Michelin-starred afternoon tea with a Spanish twist.
Afternoon tea offerings in London can at times be ever-so monotonous: finger sandwiches – tick; scones – tick. If you are ready to savour something more scintillating, then a visit to Ametsa with Arzak Instruction at COMO The Halkin is a must. Michelin-starred chef Sergi Sanz has created a unique Basque menu that replaces the typical sandwiches for savoury tapas and mini-desserts that taste as delectable as they look.
The decor is discreet and understated; it isn't quite as show-stopping as other boutique hotel bars or the main restaurant area, but here they leave the food to be the star performer.
We started our Basque journey with a rich, comfort food of sweet corn soup with spider crab. It was a delightful surprise to discover significant chunks of fresh crab meat at the bottom of the glass. Whilst Green Pea Cuajada– a refreshing curd drink is the ideal palate-cleanser before you launch into the sweet section of the tea set.
Every single tapa was a culinary joy: ham croquettes oozed gooey creaminess, Idiazabal sandwich with onion chutney manages to make a cheese toastie into an elegant haute cuisine dish; whilst the broken eggs on waffle had delicate quail egg yolk soaking invitingly into the crisp mini-waffle.
The sweets were equally magical. A light parsnip cob cake was a work of art designed to resemble a sweet corn and similarly well-executed was the dropped rice pudding cone. Jackson Pollock would have been proud of these creations. The lemon sorbet with strawberry consommé was delicate and well-balanced without being overbearingly sweet. The orange toast had a wafer-thin slice of crispy spinach to help add to you five-a-day. By a slim margin, the outright winner was chocolate with churros: golden, crispy, petite, these are without a doubt the best churros you will find in London.
Ametsa with Arzak Instruction’s tea selection is extensive and supplied by the leading, premium tea supplier in the UK: Jing. The options are helpfully divided into white, green, black, fresh herbal infusions and herbal infusions tea – although, it would have been better if there was a short description of each tea next to their names. For example, Jade Sword was a bright and fresh green tea, which is very different from the dull, bitter supermarket variety; whilst Oolong Alishan is grown at a 1,600-metre altitude where the balance of humidity, temperature and sunlight produces exceptional flavour.
They offer a choice of three Sipsmith cocktails but also some Seedlip (non-alcoholic) varieties; Lapsang Spice refreshingly matched Seedlip Spice 94 with cold brew lapsang, cardamon and syrup and Lapsang Garden had strong fruity, citrusy notes with Seedlip Garden 108 paired with cold brew lemon verbena, lemon, apple juice and agave.
For the non-traditionalist, this is one of the top afternoon tea options to consider in London and extremely well-priced considering the Michelin-starred tapas.