Saturday, 18 July 2009

The Hidden Tea Room

I’m going to start by saying that being present at the very first opening of any new restaurant is indeed a privilege. At the maiden instalment of the Hidden Tea Room last weekend a sense of personal exhilaration was rewarded with my participation. The attraction with these visits of any ‘underground’ ventures is that one can always forgive any inherent shortcomings that are so often associated with first-time nerves by attending subsequent dates. Hopefully by this time the hosts should have ironed out most deficiencies and gained a lot more confidence to achieve the right for any home restaurants to maintain a creditable existence. Respect and applause should be given to these people who contemplate turning their abodes into restaurants to feed total strangers.

The proliferation of home restaurants in London is obvious to see and I sincerely rue the day when the authorities clamp down on them like they did in Hong Kong several years ago. The beauty with these restaurants is the well-contrived social networking that naturally comes with it. For those who decide that conversing with others is a tedious chore then by all accounts they should be discouraged from turning up. The desire to visit these places is based on an expectation of having a good home cooked meal coupled by socialising with other diners that you don’t normally do in normal restaurants. With the exception of the TUR-Victoriana (currently a one-off), the Hidden Tea Room is the first of such ventures to offer Afternoon Tea as an ongoing basis; a sensible choice methinks, what with carving a niche for itself in this crowded ‘dinners only’ phenomenon. HTR is run by a young couple known as Lady Gray and her other half (I’ve decided to coin the title Baronet on him). The venue is located within Zone 1 and as far as I’m concerned that’s a major blessing; no excuses here as it’s easily reached by all modes of transport that you care to imagine.

Afternoon tea is a difficult one for guys like myself to come to terms with, truth be told it’s more of a feminine preoccupation. Ok us man folks might tolerate it if we’re on a holiday in Harrogate or old Aunt Edna demanded your monthly presence because she is going to leave her entire Lalique collection to you in the will. Much as I love watching a match at a pub (I don’t own a TV) that involves my beloved Arsenal I’m also terribly partial to good cakes, a decent cup of tea and the presence of ladies who dine. Thankfully all three of the latter predispositions were met that Sunday afternoon.

The setting for the HTR can best be described as intimate, to accommodate more than ten guests in the dining room would prove too much of a squeeze. Lady Gray and the Baronet have evidently taken the trouble to transform the room into something that is suitably prim and proper to reflect the occasion. The service courtesy of the Baronet was unflappable and charming although a little too formal, but then again it’s a High Tea situation we’re talking about here. As expected I was the only bloke in an otherwise excellent company of five ladies. Topics of conversation ranged from dining at The Fat Duck to sports support bras (small talk among women fascinates me, a welcome change from my usual loves of footie and politics).

All guests are greeted with a glass of bubbly or in my case, H2O…

…and something that resembled rock cakes. They were actually American Cheddar Biscuits. These delightful tasting savouries were light and moist.

The sit-down-

Guests are provided with a bewildering choice of loose teas that are eventually served in individual but large teapots.

Sandwiches- if there are any shortcomings with the very first HTR event, it’s the sarnies. Two quibbles (call me fussy but treat the criticisms as constructive)- to reflect any aspirations of a posh Afternoon Tea, the pieces should be paper thin and sliced diagonally as opposed to rectangles. That said they were all good eating. It would also be gratifying to see more homegrown fillings like Witltshire ham and English cheeses implemented in future menus.

Mango and Pineapple Sorbet- a wonderful addition to cleanse the palate.

Scones- perfectly formed and beautifully baked. They were served on a tiered stand with clotted cream and strawberry and blueberry preserves. I belong to the school where the cream goes on the bread before the jam, pre-lubeing enhances the mastication of such foods.

A selection of baked goodies

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Toffee Brownie

Chocolate and Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting

The cupcakes were on par with some of the best I've tasted in London, the frosting was probably nonpareil.

A joyous ending with some of Lady Gray Chocolate Truffles

All of the above treats were brilliant, it goes to show that Lady Gray is more than an accomplished baker. I wouldn’t be surprised that in the future a cake shop bearing her name beckons. I enjoyed my time here and I would certainly come back. Loved the company as well as the hosts. Highly recommended.

NB I came here with MsMarmitelover, you can read her review

A contribution of £25.00 was suggested per person to include sparkling wine and £20.00 for lapsed boozers like myself.


theundergroundrestaurant said...

Lovely review Les. I forgot about the sports bras discussion!

bellaphon said...

Marms- Hooray, one comment! Thank you.

lady gray said...

Lovely photos! Thanks so much for coming and for the fab review! It was so nice to experience it from your perspective and of course to hear the kind words and compliments :). You were a fab guest and we were honored to have you attend our first. Hope to see you again- at ours or maybe out for lunch or something sometime:)

~Lady Gray xx and the Baronet

bellaphon said...

Hey LG, you're welcome. Most definitely see you soon.

Anonymous said...

Hello you :)

i cannot for the life of me find out how to get in touch with you.... :)

please can you drop me an email at as i have a monumental favour to ask :) xx

lady gray said...

that was me lady gray - not some anonymous being :)

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