Another season, another one of Joanne Todd’s afternoon teas. I was invited to visit the Royal Horseguards hotel again last week for an afternoon tea timed to coincide with this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, all the patisseries flavoured, this time, with flowers. Add a pot of flowering tea, some chocolate butterflies and leaves attached to the cake stand with melted chocolate (no picture of these; my partner-in-tea snapped them off and ate them before I got to them with the camera), the compulsory scones, and a stack of neat little finger sandwiches, you’ll find yourself with a very good reason to skip lunch.
It’s the application of a fierce imagination to what’s on the plate that so charms in these afternoon teas. A Felchlin chocolate cremeux was flavoured with lavender – and popping candy. Elderflower cupcakes; chocolate chip loaf spiked with orange blossom; a lemon drizzle cake where much of the citrus aroma actually comes from lemon thyme. The raspberry and hibiscus flower jelly tart and a violet cupcake had me grinning like a lunatic. These patisseries are beautiful, they’re superbly delicate, and they make for one of those rare examples of something that really does taste as good as it looks.
The Garden Par-tea had a short run and finishes today, but Joanne is, as ever, keeping busy: look out for another Wimbledon-themed tea this June, and a children’s afternoon tea later in the summer, complete with alphabet shortbread, toy soldiers and jelly bears.
I’ve been visiting the hotel for Joanne’s teas for a year now, and it’s great to see the little refinements made to what’s on offer every time. The scones have shrunk to a much more manageable size (I still couldn’t get through two, though, especially on top of all the lovely little cakes); the sandwich fillings are becoming more complicated – and this time, there was a handsome amount of chocolate kicking around to round things off.
The hotel has undergone some renovations in the last few months, and the outside terrace (closed to diners when I visited because it was such a windy day, but I managed to get outside to take some pictures) has been completely revamped.
I’m wondering if I can convince someone to lend me their children in time for Joanne’s upcoming kids’ afternoon tea. I like the sound of those jelly bears.