Story by John O'Ceallaigh
It's a daily tradition – the clock chimes 3pm and in England's grandest hotels afternoon tea is served. But there's been a change in procedure: the clamor of clinking china and idle chatter is caused just as much by guys who gossip as ladies who lunch.
So where does a gent go to trifle with some tea (and trifle)?
Central London's Mandeville Hotel hosts the capital's only afternoon tea designed for men, and while the atmosphere is as genteel as elsewhere the menu has dispensed with the daintiness (somewhat at least).
Presented on a tiered trio of blue Tiffany plates, sandwiches and pastries eschew the expected. Cucumber slivers served on white bread have been axed in favor of grilled Mediterranean vegetables served on black-olive ciabatta – a definite improvement we thought; ham sandwiches have been replaced by potted shrimps with a salty spread of gentlemen's relish. (The suggestively titled condiment is an anchovy paste worth trying once for novelty's sake, but that's probably about it.)
Desserts, like zesty basil-lemon tarts and crumbly blueberry cheesecake, are less experimental but delicious. Except, that is, for the sodden beignets we were served. Their core held a chocolate-covered fig not dissimilar in appearance to that bloodthirsty plant in the Little Shop of Horrors -- a bit too macho for us.
It's easy to end on a sweet note, though. As well as gourmet teas, the menu includes a selection of full-bodied whiskies. A heretical embellishment for afternoon-tea traditionalists, perhaps, but just the tipple to toast the oncoming evening.
Men's afternoon tea costs from £23.50 and should be booked in advance.
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