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.
Today’s featured Blog is:
“I do like a nice tearoom” says Lorna, who first got in touch last year. Since then she has clearly been busy, not only bumbling round the tearooms of Scotland (and further afield), but even publishing a book about the same, while selling a delightful little range of handmade cards to finance her baking addiction.
We adore her frequent posts, beautiful high-definition illustrations and quirky sence of humour. Keep up the good work!
January 1, 2013
2012 has been a busy year for Noveltea for all sorts of reasons. We visit dozens of tearooms over the course of the year and have reviewed plenty for you on our blog and website including Lahloo in Bristol, The Rose in Oxford, and Cup in Glasgow.
We’ve also been baking, of course in the THQ kitchen and look forward to sharing some of our better concoctions in the New Year as well as a special little expose we’ve been preparing about the ones which didn’t work so well. (On this note, one thread which attracted a lot of attention was The exploits and misadventures of Herman the German Friendship cake – a cautionary tale of the unexpected pitfalls which await the unwary).
Amongst other inervations we’ve introduced our new BlogWatch feature, which lets us bring to light other tea-related blogs like Afternoon Tea Total and Tea for You and Me. If you manage such a blog or website, or just know of one we might like then please do get in touch.
Noveltea was established – all those years ago – to help fellow tea lovers find great afternoon tearooms. What continues to delight and surprise us year on year, though, is the enthusiasm we get in return.Along the way, and among others, we’ve met Fanny, Sam and Jane from vintage tea party planners Nips and Crumpets, and the guys from The Attic, Bristol. This year we met TV presenter Maddie Moate, spent a week with Professor Robert Murphy in his beautiful cottage in Ireland and made contact the Chester Ladies Cycling Club and are very much looking forward to a project together in 2013.
Allow us to extend our warmest seasonal wishes to all the above, and of course you our loyal readership. 600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012 and in the same period we understand that this blog got about 3,500 views. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 6 years. For more nerdy statistics and figures you can view our full annual report.
It only leaves us to iterate our thanks and best wishes and we look forward to seeing you back next year.
January 28, 2012
Today’s featured blog is afternoon tea total, which has been sharing in the secret’s of some of London’s top tearooms since 2009.
In Natalie, the author and self-described “cycling afternoon tea obsessive”, we appear to have found somewhat of a kindred spirit. She has visited many of London’s top tearooms, some of which like Bea’s of Bloomsbury or The Wolsley are part of our own repertoire but plenty more are new discoveries for us. We have even learnt a thing or two about baking and bubble tea into the bargain.
We adore her relaxed, friendly style, her wealth of knowledge and clear dedication to the cause. Here is a lady that will clearly leave no crumpet un-buttered in her pursuit of the ultimate tea experience. We also enjoy the narrative and the characters who frequent her reviews, most of all the mysterious ‘Coffee Boy’ who we take to be her adoring suitor and one of the luckiest young men in London.
To both of you we wish happiness down to the last crumb and that you keep up the good work in 2012.
Lily and Amos
P.s. on a personal note we must share your frustration when a much loved – and sometimes meticulously ‘researched’ tearoom closes down such has been happening a lot to us recently.
December 21, 2011
It was a glorious morning. The silvery water of Loch Ard glistened in the early April sunshine. The birds were singing a chorus of merry tunes, accompanied by Amos, sweating and cursing at the oars of our little boat. Our destination: the highly recommended Wee Blether Tea Room, housed in an eggshell blue beach hut on the loch side in Kinlochard run by a group of cheery Scottish ladies.
Inside was packed to bursting with customers, cakes, treats and goodies that couldn’t fail to satisfy even the most discerning tea goer. We sat outside at cast iron tables on the wooden jetty and satisfied our sweet tooth on homemade Victoria sponge and freshly baked melt in the mouth scones served with small, hot pot of tea. It was all going so well until we went to settle the bill and discovered that we had been charged an extra £1.00 for asking for a pot of hot water to top up the tea. Bloody Scotts.
Verdict: a pot knocked off for being stingy 3 pots/5
For more Scottish tearooms check out Noveltea.co.uk
December 14, 2011
The Library Tea Rooms,
Finding the small glen of Balquhidder, nestled at the end of a long windy narrow road to nowhere was predictably tricky, especially as the local signposts pre-date the death of Rob Roy in 1734, who is buried in the local church. But the discovery of the Library tea rooms was well worth the inevitable petty tussles [and nearly £300 damage to the car – ehem sorry, Amos] that ensued on the way. The Library Tearooms are about as tiny as the glen itself, and even the crisp white wood panelled walls did little to create the illusion of space, but don’t let this put you off.
A log fire was burning in the corner, and the built-in bookshelves were piled high with quirky reading material and delicate floral-patterned gilt bone china cups and saucers. We sat at the only table large enough to accommodate our hungry appetites, and feasted on scones fresh from the oven, filled with bouncy, joyous currents and served with perfect homemade strawberry jam and frothy whipped cream.
Verdct: a splendid 4 pots/5
For more tearooms in Scotland visit Noveltea.co.uk
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…
December 7, 2011
The Hampshire Hotel
0207 839 9399
Going up to London for a bout of Christmas shopping recently, we were stuck for somewhere for tea at very short notice. Many of our usual haunts were all booked up, and – looking for somewhere central – we stumbled upon the Hampshire Hotel, which occupies the South Eastern corner of Leicester square.
The building itself, with its redbrick facade and Oriel windows is very inviting, and we were ushered in with delightful obsequiousness by a footman in full livery. Alas by contrast, the interior is rather drab and impersonal – perhaps more suited to a middle-management business reception than an impromptu tea with friends. As part of the Radisson hotel group, the Hampshire prides itself on “contemporary elegance”. Purposeful flowers in striking vases, generic modern artwork and uncomfortable high-energy furniture are all par for the course.
Considering how empty it was, the service was leisurely to the point of being tedious. The tea arrived (bags, of course, not leaf) in chunky white china and the cakes, scones and petit fours on an ostentatious three tier stand. The quality was overall acceptable but we were disappointed by the freshness (or otherwise) of the sandwiches and the dry, chalky meringues.
Only the bill managed to surprise us. At £17 for two this represents fairly good value against some of London’s more celebrated establishments but the fact remains, we’d rather have tea at the Savoy once than twice here.
Verdict: 2.5 pots/5
For more London tearooms visit www.noveltea.co.uk/2London.html
November 2, 2011
We received a question the other day by email:
“Hi, I have recently moved to the UK from Canada. Many things baffle me about this country, but nothing more so than the word, ‘tea’. What on earth does it mean, please?” Jake, London.
Thank you for your question. It is one which troubles not only visitors to these shores, but many locals too. The word “tea” is used in different contexts. Confusingly it can refer to two things:
1) A drink (usually served with milk and a healthy dose of gossip, as in “let’s stop for a cup of tea”)
The word ‘tea’ on its own usually means a meal. Lower and lower-middle classes, and many people in the North of England traditionally refer to the meal eaten between 6-8 as “tea”, which originates from the practice of only eating 3 meals a day (breakfast, dinner – meaning lunch – and tea). If they wish to distinguish between “tea” (the meal) and “tea” (served between 4-6 with tea, bread, cakes etc.) they say “high tea”.
English upper and upper-middle classes tend to eat somewhat later, and refer to the meal served between 7-9 as “dinner” (formal) or “supper” (informal). The meal served between 3-5 is referred to as “afternoon tea” or sometimes just “tea”, as there is no risk of confusing it with any other meal.
Or 2) or a meal (as in, “I’m starving, what’s for tea?”).
People of all classes and backgrounds also enjoy tea as a standalone entity, but tend to distinguish it from a meal by quantifying it i.e. “a cup of tea”, or just “a tea”.
The bottom line:
People get very worked up about this distinction. Indeed, even amongst the British, etiquette is a great source of stress (even fear). Allow me to impart the following advice:
1) Don’t worry! Take solace in Dr Seuss’ mantra that “those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter”. Any self-respecting English host will make clear their intentions on the invitation and will be graceful, kind and humorous should any mistakes arise.
2) If in doubt ask. There is such an acceptable variation in what is meant by “tea” that there is no shame in asking for clarification.
3) Enjoy! The English tea custom has fascinated me for many years. Wherever you go for tea, whatever you eat, and whoever you share it with, you will not only experience one of our most interesting social rituals, but one of our tastiest!
For more information have a look at my website www.noveltea.co.uk
October 26, 2011
Perhaps you can help us out on a domestic argument, which arose during tea out at a pub near Henley…
We were mid-meal when the owner’s black Labrador – a kempt and attractive young bitch of about 1 – approached me with such a winsome expression of good will, that I stopped to ruffle her hair, and to compliment her on being such a good doggy.
Lily promptly chastised me for my poor hygiene and refused to eat anything I then touched. I do acknowledge that then proceeding to touch everything edible item on the table was childish… but who sides with Lily? Should I have got up to wash my hands, or does Lily need to relax her standards?
Do you let animals share your food? Do you carry sterilizer around in your handbag for such an event, or do you subscribe to the theory that germs are probably good for you?