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.
October 31, 2011
01628 891 010 http://www.danesfieldhouse.co.uk/afternoon_tea
I feel sorry for anywhere that isn’t Danesfield House. Set in Buckinghamshire, amid the beautiful Chiltern Hills, and overlooking the river Thames – this once prehistoric hill fort, now luxury hotel and spa has it all. We had spent a chilly Autumnal day perusing the quaint riverside towns of Henley and Marlow. Lily flitted from shop to show, amassing an impressive collection of bags until by five o’clock she could no longer fit through doorways sidewards. With one last wistful look back at the shoes that might have been, even she was forced to admit defeat and together we set off to find tea.
During this time Amos had not been idle, and – in between paying for things – had solicited the advice of some friendly locals. Our options were twofold: retrace our steps to Henley or stop off outside Marlow at “the posh hotel on the hill”. Pulling up on the gravel drive of this stately home-cum-hotel, our excitement was twinged with a note of foreboding. We’ve had mixed experiences of country house conversions; the price is unanimously high, but the quality of the tea very variable, and many is the time Amos has got into furious rows with the management concerning the mark-up on a Twinings teabag. This white-faced mock Tudor castle doesn’t look beautiful, and it doesn’t look cheap either…
…And it wasn’t. But we’re pleased to report that the service and quality are up there with the very best. The orangery (funky old-fashioned flagstones meet modern metal and glass) houses a dozen or so tables, resplendent in white linen and silverware, creating a fresh, minimal setting whilst maintaining a convivial atmosphere. There is not a harpist in sight – instead faultless oven-fresh scones are accompanied by fine loose-leaf tea, the chinks of glasses and the crackle of an open fire.
The service is oily-slick and whisper quiet and the bill when it came was like receiving a massage. We lingered slightly longer than we deemed polite, and made a point of strolling leisurely though the formal gardens before retracing our way back to the car (which was easy to spot amongst the fleet of German executive saloon outside).
Reflecting back perhaps four and a half pots is mean, as it’s hard to know what could be improved upon. Maybe we’ll have to go back for a second opinion…
February 7, 2009
When we looked out of the window of THQ this morning there were snowflakes falling the size of pancakes. Never ones to let bad weather put pay to our fun we’ve been experimenting with fun teatime recipes incorporating snow. Check this one out for SNOW ICE CREAM:
– 1 tin of condensed milk
– 1 pint (or thereabouts) of double cream
– vanilla extract
– 1/2 cup of sugar (to taste)
– about 1 litre of fresh snow
Collect a litre (or thereabouts) of fresh snow. We recommend catching it straight from the sky rather than picking it up off the ground. Beat the cream with an electric whisk until firm and stir in the condensed milk, sugar and vanilla extract. Add the snow little by little until you have achieved the right consistency.
Eat straight away! It’s delicious served with freshly baked scones. For more inspiration have a look at http://www.noveltea.co.uk/Recipes.html