What? Hamilton, it’s the most talked about musical to hit the West End since the Book of Mormon and right now the hottest ticket in town. I didn’t get tickets, the self-defeatist in me came out and I didn’t even try to go get them (that coupled with the fact that I completely forgot), what I did get though was the chance to go to The Lanesborough for the new Hamilton inspired afternoon tea – the Alexander Hamilton Tea.
New? Yes, having launched at the start of the year, it’s a chance for those who got tickets to have a celebratory tea beforehand and for those who didn’t to commiserate and eat their feelings.
Where? Served in the Michelin-starred, Céleste, you’ll find the tea at The Lanesborough, Hyde Park Corner, SW1X 7TA, www.oetkercollection.com
The Look: If minimalism is your thing then Céleste is not. It’s opulent, palatial and rococo-esuqe, with the duck egg blue walls adorned with friezes, mirrors, paintings and sculptures. Yet the walls cannot compete with the spectacular glass dome in the ceiling that fills the room with light that dances off the chandeliers below. A raised platform runs around two sides of the room pinned by fluted columns – sit here if you like to people watch. Otherwise if you like to be centre of attention, then take a seat below one of the cascading glass chandeliers.
On the Menu: After sandwiches and scones, you’ll find cakes that are all inspired by Alexander Hamilton, whether that’s the distinctive purple and gold buttons of his uniform or their take on the pecan pie.
What We Ate: Hurrah! The Lanesborough has achieved it, what so many hotels don’t quite get right, sandwiches which aren’t dry. I think this has something to do with the fact that when sandwiches are made for afternoon teas, they use bread cut horizontally rather than vertically so they can make sandwiches more quickly; the problem with this is that sandwiches then tend to get that dry outer edge as they sit waiting to be eaten. Either, The Lanesborough has found a way to combat this, or the chef had just made a fresh batch. Either way, they were excellent, there was a particularly good coronation chicken sandwich and a classic cheese and ham offering which I found myself ordering another plate of.
After warm scones with jam and clotted cream it was time for the Hamilton inspired cakes and pastries. Rather than leave my favourite until the end and risk being too full to eat it, I started with the one I thought sounded best, the blackberry cheesecake. Americans love cheesecake and Alexander Hamilton wore a purple uniform with gold buttons – the result is a glossy, purple sphere filled with a rich cheesecake and blackberry mousse, decorated with gold stars, sitting on a little biscuit base and topped with a gold button. They couldn’t have Alexander without Angelica Schuyler (his sister-in-law), and she is cakeonified (which I think you’ll all find means when someone is represented as a cake) as a colourful grapefruit religieuse, complete with an edible spun hat.
Another particular favourite was the exotic lace cupcake, whose flavours of vanilla, mango, banana, passion fruit and lime pay homage to his Caribbean heritage and whose laced cup is reminiscent of the Schulyer sisters’ lace clothes. The chocolate shortbread star representing the stars on the American flag was garnished with a bitter Caraibes 66% Varlhona ganache, but we finished with a sweet pecan pie which was topped with pecan Chantilly and bananas.
What We Drank: We toasted to the fact that we didn’t get tickets with a glass of Champagne before pots of Lapsang Souchong, the smoky tea that makes me all nostalgic. Nostalgic for afternoons at home with the fire burning and days spent at my friend’s house that had a perpetual smell of wood smoke, incense and bacon.
Go With: You don’t have to be a fan of Hamilton to go obviously, there’s no judgement here. Although if you want to look like you’re in the know then I know (from the God of Knowledge that is Google) that some of the names of songs include History Has its Eyes on You, Guns and Ships and Ten Duel Commandments, so you could drop those into conversation.
Final Word: This has to be one of my favourite afternoon teas, they didn’t go overboard with the theme, it wasn’t as if they had decided to serve the cakes on mini stages (right now I wouldn’t put anything past some teas) the Hamilton twists were subtle but effective.
The Lanesborough: Hyde Park Corner, SW1X 7TA