A Masterclass In Festive Whimsy: Dominique Ansel's Christmas Afternoon Tea
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In a city awash with festive afternoon teas, you have to do something special to stand out. An errant gingerbread man (or woman) and a sprinkle of edible glitter just won't cut it.
It's a relief then, that the festive afternoon tea at Dominique Ansel Bakery is an absolute masterclass in everything a Christmas afternoon tea should be; fun, with an air of decadence, and delicious to boot.
It doesn't even look like afternoon tea — there's not a finger sandwich nor cupcake in sight. Instead, a teeny forest of conical Christmas trees stand to attention on the bottom two tiers of the stand, gazed down upon by a jolly army of spherical Santas, reindeers and snowmen.
Chef Dominique Ansel himself was involved with designing the tea (in fact he creates and refines all products bearing his name). The care and hard work show in the tiny details of each miniature work of art, from the minuscule belts encompassing the rotund Santas, to the golden baubles — each handpainted in edible golden dust just minutes before being served.
So what are we actually tucking into? That quintet of Christmas trees is the sandwich equivalent of a regular afternoon tea, each one stuffed with a delicious savoury filling. Turkey makes an appearance — of course it does, this is Christmas — along with egg salad, wild mushroom and butternut squash. Their soft, creamy insides contrast beautifully with a satisfyingly crunchy pastry. Highlight? The smoked salmon with pistachio dill — the yuzu adds a citrusy undertone that we're still craving hours later.
Scones are served in a separate dish, but even with this most basic of afternoon tea components, there's a unique twist. Those spreadable strawberries from the venue's summer afternoon tea are replaced with golden stars, still as spreadable, and containing clotted cream and jam.
So far, so impressive. Then the sweet selection hits you. Little characters are so splendidly turned out that bringing yourself to eat them is a bit of a challenge (not too much, mind). The golden baubles are so exquisite, we have to double check that they're edible. Good news: they are! And they are quite literally the bells baubles and whistles of the whole experience. Inside a thin layer of chocolate, caramelised royal gala apples sit among a caramelised whipped ganache, creating the perfect face-off of tangy and sweet.
Santa's rounded belly is filled with an orange mousse with cranberry and black cherry geleé, while Rudolph contains a chocolate mousse with nutmeg and ginger, and caramel cremeux. Both are flawless. The snowman is the chap most likely to split opinion. Beneath his coconut exterior (and cute hat) lies what is described as a take on a mince pie, but reveals itself to be more like Christmas cake. Being fans of neither, we pass this one by — but if the rest of the experience is anything to go by, currant lovers are likely to find themselves enthralled.
It speaks volumes about the quality of the food that we're only mentioning the decor as an afterthought. That floral wall has been muted down into a silver-white number and adorned with fairy lights bound to make Instagrammers swoon. The whole terrace has a very romantic vibe, but for the best effect, go after dark.
Festive Afternoon Tea at Dominique Ansel Bakery, 17-21 Elizabeth Street, Belgravia. It costs £42-£80 per person and needs to be booked in advance. Available until 2 January 2019.
Last Updated 06 December 2018