Scones in Another City: A Glorious Glutton’s Guide to Bratislava

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A one hour journey by train from Vienna stands the Slovakian capital on the banks of the Blue Danube. Actually, on the day I visited it was far from blue. If anything is was ditchwater colored, but Strauss jr. wasn’t in the market for factual accuracy, and his music wouldn’t be near as celebrated if his compositions had included the words ‘sludge’, ‘grimy’ or ‘murky’ in the title. I immediately headed for the old town, having little interest in modern office blocks and Communistic architecture (if I wanted imposing buildings with no character I’d do my daily shop in Croydon town center. Either that or move back to Stoke). This is where the history and soul and spirit of the city resides, so it stands to reason that I would aim for this compact yet charming area to seek out quality food and delightful desserts. I was not to be disappointed.

*****

Ashoka Indian Restaurant

(Hodžovo námestie 568/2, 811 06 Staré Mesto)

When considering where to go for traditional Slovakian food, an Indian restaurant located in a Crowne Plaza resort doesn’t immediately spring to mind. This was a case of necessity over want. Trying to walk from the train station into Bratislava’s old town I was caught in a rainstorm of Biblical proportions (I had to ring out my tights in a restroom sink) and dived into the nearest hotel that offered hot tea and sanctuary. I had been saving myself for Bryndzové halušky, a dumpling dish I had read about which closely resembles gnocchi, but the allure of meat and rice and spices was too tempting to resist, and when I discovered that a certain dessert was on the menu I soon dumped the idea of dumplings into the dumpster (always avoid alliteration by backside!). There was a warming cream of mushroom soup to start, the perfect dish for someone damp from the nostrils down. This was followed by a flavourful chicken biryani and poppadums that was easily enough for two people to share, but the pièce de résistance for me was the stunning Gazar ka Halwa, a dessert of mashed carrots and milk filled with sultans and cashew nuts. All washed down with a cup of green tea with honey and ginger to keep any pesky colds at bay. Outstanding food and at only 24.20 euros great value for money.

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Cajovna v Podzemi – Underground Tea Room 

(Ventúrska 265/9 811 01 Staré Mesto)

With the tagline ‘Have your tea in a bomb shelter’, this was all the sales pitch I needed. Divided into different ethno-themed sections, this is a cafe where it is possible to take tea in the middle of the Serengeti, inside a Bedouin tent, or crossed legged on cushions in a Japanese tea house. I opted for the latter option, as to take part in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony is a long held ambition. Of course, this is not going to replicate the same level of spectacle, but the amount of care taken to create a unique and joyous experience made this one of the stand-out moments from my entire trip. Curled up in my little nook, I decided to go all-out and order the special Tea Around the World option (17.50 euros), a selection of six teas to try from around the globe starting with a creamy Taiwan Gaba and finishing with a smoky American Mate Rancho with stops in China, India, Japan and Africa along the way (I also indulged in a separate pot of Rum Cream fruit tea, a marvelous melange of berries that blended beautifully with the rich alcoholic taste of the rum). Each tea comes with a card detailing its origins and the various tastes and aromas one can expect from each brew. The presentation is beautiful and each jug holds a surprisingly large amount of tea to satisfy even the most hardened teaholic. I adored it. From the taste of each tea (brewed to perfection during the 15 minute prep time advised on the menu) to the decor to the general sense of fun, I passed a happy two hours sampling teas from around the world, eating walnut orechovés and soaking up the unique atmosphere. The only down side was an elderly Englishman who came in, stared at me on my cushions as though I was a living display in a museum, pushed back a chair and told the staff that ‘we English only ever drink tea with milk. Fetch me a proper cup of tea with milk!’. I left a tip large enough to show my appreciation and to apologies for his ignorance. Apart from that, a wonderful experience.

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Zeppelin cafe and souvenirs

(Sedlárska 364/10, 811 01 Staré Mesto)

A vintage tea room selling a vast array of tourist tat, Zepplin is a cosy nook with comfy chairs to collapse into and a good selection of cakes and coffee to tempt the tired traveler. Charming, reasonably priced and with banging selection of 80’s tunes to hum along too.

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GREAT 

(Suché mýto 4808/6, 811 02)

Naming your restaurant Great isn’t always such a great idea. Great is setting the bar high, and can lead one to question whether the name is ironic if their experience wasn’t as great as the Great in the name implies. Personally I thought it was fair. Good, even. Great would be stretching a point. The tomato and Parmesan soup was rather nice, and the tagliatelle carbonara was nicely cooked, but the sauce was too rich and after a heavy lunch it seemed that my stomach wasn’t prepared for something so dense and creamy. Even so, this is a trendy, vibrant place and if my eyes weren’t quite as big as by bulging belly I’m sure I would have enjoyed it far more.

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And so ends our brief tour through Solvakia’s beautiful capital. Of course, there is only so much grub one person can eat in one day, and obviously a longer stay would reveal more of this city’s glorious food and national dishes, but for a whistle-stop visit I would highly recommend this charming place and its diverse selection of restaurants and cafes to suit all tastes and budgets. Pop back soon when we will be heading back to Vienna and taking a calorific trek through Salzburg, a place where the mountains are big but the desserts are much, much bigger. until next time, folks xx

Feel free to share stories, views and tips in the comments section below. Always fun to hear from fellow teaholics xx

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Scones in Another City: A Glorious Glutton’s Guide to Vienna (part 2)

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You always know that you have eaten too much when you have to upload your gorging in installments. I consider this to be an achievement and a sure sign that my travels have been nothing short of magnificent (bad weather and rip-off currency exchanges aside). And so we return to Vienna for more of their exceptional food and a few treats along the way.

*****

Kaffee Rösterei Hawelka Wien (Dorotheergasse)

Not to be confused with the family-run Café Hawelka nearby (I did, though on balance I would classify this as an happy accident), this modern and urbane cafe serves a wide variety of coffees and teas as well as a small but well thought out selection of cakes and charming petit fours. Sleek, elegant and really rather lovely.

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Café Diglas (Wollzeile 10)

I do love a culinary detour when I’m traveling. Not content with the Austrian classics on offer and the vast array of desserts for my delectation, I was overcome one afternoon by the urge to sit down to a steaming bowl of Bouillabaisse, suddenly craving the taste of Marseille whilst those around me sat in shorts rubbing ice cubes on their thighs to cool down (a rare glimpse of summer in a week of downpours and strong wind; the latter in no way caused by my overeating). Filled to the brim with salmon and pawns and accompanied with grilled bruschetta bread, the taste of this superb stew lingered long after the memory of the ho-hum café had faded, though I was privy to a conversation between an Australian couple who were fearful that they would get lost in the fog if they dared to visit London. As reasons to not visit my hometown go this was by far the most moronic.

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Demel (Kohlmarkt 14)

Goulash soup and apple strudel. Famous for its battle with Hotel Sacher for the right to use the label ‘The Original Sacher Torte’ (a battle it lost, forcing it to adorn their version of the cake with a triangular seal declaring it to be the ‘Eduard-Sacher-Torte’. If the case had gone before Judge Judy I’m sure she would have dismissed both claims and advised each establishment to find better things to do with its time) this elegant salon is brimming with charm and old-world Viennese style. A large cafe with numerous seating areas (all of them full when I visited, though queuing allows plenty of time to observe trays of cakes being wheeled around the kitchen) I was eventually settled at a table in the upstairs dining area and promptly ordered a large bowl of goulash soup, despite being full from a breakfast of various hams, a selection of cheeses and three bowls of juicy peaches in syrup. However, I am not one to let a little thing like not being hungry stop me from eating, and I assumed that soup would be a safe option that would leave plenty of room for the dessert I was determined to enjoy. More of a stew than a soup, this gorgeous mixture of diced vegetables and thick chunks of beef put me in mind of the stews my mother used to cook when I was a child, the only difference being that this tasted… well, nice (sorry, mum, but your potato to meat ratio was way off, and why did you think spices would detract from the taste of the beef? Even you knew it tasted like saddle and old boots). This was swiftly followed by a large portion of warm apple strudel, up there with Waltzes and the Anschluss when it comes to things that Austria is famous for. Loaded with apples, sweetened raisins and served with a huge dollop of whipped cream, this is pure indulgence and is exactly what people picture when they think of Austrian cuisine. Also, a big thumbs up to Demel for including a sugar stirrer with each hot beverage. I didn’t use it to sweeten my tea but I did enjoy it as a lollipop whilst walking around Mozart’s apartment.

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Be sure to pop back soon when there will be more delights from Vienna, Bratislava and Salzburg to salivate over. Till next time, folks xx

Feel free to share stories, views and tips in the comments section below. Always fun to hear from fellow teaholics xx

Scones in Another City: A Glorious Glutton’s Guide to Vienna (part 1)

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Hello fan. This is Vienna calling. No, not the less successful follow-up to Falco’s ‘Rock me Amadeus’, nor is this a reference to the yearly embarrassment that is The Eurovision Snore Contest, a competition in which we Brits recently pulled off the marvelous trick of not only coming last, but actually coming even more last than the last we had anticipated when five of our points were deducted after a technical error was discovered with the voting (like descending all seven circles of hell only to find that there is a basement, but due to Brexit and British judges failing to award any points to ABBA in 1974 we are reaping what we sow). No, folks, I am talking about Austria’s most famous city, home to Freud, Sachertorte and those powdery whirled biscuits that no one really likes. More than any other trip this was to be a true foodie adventure, Beisl’s and kaffeehaus’s and konditoreien’s (bakeries) taking up nearly every position on my list of must-do’s whilst in the Austrian capital (there was a nod to Klimt, a thumbs up to Mozart and a salute given to the The Third Man, but these were often a delightful amuse-bouche rather than the main course of the trip). With the help of the Internet, my trustee DK Eyewitness guide and my own innate ability to find the most calorific food at the most incredible prices, I set off to discover Austrian cuisine at its finest and a few unexpected treats along the way. Man cannot live by strudel alone – and wouldn’t live very long even if he tried given how quickly his arteries would clog with cream – so there were occasional diversions, but my aim was to discover the country through its food, to eat as the Austrians eat, and to watch my waistband expand to the point where my pants were digging into my stomach. I feel an intense frustration towards travellers who don’t engage with the cuisine of their chosen destination. That anyone could visit a country sprinkled with the most fantastic eateries to suit any budget and deliberately seek out a MacDonald’s or a KFC is anathema to me (though a bag of hot wings goes down a treat when you’re waiting for the 159 night bus to Streatham), so the next few postings will be a celebration of the glorious food and delectable desserts available not only in Vienna, but also in the glorious city of Salzburg and the charming old town of Bratislava, a short hop across the border and a must for the dedicated teaholics amongst us. And so, lets begin at the very beginning, which as Maria once sang in The Sound of Mucus, really is a good place to start.

*****

Café Mozart (Albertinaplatz 2)

Tafelspitz (24.00 euros). Daunting in its size, Tafelspitz is rather like a traditional Sunday lunch. Consisting of thick slices of tender boiled beef in a light stock, it comes with a tart apple and horseradish sauce, a large potato dumpling, creamed spinach, root vegetables and a delicious leek and chive sauce that worked beautifully with the meat. This is comfort food at its most satisfying, served in smart surroundings at Café Mozart. This was exactly the sort of place I was hoping to avoid for my first dining experience in the capital. From its name to its connection with The Third Man I expected it to be touristy, overpriced and overcrowded. I was partially right on all counts, though this didn’t detract from the high quality of the food or the charm of the dining area. There may be more authentic spots off the beaten track to indulge in traditional fare, but as an introduction to Austrian dining this was a pleasant and enjoyable start.

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Freyung Passage (Herrengasse)

BB Detox tea (3.90 euros) — A elegant walkway reminiscent of London’s Burlington Arcade, this stunning gallery of high end shops and charming cafes is the perfect place to stop, take tea, and frown at the occupant of the next table who has just decided to light up a cigarette.

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Hotel Sacher (Philharmonikerastrasse 4)

Sachertorte with whipped cream, choice of non-alcoholic hot beverage & Römerquelle mineral water (16.90 eurors) Once upon a time there was a man named Franz who made a cake. This cake was so wonderful that a war broke out between the place in which Franz originally made the cake and the place where Franz eventually moved to, taking the recipe for this wonderful creation with him. The war lasted many, many years, each side eager to lay claim to the rights of this most indulgent of cakes. Eventually, the mythical land of ‘Sacher’ won the right over the noble realm of ‘Demel’ to claim the cake as its own original creation. This consisted of them placing a small card on the side of a plate proclaiming each slice to be ‘Das Original’, thus ensuring that pudding purists around the globe flocked to their dining room as opposed to the hundreds of other cafes knocking up sachertortes by the truckload. So popular was this that queues formed up the street, people salivating onto the pavement in their desire to spend up to twenty euros on one slice of cake, a cup of tea and a bottle of mineral water. Or maybe this was just me. The torte — far from being the dense doorstop that I had imagined — was a surprisingly light chocolate cake without being overly rich or sickly. The presence of a thin layer of apricot jam gives it a pleasantly fruity tone, while the whipped cream adds to the air of overindulgence. It is a delightful dessert served in delightful, opulent surroundings, even if you do have to queue outside in the rain with people hitting you upside the head with golfing umbrellas.

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Be sure to pop back soon when there will be more delights from Vienna, Bratislava and Salzburg to salivate over. Till next time, folks xx

Feel free to share stories, views and tips in the comments section below. Always fun to hear from fellow teaholics xx

Afternoon tea at Checkmate Restaurant at The Park International Hotel review – Kensington

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Checkmate Restaurant – The Park International Hotel

17-129 Cromwell Road, London SW7 4DS
Tel: +442073705711
Email: reservations@parkinternationalhotel.com
Afternoon tea & glass of prosecco: £16.95* per person

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Hello fan! It occures to me that Scones in the City is the definition of the wait-hours-for-one-bus-then-three-come-all-at-once adage. For ages I will be unable to post anything due to various commitments (career, other writing projects, hiding indoors to avoid neighbours who might want to become friends so I’ll take in Amazon packages for them etc.), then I will suddenly be struck by the urge to eat everything and take fifteen-hundred photos to mark the occasion. May is that kind of month. The sunshine has encouraged me to venture away from The Durrells boxset and indulge my passion for copious cups of tea and delightful dainties. Hence my visit to The Checkmate Restaurant, a hop, skip and a stumble from Gloucester Road tube station in Kensington.

I reserved my table through AfternoonTea.co.uk, a godsend for the dedicated teaholic which saw me reserve my table, put in my special requirements, travel to the hotel and sit down for my booking within the space of an hour-and-a-quarter. It is often thought (quite wrongly) that afternoon tea is reserved only for special occasions and needs to be pre-booked well in advance. With certain establishments this is true, but when the mood strikes and you want to lavish yourself with brightly coloured nibbly things on impulse, I highly recommend a browse through the database of AfternoonTea.co.uk, especially if you want to keep to a budget or just fancy a spontaneous spot of fun near to where you happen to be.

And now that I’ve thanked the website and given them a good plug without any remunerative benefit for yours truly (if you’re reading this, AfternoonTea.co.uk pixies, feel free to lavish me with freebies for my promotional efforts on your behalf. I’m open to all bribes and can easily be brought with fudge) we can discuss the tea itself, which I must say has been one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve experienced since starting this blog.

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First impressions of Checkmate at Park International are highly positive. The interior is smart and modern without being clinical, whilst the classic soul/blues soundtrack and pictures of Bobby Fischer out-nerding Boris Spassky in the 1972 quest to find the world’s greatest chess playing social misfit gives the dining area a comfortable, quirky edge. With few fellow diners it feels as though the waiter is actually happy to have me here so he has something to do. This manifests itself in perfect service as he guides me through the various loose leaf tea options (I select a Afternoon tea blend which is lovely and comes with all the usual tea time accoutrements i.e. a sieve) and provides me with additional hot water without me even asking for it. Clearly he is used to loiterers and has me pegged as one from the start, all of which is fine with me. I’m here for the long haul and I can squeeze a lot of life from these loose leaves. Keep the H20 flowing, my fine fellow! This is brilliant, and to my surprise, it gets even better.

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Firstly, the presentation is perfect. Everything is fresh and clean and elegantly laid out. The Prosecco – even for a non-drinker like me who once tried to dilute champagne by holding a glass of it under a cold tap – is pleasant and a welcomed addition to a tea that would still be good and reasonably priced without it, especially when you consider that in certain establishments in London you can pay more for a glass of fizz than what this tea costs in its entirety. The fact that it tastes devine and not like something you could use to clean submarines is another unexpected bonus.

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The food is excellent and beautifully presented on a sleek three-tier stand. The four finger sandwiches consist of cumcumber, salmon and chicken mayonnaise, an absolutely delicious choice and of which I was able to indulge twice as the restuarant was happy to substitute the normal option of egg for my preferred choice of extra chicken. They were fresh and filling and the perfect amount for one person.

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The two decent sized plain scones are served warm with hearty helpings of thick clotted cream and sweet strawberry jam. If one was to be petty I could say the scones were a little brittle and broke apart when I cut through them, but this doesn’t detract from their perfect consistency on the inside and how tasty they were once loaded with copious amounts of jam and cream. They were lovely, and as I sat scooping up the remaining jam and cream with my fingers and tranferrering it directly into my mouth, I can only say that they were delicious and that I am a total embarrasment to go out to dinner with.

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If one was also being petty, one could also say that there are not enough sweet treats included. Actually, after a generous round of savouries and two scones buried under spoonfuls of rich cream and sticky strawberry jam, these small but delightfully designed desserts were more than enough to round off this tea perfectly. The dainty, lego-brick-sized chocolate and coffee bite is rich without being sickly, the mini blueberry muffin is sinfully sweet and as light as a feather, while the berry mousse square is fluffy and fruity and a lovely way to finish what has been a truly delightful afternoon tea. Everything from the surroundings to the presentation to the quality of the food and beverages has been exceptional, and only goes to emphasize everything that was wrong with the afternoon tea served at The Cinnamon Restaurant at Canary Wharf (see previous post).

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Of course, each tea is unique and each location is different – this blog would be awfully boring if they weren’t – but to enjoy a lovely, well-priced, perfectly designed tea like this after the sub-par snooze-a-thon that was The Cinnamon Restaurant last Sunday just goes to show that higher costs do not always equate to a better experience. Checkmate at Kensington has been a joy and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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Verdict: excellent quality, gorgeous food, charming service and fabulous value. 5/5 teacups (and a milk jug, saucer, teapot and sugarbowl. Loved it)

*prices correct as of 18.05.19

Feel free to share stories, views and tips in the comments section below. Always fun to hear from fellow teaholics xx

Afternoon tea at Cinnamon Restaurant & TwoRuba Bar review – Canary Wharf

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Hilton London Cinnamon Restaurant

Canary Wharf, South Quay, Marsh Wall, London E14 9SH
Tel: +442030022445
Cinnamon.canarywharf@hilton.com
Afternoon tea £19.00*
Served 12:00 – 16:00 Monday to Friday
Served 13:00 – 16:00 Saturday & Sunday

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Happy Sunday folks! My report today comes from the mini Mahattan that is Canary Wharf, the glass and steel and metal metropolis of bankers, journalists and others who turn up as the lead story on the news for doing something dubious. I don’t get on with Canary Wharf. Essentially it is a large Meccano set which shows no signs of ever being completed, or to recycle an observation from Karl Pilkington “a massive game of Jenga that has got out of hand.” This remark may not have been directed at Canary Wharf, but it still possesses all the architectural merit of a Ikea bookcase being thrown into a skip. It improves at night. Taking the Emirates cable car from Royal Victoria to North Greenwich at night shows these glittering edifices to their best advantage, and is even better for the fact that you are looking across at it, as opposed to walking around it, which makes me feel like Emmet going to work in Bricksburg in The Lego Movie.

But everything here is not awesome. Things are average at best, and so we come to afternoon tea at the Cinnamon Restaurant, Hilton London. Now it should be noted that I wasn’t in the best mood to begin with. I was wearing shoes that were rubbing my heels, I got lost when the Sat Nav on my phone mistook my for Jesus and plotted me as standing in the middle of the Thames, I was boiling hot and I couldn’t get through to the hotel to tell them I might be late and not to give away my table (unlikely as both guests and staff could have all gone home in the same G-Wiz). Already on the back foot, I was looking forward to being overwhelmed with gorgeous food created with the upmost care and attention. After all, its The Hilton! They’re a world-beating brand synonymous with style and quality, right?

Then I remembered ‘Hilton’ is often proceeded by ‘Paris’, and it went steadily downhill from there.

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Now, techically there is nothing wrong with this tea. The restaurant itself is bright and clean with bland mood music playing in the background that no one listens to or is even vaguely entertained by. The layout offers stunning views of the D8 bus stop and the underside of the DLR track. The staff are friendly (when you can find them) and accomodated my request for no egg mayonnaise to be served, showing they are happy to tailor the tea to fit with customers preferences. There is free Wi-Fi which the hostess happily supplied the log-in details for, my pot of Twinnings Green tea was on the table within two minutes of me placing my order (though milk was served with it, suggesting they might not know much about the tea experience they are selling) and the tableware was spotless. Then came the food, which was uninspiring to say the least.

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To say the sandwiches are underwhelming is a understatement. A collection of ham & cheese, salmon and… er, strawberry jam and cheese (I tasted cranberries and thought a cheese slice had been mistakenly added instead of turkey, but no, this was the taste explosion they were going for), the bread was dry, the cheese had a distinct Kraft texture to it (i.e. plastic with no flavour) and the latter combination of jam and cheese made me feel slightly queasy. I don’t know if this was made last minute to substitue for the egg I didn’t want, but there is both a Subway and a Tesco right next door. If you have run out of ingredients just pop in there, buy a BLT and cut it into quarter’s. I’m not that fussy. Don’t make something a mother wouldn’t put in a toddlers lunch box and think you’re providing a gastronomic treat. You’re not Heston Blumenthal, and to be honest I’d rather eat calf brain custard. At least some thought went into that.

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Strawberry jam and cheese sandwich. Served with a straight face by staff who think this is worth paying a service charge for

The large fruit scone is served warm with strawberry perserve and cream, a use for jam that actually does work and doesn’t stick out like a nun in a brothel. It’s nice and filling, and after the tasteless savories is much appreciated, but it is still all very by-the-numbers and dull.

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Then comes the desserts. Many years ago I wrote a not-particularly glowing review of Mason Blanc, Chiswick (now defunct. I hope my review didn’t contribute to its downfall, though given the food I’m not altogether surprised). In it I complained about the slapdash nature of the tea, saying that their collection of sweet treats were simply small chunks of cake cut off a larger cake with a blunt knife and a lack of imagination. To me this was a cheap way of filling a plate and showed that no special thought or effort had gone into making the tea special. The Cinnamon Restaurant tea is yet another example of lazy catering, only here the chunks of cake have shrunk into slivers.

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Comprising of poppy seed cake, almond slices, chocolate walnut brownies and fruit cake, they are all quite nice but very, very ordinary. There is no great display of colour or creativity. It is workman-like and basic and ultimately quite boring. However, the panacotta with summer berry compote is a delight and definitely the highlight of this very disappointing experience, made all the worse by the hostess telling me that I can’t take any of the remaining cakes home as they have no boxes or bags to put them in. Again, this shows a complete lack of thought or planning, and fills me with the determination to sit here stubbornly demanding extra water for my tea as they set up every other table except mine for the dinner service. I will finish what I paid for whilst enjoying the view of the Crossharbour buses passing by. Looking out for them has been far more interesting than looking at this tea.

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Verdict: In the dictionary under ho-hum there is a picture of this tea. Bland and utterly forgettable. 2/5 teacups (half of that score is purely for the panacotta)

*Prices correct as of 12.05.19

Feel free to share stories, views and tips in the comments section below. Always fun to hear from fellow teaholics xx

Scones in the City: A glorious glutton’s gorging in April

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Hello faithful reader. As I study my guidebooks, exchange my money and mentally prepare for another sugar-coated trip into Europe next month (I’ll give you a hint: Orson Wells on a ferris wheel, in the days before he could cause it to buckle just by looking at it) I have created a little collage of my feasting in London this month. Be warned: the following pictures contain scenes of graphic gateauxs and gratuitous melted cheese. Enjoy.

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Tea-infused “Rouge in Love” at Mariage Frères Tea Emporium, Kings Street, Covent Garden. Red tea-candied strawberries, cream, bourbon vanilla shortbread biscuit and French meringue. Served with a gorgeous pot of Jasmin Mandarin green tea

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Melted cheese toastie saturated in hot butter at The Cheese Bar, Camden Market. Washed down with nothing as for reasons I cannot fathom they don’t serve tea. So good I had to indulge in two of the cheesy triumphs in one sitting. It’s a good thing I don’t value having a waistline

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Crabs cakes with poached eggs, sriracha hollandaise and spinach at Eggbreak, Notting Hill. Served with the spicy jalapeño “The Hot One” Bloody Mary

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Warm cherry frangipane with custard in Caffè Concerto, Westfields, Stratford. Served with a small pot of zingy lemongrass and ginger tea. And who could forget the obligatory collection of macaroons?

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Rum Baba at The Ivy Kensington Brasserie, Kensington High Street. Plantation soaked rum with Chantilly cream and raspberries. Served at the bar area with a pot of Jasmine Pearls tea

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A simple pot of green tea and a bag of rum and raisin fudge in the outside sitting area of the cafe in Squire’s Garden Centre, Twickenham. Bringing back childhood memories of buying fudge on holiday in Blackpool during the summer break

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And, finally, this outstanding collection of eggs, bunnies and all things Easter related. Till next time, folks 😊

Feel free to share stories, views and tips in the comments section below. Always fun to hear from fellow teaholics xx

Scones in Another City: Afternoon tea at Hotel Danieli review – Venice

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Bar Dandolo – Hotel Danieli

Riva degli Schiavoni Castello 4196, 30122
Tel: +39 041 522 6480
https://www.marriott.com/hotels/hotel-information/restaurant/details/vcelc-hotel-danieli-a-luxury-collection-hotel-venice/6459743/
The Dandolo English Afternoon Tea €42* (VAT included)
Served between 15:00 – 18:00

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Many moons ago, a cinematic mantelpiece was born. Staring Dudley Moore, Byran Brown, Penelope Wilton and a host of other stars featured just long enough to humiliate themselves, the movie was, of course, Blame It On The Bellboy. No? Well, you weren’t missing much. However, as a child I remember having this inflicted on me along with a host of other atrocities my mother recorded off terrestial television onto a VHS cassette (Rhinestone; Staying Alive; Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot among the other monstrosities). What set this movie apart was its setting, and no amount of farce or forced slapstick shenanigans could taint the beauty of the Venice it depicted. In fact, this forgettable waste of celluloid might have been the trigger to my lifelong fascination with the city. What it also did was give me a specific landmark to head for. That was the Hotel Danieli, renamed Gabriella in the movie for reasons I don’t quite understand (maybe the Danieli didn’t want its name degraded by association with the film, though as its distinct interiors feature throughout we’ll put it down to tax and move on).

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So, with the movie and the hotel forever imprinted on my frontal lobe, I set off to loll in its lounges, snuggle on its sofas and snaffle all of its scones. I chose well. Preparing for the kick off of carnival season the lobby is festooned with brightly coloured feathers, ornamental parrots and Venetian masks. I head for Bar Dandolo, where I had previously spent a pleasant two hours drinking green tea, eating Venetian biscuits and reading Jan Morris’s ‘Venice’ – the single greatest book about the city I have ever read – whilst surreptitiously charging various pieces of electrical equipment at a conveniently located socket. Afternoon tea is served between 15:00 – 18:00 daily without reservations being required in advance, and I think it is safe to say that I wasn’t expecting the carnival of colour and flavours that was laid before me.

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The tea itself is Dammann Frères tisane chamomile which is again served with a large plate of complimentary Venetian biscuits and chocolates. On their own these are more than one person can comfortably handle in one sitting, a fact that the waiting staff seem to be  aware of, as they were more than happy to pack these into a carton for me to take home (three days later I was still nibbling away on them as I drank my nightly cup of tea back in my hotel room).

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Now, for the food. It seems to have been designed with two people in mind and is an absolute feast for the eyes and the tastebuds. I was flying solo on this occasion, though I knew that half of the goodies would be making their way home with me to share with my travelling companion later in the evening. However, the joy of each plate being laid out on the table as though I was a 18th century queen dining before her courtiers filled me with childlike excitement.

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Meanwhile, the scones – looking rather like the tops of muffins that have been removed from their stumps – are warm, covered in a mountain of icing suger and served with four varieties of perserves: peach, strawberry, apricot and acacia honey, the latter of which was used to sweeten the many cups of chamomile I sipped when not snapping pictures of the tea from every conceivable angle.

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Then comes the desserts. Positioned around a glass of the thickest, richest whipping cream imaginable, I am presented with a charming collection of macaroons, custard and chocolate profiteroles and delectable mini fruit tarts, all set out so strikingly that I found myself reluctant to eat them for fear of disturbing the beauty of the design. This is a tea of both exquisite style and great substance, and was truly one of the highlights of the entire trip.

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Verdict: Bellissimo! 5/5 teacups

*Prices correct as of the 15.2.19

Feel free to share stories, views and tips in the comments section below. Always fun to hear from fellow teaholics xx

Scone in Another City: Afternoon tea at The Gritti Palace review – Venice

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Bar Terrazza Longhi – The Gritti Palace

Campo Santa Maria del Giglio, 30124
Tel: +39 041 794611
http://www.marriott.co.uk/hotels/hotel-information/restaurant/details/vcegl-the-gritti-palace-a-luxury-collection-hotel-venice/6497164/
Afternoon Tea Time €38* (VAT included)
Served between 15:00 – 17:30

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As a treat to celebrate the day that I officially step one year closer to death, it has become necessary to stop walking, put the guidebook away and spend two hours wallowing in Venetian luxury (I know, it’s a tough job but someone has to do it). I have three main to do’s dining wise whilst I am in the city, and afternoon tea at the Gritti Palace is high on the list, not least because I spent three hours sipping tea on their terrace a few days ago and felt like I was a grande dame visiting during the hedy days of the grand tour, or a courtesan poetess holding court in a fashionable salon before heading home to kick off my fifteen inch chopines and cover my face in strips of veal (to aid skin suppleness, apparently, long before the days of Simple moisturizer).

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Tea is served between 15:00 – 17:30 in the Bar Terrazza Longhi. Reservations can be taken, but we were kindly informed that there would be no need as there would be plenty of space during this time. The bar is warm and inviting with rich mahogany furniture, Murano glass appliqués and plush sofas to take the weight off my aching ankles. The waiting staff are attentive and immediately began to lay the table cloth for tea within a couple of minutes of taking my order. The presentation is of the highest quality, with delicate china and silverware elegantly laid out in preparation for the feast to follow.

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Actually, feast isn’t the right word. The savoury to sweet ratio for afternoon tea is always weighted in favour of the latter, but here we have three small finger sandwiches that, though very nice, are just too small to be truly satisfying (an additional layer of bread is added to give the illusion of substance, but I can’t say this makes a great deal of difference). The selection is made up of salmon and cucumber, ham and cucumber and chicken with “biold” eggs (I googled this and can only assume that a) biold is a secret recipe of the hotel so shrouded in mystery no culinary detective as yet to gain knowledge of this most rare of delicacies, or b) they misspelled boiled on the menu).

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We are on much safer ground with the dainties. The fruit scones are served warm with ample amounts of cream and strawberry jam (described as biologic marmalade in the small print of the menu, a indie punk band if ever there was one) whilst the pastries are a delightful collection of mini custard tarts decorated with fruit, upmarket Jammie Dodgers and delicate shortbread biscuits.

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The tea is a refreshing blend of green tea with passion fruit, peach, strawberry and pineapple aromas entitled ‘Tea L’Oriental’ while the latte is pure milk with foamy milk and extra milk on the side with the barest hint of coffee somewhere beneath the frothiness.

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Verdict: a jolly, classy splash of Englishness slightly let down by a lack of savouries. 4/5

*Prices correct as of 14.2.19

Feel free to share stories, views and tips in the comments section below. Always fun to hear from fellow teaholics xx

Scones in another City: Ristorante Quadri review – Venice

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Ristorante Quadri

Piazza San Marco, 121, 30124

Pineapple carpaccio with gin and tonic sorbet €12*

+041 522 2105

http://www.alajmo.it

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Competing with Florians to wear the we-will-make-you-pay-through-the-nose-for-the-experience-of-dining-in-St-Marks-you-selfie-seeking-simpleton crown, this opulent and expensive establishment exists to tempt footsore tourists too tired and overwhelmed by their surroundings to consider better value restuarants off the beaten track.

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It is a lovely building with traditional Ventian interiors (the gaudy winged lion leading to the restaurant upstairs is a particular highlight), friendly staff and a bizarre musical accompaniment. It isn’t that I expect Vivaldi to waft through the dining area in every place I visit – that would be akin to walking through Camden market expecting to hear ‘Baggy Trousers’ being blasted over a tannoy – but remixed Michael Jackson/Go West/Bee Gees mashups simply don’t go with the ornate gilt mirrors and pedestrian Carnival-themed paintings. As it turns out, this is not the only unnatural pairing. Gin and tonic sorbet with pineapple makes for an equally strange alliance.

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I’ve had G&T ice cream in the past and it was delicious, yet a sorbet version left me cold, both figuratively and literally. It may be that I am not au fait enough with the drink for this to be truly to my taste, but this was too bitter for my palate (and too cold for my sensitive teeth, which screamed in open revolt at what I was subjecting them to). The pineapple, as far as thinly sliced pineapple goes, was perfectly acceptable. I wouldn’t list this as a culinary highlight but it is a staple of the Venetian tourist trail and it may be that rather than being a disappointment this dessert will suit people with broader tastes than mine.

Verdict: Worth trying once, but with so many choices on the doorstep waiting to be explored, once is definitely enough.  2/5 teacups

*Prices correct as of 13.2.19

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Winged lion hanging upside down over the staircase to the upper restuarant, just in case someone thought I’d uploaded the picture incorrectly

Feel free to share stories, views and tips in the comments section below. Always fun to hear from fellow teaholics xx

Scones In Another City: A Glorious Glutton’s Guide to Venice

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Hello fans. The globetrekking continues. Fulfilling a promise to return triumphant after a previous trip that included severe flooding, a fall whilst walking across a bridge and sickness that left me curled up like a prawn on the bathroom floor, I have returned to Venice with the express aim of not falling, not getting ill and eating my way across this radiant city. Check back regularly as I will be updating this post with random food porn and will be venturing to the prime spots for the serious teaholics amongst you with special posts throughout the week. Enjoy.

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Green tea overlooking The Grand Canal from the terrace of the Gritti Palace (€10 vat included). Served with complimentary biscotti and a jug of hot water. Worth the price and more given the view and exceptional service. Beautiful.

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Pizza Margherita & Ravioli Al Funghi Porcini – Ristorante Noemi (Calle dei Fabbri, 912, 30124)

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Spaghetti Amatriciana. Thin, fresh spaghetti with ripe tomatoes in a light, flavoursome sauce – La Nuova Perla (Sestiere Castello, 1645, 30122)

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Cheesy, hammy goodness; comfort food of the best kind €8 – Lagare Hotel (Riva Longa, 49, 30141, Murano)

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Torta Della Nonna, pastry filled with lemon flavoured custard topped with pine nuts and almonds. Light, fluffy and fabulous. Take a seat outside to soak up the atmosphere and have your ankles nipped by yapping dogs €6 – Antica Trattoria Muranese ( Riva Longa, 20, 30141, Murano)

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Dammann Frères green tea and a glorious selection of Venetian biscuits and chocolates at Bar Dandolo, Hotel Danieli €12 (Riva degli Schiavoni Castello 4196, 30122)

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Trattoria Dai Tosi (Calle Seco Marina, 738, 30122) Recommended by my good friend Andy who discovered this gem during his travels through the city, this cosy trattoria off the tourist trail is a delightful slice of Venetian tradition serving exceptional food at reasonable prices. The owners were utterly charming and couldn’t have been more friendly during my visit, while the food and the homely atmosphere was everything I could have wanted. Please note that there are two resturants within a 200 yard radius that share the same name. To ensure you go to the right one, remember this piece of advice: green signage. Tagliatelle al Ragu Bolognese €9 Chicken breast in Marsala wine €11

Feel free to share stories, views and tips in the comments section below. Always fun to hear from fellow teaholics xx