The Hempel is a boutique five star hotel set in a leafy and white-pillared enclave of Bayswater in London. It’s got a very calming atmosphere, the interior is super stylish and minimal. The reception area sets the tone with its sunken sofa areas and all white colour scheme, the bar area where we had our afternoon tea has a South East Asian spa-like vibe of dark wood, soft music and candles. It was a total change from the noise and chaos of Oxford Street where we’d walked from.
Not many people around on a Thursday afternoon – a few businessmen milling about and a chic French mother and daughter enjoying a late lunch.
The staff were welcoming, attentive and knowledgable. I don’t know a lot about fine teas, but the waitress was able to explain the menu and recommend what we might like according to our tastes. She was also happy to refill our pots with fresh hot water to elongate our experience. The pastry chef also popped out to talk us through his cakes which was fab.
The afternoon tea offering was plentiful and varied:
We were glad that we’d not eaten lunch before embarking on this afternoon tea experience… there was a lot to get through!
The sandwiches: Two each of every variety – egg and sundried tomato, salmon and cream cheese, ham and chilli jam and coronation chicken. It was nice to see a few punchy flavours in there like the sundried tomato and chilli jam to elevate what can be bland to something really delicious.
The scones: Two fruit, two plain served with clotted cream and strawberry jam. You could smell that they were freshly baked before they’d even arrived at the table and they looked home made in that they weren’t too uniform and neat – scones are meant to be rustic looking in my view and these passed with flying colours. Not too heavy either.
The cakes: Tiny fruit salads in shot glasses, mango cheesecake slices, chocolate mousse cake with spun sugar and gold leaf, blackberry mousse cake, and rose macaroons. Visually stunning selection – my personal faves were the fruit salads, chocolate mousse cake and the blackberry mousse cake – all had a great variety of texture and intense flavour. The cheesecake slices were a bit cloying and the macaroons a bit too soft for my liking. Overall I think there were too many soft textures within the selection and maybe some florentines could have added a bit more crunch and chew to the proceedings.
The teas: There were about six-eight teas to choose from – all with detailed explanations about flavour. We opted for a silver needle tea which was subtle and beautifully light, along with a more robust darjeeling which was complex and reviving.
Priced at £25 per person I thought it was great value in a serene setting. Perfect for a mother/daughter treat or for a special shopping day with friends. The relaxed atmosphere was a far cry from the starchy big posh hotels where you feel like you have to stand on ceremony. The cakes were mostly delicious and the pots of tea a real highlight as I love trying new things.
31-35 Craven Hill Gardens
London W2 3EA
020 7298 9000
With thanks to Lime and Tonic who paid for and arranged this experience for me to review – they offer the Zen Afternoon Tea at The Hempel for a discounted price for members, so do check out their site if you’re looking for a decent afternoon tea in London.