January 23, 2014
PARK HYATT ABU DHABI HOTEL AND VILLAS
PO Box 52007
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Tel: +971 2 407 1234
What a strange place Dubai is. It’s been on the Noveltea bucket list for as long as we can remember but keeps getting usurped by places like Stoke on Trent and Whitstable and so its exotic depths have gone un-plumbed… until now. For reasons too boring to go into, one half of Noveltea recently found themselves with a few days and Dihrams to spare in the United Arab Emirates.
Frankly there’s a lot not to like about the place if you put your mind to it. The building are so tall they make your head spin standing on the ground; the bacon is made of beef; you can’t walk outside for want of pavement… and inside the marble floors play havoc I with leather soles; the metro is tediously clean and punctual; and there is such an abundance of poor taste and extravagance it makes one quite envious. Rather than trudge around the malls I hired a sporty little number and set out in search of tea. More specifically I had set my heart on the £75 champagne cream tea at the Burj Al Arab but amid the jumble freeway intersections my hopeless navigation – in combination with Arabic SatNav and road signs – soon lead me the opposite direction down the 7 lane Sheik Zayed Highway with the famous landmark a dwindling speck in the mirror.
So I was I ended up on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi with the thirst of a camel and more or less by accident took the ramp up to the Hyatt Park Hotel. It was only the second Noveltea outing where I’ve been treated to valet parking and all the more propitious for not arriving in a car which required winch-starting. Having swapped the machine for a slip of paper I sauntered unencumbered into the soothing marble lobby, down an extravagant staircase and out to where the Gulf laps against a manicured private beach to the rear. There were two smart outdoor restaurants upholding the curious Emirate tradition of long, boozy Friday brunches and upstairs a slightly less exuberant cross between a London gentleman’s club and a 70’s porno studio to which I retreated in search of cake.
And what cake! Vanilla slice, chocolate gateau, 4 ruthlessly stylish varieties of eclair and macaroons of every flavour of the rainbow. Each was presented to the table with due reverence, bordering on reproach that we could defile such miniature works of art. Scones followed. I adore being told there’s a 20 minute wait for scones because you know at the time of ordering they’re still dough in a bowl somewhere. When they came – perfect, breasty little buns – they were untouchable hot and oven-scented. In a weighty silver Lazy Suzan came thick, sludgy clotted cream, and jams of fig, apricot, strawberry and cassis. Pre-lacing the scone with a layer of butter has always struck me as superfluous but I appreciated the gesture nonetheless. All this was washed down with copious amber Ceylon from a beautiless, if practical, glass cafetière.
The bill: eye-raising without being jaw-dropping. Not terrible value for the service we received and certainly a lot less than the Burj would have set me back without the smug glitzyness that accompanies it.
December 12, 2011
As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I,
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.
– O, My Luve is Like a Red Red Rose by Robbie Burns
Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be up in Scotland, enjoying (amongst other things): heather, haggis, tartan, sporens, cold feet, rosy cheeks and of course TEA! Something about Scotland always makes us think of Christmas so hopefully these next few tearooms will get you in the mood for the festive season…
May 27, 2011
#1 Prepare for sleeping: Get into your car (a friend’s car will do) and turn the heating up to max. Now bend your knees up to your chin so that they’re wedged firmly against the horn. Try and sleep.
#2 Prepare for public transport: Choose a bus which is 80-90% occupied and position yourself near the back. Arrange for about 60 friends (or preferably strangers) to rush on and join you at the last minute.
#3 Prepare for Skype: Choose a friend or loved one you want to talk to. Position yourselves at either end of a long corridor, just out of earshot. As you start walking towards each other, begin your conversation, aiming to get to the interesting bit just after you have passed each other. Continue walking until you are in a mirror image of how you started. If you’ve done it right you should have caught between 40-60% of what they said. Repeat until you are too frustrated to continue.
#4 Prepare for the stomach upset: Aim to spend about 1-2 hours sat on the toiled every day for 2 weeks. Divide this time up into 5-10 minute episodes. To get the full effect these episodes should be randomly dispersed throughout your day, preferable when you have important things to attend to, or when the nearest toilet is a 5 minute limp away.
#5 Prepare for the party (this mostly applies to the stricter, Southern States): Go out with your friends every night for a week. When ever anyone offers you booze, meat or a fag politely decline on religious grounds.
May 11, 2011
No photos this time I’m afraid. My camera, which has suffered weeks of abuse at the beach, the bar and bazaar, had finally had enough. No matter…
Sri Lanka is only separated from India by a few kilometres of sea at the closest point, but they feel worlds apart. We arrived in Chennai airport almost a week ago and have been mixing exploring the Tamil Nadu region with a bit of voluntary work in the Christian Missionary hospital in Vellore. Compared to Sri Lanka it’s hot, dry, dusty, dirty and overpopulated. There’s a lot more poverty evident here, and many people live without basic sanitation, or even a roof over their heads.
As in our country, tea is one of the great social unifiers here. Everyone from the maids and rickshaw drivers to the wealthiest businessmen start their day with a cup of chai. At the hospital canteen where we have breakfast it’s served piping hot in two small metal cups, the contents of which you transfer backwards and forwards to cool it. The doctors, nurses, cooks and cleaners make this look very easy but to the uninitiated like ourselves the result is usually several burnt fingers and a big mess.
Last weekend we explored Pondicherry, an old French settlement to the South, and next weekend we’ve booken tickets to an IPL match – India’s new 20-20 cricket premier league – in Bangalore. Cricket is probably overtaking tea as a national obsession so it will be fascinating to experience it first hand.
Hopefully we’ll have mended/replaced our dying camera by then…
March 28, 2011
We have some fantastic news we’d like to share with you! Inspired by tea over many years we are just about to set off on an adventure of a lifetime. Next week we will fly to Colombo for a tour of the tea plantations of Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), India and China. We will then return home by train, over 7000 miles via one of the so-called “Silk Routes” through Kazakhstan and Russia, which is the way tea was originally brought to these shores.
We’ll be sorry to leave, as spring bursts through the doors and windows of Tea HQ, but we can’t wait to share with you tales and photos from our trip…