By Claire Roberts
There are several things that are widely accepted as being essential to life; oxygen, food and water amongst others. However, I would seriously propose an addition to this lofty list: tea and cake.
I never tire of tea and cake or preferably, cakes plural; as in ‘more than one’. They have become a weekly essential. OK, make that a daily essential. And fortunately for me, my body has found some way of dealing with this regular onslaught so I’m not overweight. Must be something to do with Darwin and adapting to the environment. Great, I can eat more cake.
So happiness ensues when I find out that I’m going to the Mandeville Hotel - a few minutes walk away from Bond Street tube and home of the deVille restaurant and deVigne bar - for an afternoon tea made by the students of the Le Cordon Bleu cookery school. Yes, still a coup despite the fact that I have tea and cake all the time.
The restaurant is full, there has to be at least 60 other tea and cake aficionado’s present, all waiting to plunge gleefully in to the array of cakes lovingly created by SooJoo Kim and Karim Tawil, two of the Le Cordon Bleu just-about-to-graduate patisserie students. Yes, you don’t get cakes by the new intake here; it’s the patisserie chefs who have already gone through the rigours of the Le Cordon Bleu training. A never-ending supply of cakes comes along. Happy days.
I have four and a half cakes. That’s a record, even for me. Though there’s still plenty left. They include Tarte aux Fruits (fresh raspberries poised carefully in jelly on top of custard cream on top of a vanilla pastry base), Tangy Apricot and Yoghurt Mousse (Yoghurt Mousse and Apricot Jelly on top of pistachio sponge and crisp pastry), a Strawberry and Champagne Mousse (champagne mousse with strawberry jelly encased in almond sponge) and, my favourite of the afternoon, Galaxie, a raspberry chocolate mousse on chocolate sponge. Oh, and not forgetting that other essential, a scone with clotted cream and jam. But then they are all essential, that’s already been established.
A choice of tea is available too. I have a mix of Assam and Earl Grey served in china designed by the brilliant Zandra Rhodes.
Sadly, though, I have to overlook the choux swan (above, blurred, I’m a writer not a photographer) with cream and fruit. Poor swan. It seems I do have an internal censor somewhere which emerges when potential overload is a possibility. However, he isn’t completely neglected. A fellow cakee asks if she can take him home. She ends up putting him, and a few of his friends, in to a large smile-inducing patisserie box.
An hour and a half later I leave, happy in the knowledge that my daily tea and cake quota is satisfied. A real treat in sumptuous comfortable surroundings and all for the bargain price of only £15. Better value than any other afternoon tea in London, it must be said.
It isn’t often that I have afternoon tea in this, or any, hotel in or around London. My usual sources of cake vary from a quick stop at Pret, lemon drizzle after a haul round John Lewis, the odd trip to Patisserie Valerie, or the results of my own efforts at home.
That said, there’s no doubt that elevating the cake from its humble everyday experience to give it its due attention is no bad thing. It’s a good job then that the Mandeville hosts the Le Cordon Bleu afternoon teas just one a month. I’m not sure that I can get away with having four and a half cakes on a regular basis. Though I see the Mandeville hotel has its own afternoon tea for the days when the Cordon Bleu students aren’t there. Something I might have to investigate. I do like to experiment. And I do like cake.
The next Le Cordon Bleu is on Wednesday 27th April, from 3:30 to 5:30.
If you’re looking for more afternoon teas in London, then check out the Top 10 Best Afternoon Tea Special Offers in Central London and in the West End.