An understated, risk-taking Afternoon Tea inspired by the COMO Shambhala holistic wellness concept offers a unique luxury experience.
Located in London’s grand, elegant district of Belgravia, COMO The Halkin’s Afternoon Tea concept emphasises ‘healthy eating, expert nutrition, and pleasurable gastronomy’.
The white walls and chairs, soft light, and gentle movement of the trees outside the bar promoted a feeling of serenity in me from the moment I sat down. With just 41 rooms, the boutique hotel has relatively low foot-traffic in and out. I liked that there seemed to be a lot of staff around despite this, and was immediately attended to. The experience includes as many teas as you’d like; I began with an invigorating Japanese Sencha Green tea.
In the tranquillity of the minimalistic bar – which is adjacent to the hotel reception, yet tucked away in its own enclave to the side – our Afternoon Tea experience began with the offering of a warm hand towel. Duly refreshed and cleansed, we proceeded to the Como Shambhala juices, which came in the form of ‘shots’.
The ‘Blood Builder’ (blood-cleansing, circulation improving, mood and immunity boosting) was a pleasant hit of carrot, beetroot apple and ginger. The ‘Lean and Clean Greens’ shot was also bracing with a mixture of apple, celery, cucumber, lettuce, lemon, fennel, spinach, sunflower seeds and macadamia, said to ‘bolster the body’s natural systems’, among other benefits.
The juice shots were a fun way to begin; meanwhile, a small nest of hot stones were brought over to us, which gave off a’ detoxifying’ vapour. Needing all the help I can get on that front, I was only too happy to breathe in the gently scented mist.
We were now feeling truly cleansed, detoxified, refreshed, and ready to eat. Although small, we found these touches relaxing and ceremonious, and they built some suspense about what was to come. In quite the departure from sandwiches and scones, the savouries comprised a panoply of health-giving morsels, creatively and beautifully-presented, which instantly gave me an urge to be lying on a beach, somewhere with a climate more generous in sunlight.
The stars of the savouries were the ‘Spiced Crispy Prawns’, with orange blossom Pureé, kaffir lime, coriander and citrus, and the ‘Real Toast’, which I found delicious, and made me feel impressed by Chef Ruben Briones. The combination of heritage cherry tomato, rocket, avocado and cucumber on the bread of seeds and nuts mimicked the Afternoon Tea tradition of cucumber sandwiches on bread, in an aesthetically-enticing little mouthful, except here there is of course more flavour and nuance. It delighted the palate, nodded to tradition, and aligned perfectly with the concept of the experience.
For me, the ‘Big Raw Salad’, an inclusion in the savouries, was the only weak point, being neither here nor there; whilst it was raw and fresh, from a taste perspective it was unwelcome on this board of otherwise thoughtful, flavourful morsels.
After the savouries were taken away, the COMO Shambhala Signature Ginger Tea we had ordered arrived too. Sweet, bright and gingery, we were pleased to have paired this particular tea with the impending sweets board, as it fitted perfectly.
The penultimate component of the experience, a large sweets board, boasted an array of colourful treats, which impressed us once more. From the coconut cups made with dark chocolate, filled with delicious coconut liquid (which actually looked like real coconuts) to the satisfying wholemeal banana waffle, to the soft, sweet and comforting strawberry-infused watermelon, hibiscus and white chocolate squares, we were taken on a truly delectable adventure. The star was the mango and passionfruit cheesecake served in the passionfruit’s real exterior, and the only weak point in my view was the cucumber jelly pot with apple and avocado sorbet, the taste of which was quite jarring.
By the time the final dessert was served, we had eaten quite a lot of whole (and therefore filling) foods, and found it difficult to fit anything else in! The matcha and protein morsels were a nice gesture though; I had a small bite of these and they were quite heavy-flavoured so I had to stop there. That said, their presentation was exquisite in mimicking the look of pebbles in a tranquil garden.
As is the case with any Afternoon Tea experience that is ultimately considered a triumph, staff were attentive to the pace of our eating, and all components were brought out in quick succession.
The benefits of this fresh, understated experience would be considerable for those who rejoice in holistic wellness in a luxury setting, and are looking for something ‘fun’ to do which is also health-giving.
Certainly distinct from the traditional Afternoon Tea, Belgravia’s new offering is overall a memorable dining experience that shows off the spirit of risk-taking in its chef, Ruben Briones, which I felt mostly paid off.
COMO The Halkin London Afternoon Tea Menu:
- Real toast
- Seeds and nut bread, avocado, cucumber, heritage cherry tomato and rocket
- Sweet corn and basil soup
- Infused basil, corn powder and extra virgin olive oil
- Big Raw Salad
- Shredded vegetables, avocado and lemongrass dressing
- Spiced crispy prawns
- Orange blossom Purée, kaffir lime, coriander and citrus
- Marinated chicken lolly
- Wild rice salad, pomegranate seeds, pomegranate glaze
- Cucumber Jelly, apple, avocado sorbet
- Wholemeal banana waffle, peanuts and yoghurt sauce
- Strawberry, infused watermelon, hibiscus, white chocolate
- Mango and Passion fruit cheesecake
- Coconut, coconut water, dark chocolate
COMO Shambhala Juices:
- Blood builder: Cleanses the blood, improves circulation, boosts immunity and lifts your mood with carrot, beetroot, pineapple, apple and ginger
- Lean and Clean Greens: Builds lean muscle, boosts energy and immunity and bolsters the
body’s natural systems with cleansing juice. Contains apple, celery, cucumber,
lettuce, lemon, fennel, spinach, sunflower seeds and macadamia