Friday, 27 June 2014

Afternoon Tea Review - Maison Touareg

Maison Touareg - Moroccan Style Afternoon tea with champagne, £12.50 with a voucher

Variety is the spice of life, and we fancied a bit of spice in our lives so we booked an afternoon tea with a difference at Maison Touareg, a Moroccan restaurant in Soho.  Tea is an important part of Arab culture so we had high hopes.
The afternoon tea is only offered at weekends 12:30 to 5:30pm and it’s quite a small place so it’s advisable to book.  We had a voucher offering 2 for one with a glass of bubbly – full price is £21.50.
The ambience felt authentically Moroccan – with ornate lamps, dark colours and cushions everywhere.
There were 14 teas on offer which is more than we have found in much grander places – descriptions and provenance were lacking and most were fruity - but a fine selection.    Charlotte had the Orange Blossom; Caroline, Turkish Apple (a tea commonly found throughout N Africa and Turkey); Mo, Berry and then later Mint and Dave, Cardamom and Lemon and then a Lemon and Ginger.  They all came in authentic teapots with the traditional glasses to drink from.  We were offered refills, hot water and were allowed a second choice of tea.  The apple had real bits of fruit in it and the mint was made traditionally with whole mint leaves – overall we were impressed. 25/30

Rather than sandwiches Maison Touareg serve a selection of savoury pastries and wraps.  There were falafel, chicken and lamb kofte wraps, spinach parcels, and mini chicken and feta pasties.  They were all nicely presented and very tasty. However, there was some confusion in the descriptions from the waitress and the 2 cake stands had different things on them so sharing proved complicated! No refills but there was a good selection and plenty of food. 23/30

There were no scones, of course, but there was a sweet chicken pastry which bridged the gap between savoury and cakes and was surprisingly nice.

The cake selection continued the traditionally Moroccan theme with baklava, a date crunch and some custard pastries. The menu also promised a “homemade Moroccan orange blossom cake with orange saffron marmalade & rose cream” which wasn't quite as special as we had hoped.  So much so in fact that we didn't realise we had had it and we enquired of the waitress where it was.  The cakes were pleasant but a bit meagre and with not much variety.  15/30

Overall, we enjoyed our experience at the Maison Touareg.  Service was friendly and willing (if a little confused at times) and  the atmosphere and decor was attractive and added to the experience.  At £12.50, we did find it value for money, and although a Moroccan Afternoon Tea is something of a novelty, it was done well and didn't feel contrived at all.  We all enjoyed this and would be happy to go back.

Pros                                                                                  Cons
An interesting twist on afternoon tea                 No refills
Good value for money                                               Limited selection of cakes
Nice setting and atmosphere                                  A bit pricey without a voucher



7 out of 10

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Afternoon Tea Review - Hotel Indigo, Kensington

Afternoon Tea Review - Hotel Indigo, London - £11 (with a voucher) for Afternoon Tea with a Molecular Cocktail

Hotel Indigo is a short walk from Earl's Court tube.  It's a boutique hotel and, somewhat bizzarely, all of its staff are Lords and Ladies.  After a refurbishment in 2012, it re-launched with an employee package that included titles for all the staff.  In 2013, the Mansion Bar and Parlour was then opened serving molecular cocktails.  We went there in February for an afternoon tea with added cocktail.
There was an interesting, but not large selection of teas.  Green, white, rooibos and herbal were all on offer, but surprisingly not many varieties of black tea.  Caroline chose the English Breakfast, Mo the Earl Grey, honorary tea lady Dave had Lapsang Souchong and Charlotte had the Organic Fog green tea.  We all liked our teas, however, there were a few problems.  Hotel Indigo generally seems to be a very stylised boutique hotel, and as such the afternoon tea had elements of that style.  The milk came in bottles more usually used for home-brewed alcohol - we have no idea why as nothing else had this kind of feel.  The teapots were very decorative but impractical - the lids didn't stay on properly and there was only enough space for a cup's worth of water.  Although we got more hot water when we asked for it, we all left feeling like we hadn't had enough tea.  In addition, the tea had been made badly.  There were far too many leaves in the pot, so the tea was far too strong, even with the extra hot water. 19/30
The cake stand was very attractive and a bit more practical than the teapots.  In keeping with the stylish theme, the sandwiches were all cut into small squares and had breads of different colours to make them stand out.  We had beef brisket and horseradish on chocolate bread, ham and mustard on tomato bread, salmon on lemon bread and cucumber and cream cheese on basil bread.  The fillings were sparse, the sandwiches were small in general, and some of the bread had gone dry and curly so they'd clearly been standing around for a while.  We also found the combinations odd and badly done.  The basil bread just tasted sour, there was candied peel in the lemon bread which didn't go with the smoked salmon and the chocolate bread didn't work with the beef.  14/30
The scones were a decent size but there was only one per person, either fruit or plain.  The texture was unpleasantly doughy and they had clearly been microwaved to warm them up.  The jam had obviously been scooped out of the small cartons from the hotel breakfast as it was still in that shape.  The cream was just out of the fridge, so impossible to spread.  13/30
The cakes were supermarket tray bakes, or possibly Mr Kipling's.  They were 3 small selections - carrot, almond shortcake and chocolate (possibly a brownie, hard to tell).  They were exactly what you'd expect from mass-produced tray bakes - dry and poor quality.  Considering how much effort they'd gone to with the sandwiches and the look of the afternoon tea, we found it very strange that they'd done this for the cake course.  8/30
The molecular cocktail was served at the end and was generally liked, although it didn't really add anything to the tea.
The Mansion Bar and Parlour is a nicely furnished room on the ground floor as you enter the hotel.   However, it is far more of a bar than a parlour and we couldn't help feeling that they've simply jumped on the afternoon tea bandwagon in an attempt to make some extra money.  They haven't thought through what they're trying to provide, and as a result they fail appallingly.  They are far more about style than substance and the food was some of the worst we've had.  Although they have decent quality tea it was ruined by the fact they don't know how to make it.  It didn't help that although the waitress was very friendly, unfortunately she was the only member of staff for both the parlour and the bar, and there were another 5 or 6 tables of people having afternoon tea.  This meant after she'd brought our teas we had to wait half an hour for the food and it was very difficult to get her attention. 
Even though the voucher we had meant this tea was only £11, we still don't think it was value for money.  You'd be much better off going there and spending the money on a cocktail or two.
Pros                                                                Cons
The teas were nice                                    Style over substance 
Cocktail mostly liked                               The food
                                                                         Only one member of staff



4 out of 10