Tea for two with a twist
English eating has happily emerged from its long, most of the twentieth century, hibernation. But even in those darkest hours, there were two elements which shone – breakfast and afternoon tea.
Formal “tea” - sandwiches, scones, cakes and, of course, several cups of tea - remains an institution largely limited to these North West European islands. It has a formality, length and pace which could do justice to lunch or dinner.
However, that does not mean tea is set in stone, nor that it cannot progress by claiming elements of other cuisines.
My visit to William Curley, who describes himself and his eponymous eaterie in Pimlico, with the very French “Patissier Chocolatier” was not of my making. Tea for two – or as Curley puts it the “Dessert Bar Menu” was a present. And it was one that I am now glad to say that I have experienced.
Before getting on to the food, three facts.
- Curley is Scottish with a love of pastry and chocolate – he has written several books on these subjects.
- Our destination was in the heart of Belgravia, perhaps London's wealthiest neighbourhood where window shopping is a delight.
- The Dessert Bar format is currently only on Saturdays and Sundays – the shop's main purpose is to sell chocolates and cakes – and the details will change in January 2016 (although not the quality of the food!).
The Dessert Bar costs £25 with a further £5 for a glass of “bubbly” - unspecified but probably Prosecco or similar. The start is a choice of drink – my advice is to opt for a black tea such as Assam or Darjeeling with lemon rather than milk. This cleanses palettes in a way that coffee cannot.
It's a fixed menu – but you get to discuss ingredients and cooking methods with the chef and the knowledgeable waiter.
We started with Aztec Hot Chocolate Shot with spicy biscuit. The super-thick liquid chocolate, flavoured with chilli, was something I must replicate at home! If only I could!!!
The biscuit, was more lack-lustre, with its spiciness hidden by the flavours of the chocolate.
It's not all chocolate. The next course was Panna Cotta with Mulled Autumn Fruit. It was delicious and we wanted more. But because there were several more dishes to come, we knew that “seconds” were not an option.
It was followed by the Pear Bourdaloue with Creme Anglaise, a wonderful Apple Cider Granita (Curley makes several ice creams and other frozen desserts) with toasted marshmallow, and – back to the chocolate theme – a chocolate fondant with Orange Yogurt ice cream. It was all yummy!
The meal ended with an assortment of Petit Fours – and as it was at the end of the day, our kind waiter gave us a large slice of cake to take home!
It was a gorgeous and unusual two hours before leaving the warm embrace to return back to reality.
William Curley 198 Ebury Street London SW1 8UN 020 7730 5522
Nearest stations Victoria, Sloane Square
Monday to Friday: 10.30-18.00 Saturday: 10.00-18.30 Sunday: 10.30-18