any afternoon tea for me are the scones. Again, these had an Indian twist; gulabi Scones with kismis and almonds, served with homemade alphonso mango compote and cinnamon clotted cream.
My sister and I were unsure about these as soon as my mum told us kismis are raisins – we really aren’t fans! Personally, I always think that raisins ruin a cream tea, however the cinnamon clotted cream was such a revelation! Combined with the mango compote, this was probably one of the best scone toppings I’ve ever had! It’s a shame the scones weren’t bigger.
The dessert platter was a stunning work of art. Containing:
- Gold leaf gulab jamun inside cheesecake
- Gajar halwa macaroons
- Pistachio crusted fruit and cardamon flavoured srikhand tarts
- Chocolate rasmalai cups
- Anglo indian rose de cookies
- Lime wedges made from white chocolate
While this looks and sounds wonderful, we all know about my non-existent sweet tooth when it comes to dessert, so I won’t pretend I tried all of these.
Unlike me, the rest of the family really enjoyed all of these. The gulab jamun was a nice surprise hidden within a mini cheesecake, the rasmalai cups were a huge hit and the unusual macarons were delicious.
At the time of booking, I’d mentioned that we’d be celebrating my mum’s birthday. I’d forgotten all about that minor detail, so I was just as surprised as my mum when they brought her out a little cake with a candle at the end.
She was really touched, but as you can imagine, we were far too full to try it. In fact, we ended up having half the desserts and cake packed up for us to take home.
Taj 51 also do a Candy Striped Carousel Afternoon Tea, an Alice Tea Party In Wonderland and a Christmas Par-Tea. The Alice tea party seemed to be really popular the day we visited, and as the restaurant is family friendly, this one is a great option for kids.
The service was brilliant and attentive throughout, and as you can see, you get a huge variety of food. The only thing I wasn’t pleased about was that each afternoon tea is booked in for a strict 1.5 hour time slot, and once your time is up they rush you by encouraging you to move to the library room to relax.
On the day we visited (Saturday afternoon), the restaurant wasn’t busy; more than half the tables were vacant, so I didn’t see what the rush was. I don’t think an hour and a half is enough time to eat, relax and catch up, especially given that there is so much food on offer. I haven’t experienced this at any other afternoon tea, including at The Dorchester.
Afternoon teas are renowned for being a delicate and dainty British affair, yet this one manages to pair this delicacy with bold Indian flavours really, really well. It was all wonderful!
It costs £45 per person with a 12.5% service charge. However, I think it’s a real shame they don’t offer this afternoon tea with a glass of bubbles for an additional price. In my opinion, it would make celebrating a special occasion that little bit more special.
Don’t get me started on that cinnamon clotted cream again.. However, my only question is, cream first and jam on top – right!?
That’s the only way, if you ask me!