Category Archives: Coffee Break

Afternoon Tea at Sketch

With a striking back drop Sketch makes every girl feel like a fairy tale princess. Afternoon Tea here is no standard English affair, in fact one would go as far as saying it is a magically event straight out of a surreal Tim Burton movie. You know this is worthy of the two Michelin stars that it has been awarded with its new again French cuisine.
Behind the hustle and bustle of Oxford St and in the heart of Mayfair sits Sketch, most of you will know it as the old house of Dior which it is most known for.

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The interior is just breathtakingly beautiful. Playing on fantasy and dream worlds, each room has its own theme which is communicated so well. We were having our session of Afternoon Tea in the gallery room or as I have renamed it ‘the bubble gum’ room. The gallery exhibits the work of David Shirgley, one of my favourite artists during my college years. You could spent hours reading his work on the walls and never get bored. Quite the entertainment.

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The Afternoon Tea is on another level of class altogether in comparison to anything we have had so far. With sandwiches filled with caviar and quails egg, fit for a princess. As we arrived we were served the most blissful cocktail ever created with hints of vanilla and raspberry. Yum.

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The tea cake tray arrived with so much food and to our amazement it was all on an unlimited serving basis but trust me, you do not need to get seconds as there is just so much to be eating (okay we tried and ended up with left overs).

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The sandwich selection was to die for and I’m not a sandwich person. There was one warm sandwich which was a toasted pesto and mozerrella sandwich which was heavenly. Actually everything was heavenly so I might as well drop that work. Each sandwich had a different type of bread so never did it feel repetitive like the sandwiches at regular afternoon tea can get.

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The cake level was out of this world, with lemon cake, chocolate cake, strawberry tarts and a profiterole. All so light and airy. All tasting like nothing we have had before as the all seemed to have a surprise after taste for example, the profiterole had a raspberry filling and the lemon cake almost had this egg custard quality.

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As soon as there was space we were brought our fresh scones served with clotted cream, strawberry jam and fig jam. One word, lovely.

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The top layer of macaroons and cheesecake was the death of us and we found it hard to reach the end. £39 is a sum I would gladly pay again as its not just the food you are paying for but the overall experience.IMG_1460
The staff are lovely and attentive. They continuously monitor your trays to make sure everything is always looking fresh and full. They clearly love their job making the service even more outstanding.

We managed to get ourselves a great deal with the Open Table app. So we paid £39 for the Afternoon Tea set but we also got a free £15 cocktail upon arrival. Open Table is a great app and has given us some amazing deals over the years so check it out.

On to the next Afternoon Tea session.

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Have a peak at the mus-see bathrooms

Sketch
9 Conduit Street, London
https://sketch.london

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Coffee Break: Madd Hatters

We are rather over the top British folk and love our high tea time. Ok, let be honest, tea is often replaced by coffee and savoury is missed altogether and sweets are increased, well we are as we have been coined Prosecco Socialites so it’s just part of the lifestyle.
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As we strolled around Leicester Square one sunny afternoon we came across Madd Hattesr, looked very cute with its cake piled high in the window. Exactly what we were in mind for. The drinks menu was rather extensive, from lassi to coffee to fruit punches. Everything you could ask for given your mood.

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The cakes were handmade and looked so inviting, naturally we had to have a few for reviews sake of course 🙂

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The cakes were fresh, moist and delicious. We had a slice of Oreo cookie cake which was so rich and devilishly chocolaty the kind that sticks to your palette in a good way. We then had a nibble at the red velvet cupcake with its heavenly cream cheese frosting. So sweet and creamy, Elena has literally eaten a bowl of this in the past, yeh and she is still stick thin while I look like the marshmallow man from ghost busters, biting into my carrot batons.

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Lastly, we tried a wedge of the salted caramel cake. OMG, it was stunning. Not overly caramel in taste and you only really taste the salted caramel in the cream cheese frosting which is perfect or it would be sickly. Again, such a moist and delicious cake.

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The coffees we got were nice and mild in flavour, nothing fancy but when you are teaming it up with the fabulous selection of cakes you almost want an understated drink in order to be able to really enjoy those explosive cake flavours.

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Madd Hatters isn’t the most cosiest place to chill out. It’s the front of house to a theatre so people are walking through all the time. So if you can handle that then you will enjoy some amazing cakes.

Madd Hatters
http://www.lovemaddhatters.co.uk

Coffee Break: The Mock Turtle

Contrary to the name The Mock Turtle has nothing to do with turtles but everything to do with the best tea and scones that Brighton has to offer.

Every time we come to Brighton we always have an afternoon tea session at The Mock Turtle. It is always heaving with people inside and out and for good reason too. With scones the size of my head, cream and jam as sweet as nectar (in my head I think nectar is really sweet) and tea as heavenly as something you can only get in heaven, The Mock Turtle is the place for high tea whether you are a tea person or not.

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This high tea experience is not pretentious at all which is the general connotation people get whenever it is mentioned. It is a very cool and chilled out experience and to be fair everything in Brighton has that similar laid back feel to it.

The interior is rather quant with lots of ‘old skool’ fine china on the walls, the ones with the blue paint work that you see on antiques road show. As you enter there is a table with handmade cakes on cake stands, displayed in a similar fashion to a church fair. The clientele is so eclectic; teenagers, the elderly, young professions, children and mature adults all smiling and enjoying a cup of tea with a scone.

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The scones are the biggest we have ever seen and you can choose from a range of different one from plain to fruit filled. We always go for a platter of plain scones, clotted cream, strawberry jam and english breakfast tea. The scones are so filling that we can never muster dinner after it (but we do as we try and find a good gastro pub to dine in on the way back into London).

It’s an incredible experience this high tea business and I don’t think we will ever not pay a visit to The Mock Turtle when we are in Brighton. Make sure you get your fill of scones the next time you visit Brighton, maybe we will bump into you there.

The Mock Turtle Tea Room
4 Pool Valley, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 1NJ

Coffee Break: Louis Hungarian Patisserie

Call me bias if you must but I firmly stand by my opinion that European cakes are the best in the world. America always goes over the top with sugar where Asia don’t add enough, Great Britain’s cakes are a bit like their weather – soggy. Europe’s love affair with dessert started very early with first baked cake recorded in 17th century. From then on baking became an art form adored by everyone from Paris to Russia. Patisseries in Europe are amazing. We saw some examples of a grand patisserie first-hand in Lisbon. From the decor to the selection of cakes, your tea time in Europe has been transformed to a formal affair with silver service.
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You can imagine my delight as I spotted a Hungarian patisserie in Hampstead. As soon as I spotted the sign I started dreaming of fluffy Hungarian cremes… unfortunately they didn’t have them on the menu, so I opted for a very similar cake called ‘Creme Slice’. This slice was not as sweet as it looks. It was a gorgeous combination of creme lighter than air and crispy layered pasty. Of course the portion was bigger than one can eat, so had to be shared.
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 Cheese cake is not as you and me know it. Hungarian cheese cake reminded me of polenta cake by texture. It didn’t even smell of cheese, with a slight sweetness and lemon flavoring it seemed a bit dry. A little bit disappointing. Perhaps it’s a good excuse to go back and try all Louis Patisserie’s cakes.

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The decor takes you back in time. The galore of cakes is displayed on the front window, main room is a mixture of dark brown leather covered sofas and wood paneled walls. Sweet old lady with white apron serves tea in sets are delightfully floral. She doesn’t speak a word of English which in my book enhances the experience of a foreign cafe.

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Louis patisserie was dead quiet despite a few tables with customers. Everyone was talking with hushed voices, slowly flipping pages of a newspaper and quietly sipping on their coffee. It was quite nice and relaxing for a change.

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For £12 we had a cappuccino, hot chocolate and two desserts. It’s a little pricier than your regular coffee shop but worth paying extra for a taste of Hungary.

P.S. Beware – they only accept cash.

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Louis Patisserie
32 Heath Street, London NW3 6TE

Breakfast in Hong Kong

One of the things that kept coming up in guide books and online tourism blogs is that Hong Kong doesn’t have a breakfast culture. Shock and horror! Surely, we thought, Hong Kong residents cannot be starting their busy day on empty stomach. After arriving to Hong Kong we have discovered that their breakfast does exist but it is nothing like London where you sit down for ‘the most important meal of the day’, roll out your napkin, arrange cutlery and await your fruit salad with eggs Benedict and a pot of Earl Grey.

Since Hong Kong is a real mix of foreign styles and cuisines we have decided to try both ends of the breakfast spectrum. We didn’t want to be thrown in the deep end so  decided to start off with the familiar ‘western style’ breakfast first.

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Urban Bakery has a number of branches across the city. Decorated in a very hip industrial style, this shop offers freshly baked croissants with a range of creative fillings.

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We opted for somewhat Asian inspired egg custard croissants with coffee. I have to be honest I was very pleasantly surprised because unless I am in Paris I have very little faith in croissants. But this piece of pastry was perfect!

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Crunchy top layer and the middle flaked easily. The egg custard filling was dreamy. Not too sweet with lovely smooth texture.  It was such a delicious breakfast! So tasty in fact, it made me feel a little bit guilty.


The next day we finally gathered enough courage to try the traditional Chinese breakfast.

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After a brief queue to get in, we sat down at a table at a very small and crowded  Kam Fung cafe on Spring Garden Lane in Wan Chai. Kam Fung cafe has been established in 1956 and is a classic example of a Hong Kong cafe.

As there were only two of us, the waiter wasted no time squeezing a local couple on a bench at our table. We tried not to let a sign that said ‘NO SPITTING’ to spoil our appetite and ordered cold milk tea with sweet buns.

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I have never been a massive tea drinker but somehow white being in Hong Kong i have developed a real taste for it. Milk tea is now my favourite cold drink. I have tried it in Starbucks in a form of a ‘frappaccino’, which was lovely and light, and it is also a very surprising flavour for ice cream (Lab Made Cafe).

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Kam Fung’s milk tea was nice and strong which is exactly what you want to start your day off with. Sweet bun was served with a slice of butter, which wasn’t particularly needed as the bun was really fresh, soft and moist already. Taste was similar to a brioche bun, but perhaps a touch less sweet. I could definitely do with a meal like this everyday.

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Our bill was served on a tiny piece of paper, for 54 HK dollars in total we could not complain.

Although this breakfast was very different to Urban Cafe, I would definitely recommend Kam Fung as a place to experience Hong Kong culture and how locals live.  But if you want your soya milk flat white and place to catch up with a few emails, then do head to Urban Cafe for some peace and quiet.

Urban Cafe
Room 322, 3/F, The Landmark, 12-16 Des Voeux Road Central, Central Connaught Pl, Central, Hong Kong

Kam Fung
G/F, Spring Garden Mansion, 41 Spring Garden Lane, Wan Chai

Teakha

A trendy and kitch tea shop, Teakha really made an awesome tea experience this morning. Home blended teas and freshly baked cakes and pastries, this little sanctuary really put a smile on our faces as we took shelter for the code black torrential rain that swept across Hong Kong this morning.   

  
We got to the tea shop at 11am to staff who happily told us their tea was not ready and their cakes hadn’t finished baking. One thing you will realise in Hong Kong is that they are not early risers and nor are they breakfast people so expect the start to the day to be slow. Usually Elena would have had a heart attack at the thought of being denied food yet as we saw they were brewing their own teas and were frantically mixing batters and shoving them into ovens, well we knew we were in for a treat. 

   
 
The staff kindly allowed us to take shelter indoors while they finished and we shift through their menu. I ordered the Rose Tea which came with a frothy top, caramel drizzle and edible rose petals. The aroma is that of fresh rosa petals and the taste is just like sweet rose water. Will definitely try and make something like this at home. Elena ordered an aromatic black tea which was earthy in flavour and rich. 

  
We ordered the most amazing cakes. Elena ordered a chai caramel brown which came straight out of the oven so was warm and gooey on the inside. I ordered a chamomile, buttermilk and custard tart which reminded me a lot of a traditional New York cheesecake, milky, light and airy. Delicious. 

  
Beware, it is not a traditional tea house and is very modern. It is an expat hotspot as the flavours here are more for the western diner. This place is cute and stunning and we wish we could try the other things on the menu. 

  
Two things Teakha made us realise were: 

1. We should always pack a scarf or sweater as the air conditioning inside was freezing and that goes for all restaurants in Hong Kong 

2. We really want to try a traditional Chinese tea house before we leave and obviously share those details with you

Teakha

Shop B, 18 Tai Ping Shan Road SOHO Sheung Wan.

Coffee Break: Newens The Original Maids of Honor

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Elena and I love to have days off together as we love to chill and do the most patriotic things such as driving down to the tinniest villages in hope to find the best gastro pubs, visiting Royal gardens in the hopes to find a tea shop or two and this Friday afternoon was much of the same. We love Kew Gardens and when ever we visit we always see this quaint looking bakery outside, after a made session of googling we discovered that it was in fact an old tea room.

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Newens The Original Maid of Honor (what a mouthful) is a traditional tea room full of nick knacks, beams and lots of cladding. To our surprise it wasn’t full of tourists as we had assumed but locals who clearly come here on a regular basis which really added to the charm of this place.

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Excited to be having high tea we were even more shocked that we were paying a mere £14.99 per person for an array of sandwiches, scones and cake with a pot of earl grey tea. We got to pick the cakes we wanted from the large selection they had to offer. We were intrigued to see that this was also a fully functioning bakery from which deliveries were being made throughout the day in their 1930’s van.

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The tea was delightful and well it was earl grey so no frills. We started with the bottom tier of our stand with the sandwiches. The sandwiches were pre-made and refrigerated which was a tad disappointing as the bread had developed a crunch and the butter within them was a tad cold and hard. They were very cute to look at, bite sized, crusts removed and an assortment of classic fillings such as: salmon, cheese, ham and cucumber. Not the biggest fan of sandwiches but when in Rome and all.

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The second tier was right up our street. Scones! We had plain scones with sugar dusting and fruit scones served will clotted cream and jam. We have tried a lot of scones in or time and have always known them to be slightly firm however, these scones were super soft and melted in your mouth. Delicious.

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Once we got to the last tier of cakes we were stuffed but ploughed on and dived into our chocolate tart which was dense and moist and the uber fluffy coffee cream bun.

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The experience of a high tea here isn’t at all trendy or the ‘kitch’ thing to do as you may assume with the current trend of high tea at the Ritz or some other posh hotel. To have high tea at Newens is a chance to live life in the foot steps of those who have the privilege of living in Kew, a chance to listen to the old stories of the customers sharing anecdotes of their years and a chance to take a breath and chill and reflect on your day away from our cosmopolitan lifestyle. So much so we ended up spending 4-5 hours sat there just having a good old natter.

Newens The Original Maid of Honor will be our regular stop whenever we come to Kew Garden because of the sense of belonging and relaxation it gives us which goes hand in hand with a stroll around Kew.

Newens The Original Maid of Honor
288 Kew Road, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3DU
http://www.theoriginalmaidsofhonour.co.uk

Coffee Break: Saint Espresso 

‘The interior is so Copenhagen’ said Elena as we settled down for an after lunch coffee session. Still not sure what that actually means and I have googled interiors of Copenhagen since and I guess it is a bit industrial?!(?!!)??!!’

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We love coffee and have love affair with coffee time which ever city we are in. Whether it’s a coffee and a nata in Lisbon, a espresso and conolli in Rome or a Turkish coffee with a piece of baklava in Istanbul, it is a ritual we fulfill every day.

On our trip to Rome we learned a lot about coffee etiquette which changed our lives. For an Italian an espresso is a ‘stand up and go’ kind of thing, people will walk into espresso bars like Tazza D’oro knock back a shot and head straight to work. So no chit chat and no ‘something sweet’ on the side. We also learned that a cappuccino and a latte had a time and a place and it was only to be consumed in the mornings. Italians cringe at the idea of drinking hot milk after a meal so never order a cappuccino after a meal in order to avoid the ‘stupid tourist’ look.

Coffee break at Manteigaria União in Lisbon
Coffee break at Manteigaria União in Lisbon

Lisbon taught us that a coffee is nothing without a freshly baked nata (Pastel de nata – Portuguese egg tart pastry). With the same notion that you walk into a coffee bar and out within 5 mins having consumed a delicious coffee and a nata. It’s just part of the process of your day to day life.

So when we go to a coffee house in London we truly appreciate the event that takes place, the care and attention the barista gives you from the selection of coffee to finding out about your day to the range of people you are seated next to, each person there with their own story: writing a book, planning a wedding, catching with friends, etc. Saint Espresso is all of these things and more, with a slogan of ‘Coffee to worship’ you know you are in for a treat.

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I urge you to really watch the Saint Espresso barista making the coffee, so much love, care and attention goes into each individual drink. The focus on the baristas face as he weighs the coffee granules, puts them in the machine and eagerly waits for the espresso to trickle out, heats and froths the milk and combines the two liquids together to create our cup of cappuccino (yeh, so we basically ignored everything we had learned in Rome and got a cappuccino after lunch).

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We ordered something sweet and we’re happy to see the selection of gluten free options as Elena is trying this gluten free diet yet she have had consumed gluten heavy food for the past three days but hay-ho I’m just that supportive cheerleader.

We nestled down in a spot and just talked about coffee and reflected on all of the above as we sipped on our rich and strong Saint Espresso cappuccino. I was excited to know that Saint Espresso change their beans frequently and only buy them in small batches to ensure they have the best quality and taste always which shows how much they care about coffee and our experience of it. After further investigation it seems the same applies to the teas so it does feel pretty special knowing that each coffee and tea experience is pretty unique and that actually we could be one of 1000 sampling a particular batch in the world. I love feeling special.

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The baristas walk around and engage in conversation with customers where it is welcomed. The barista that spoke to us seemed genuinely concerned about how little we had eaten of our cakes and wanted to know why, we had to confess we were fat bastards and had just eaten a huge lunch yet we couldn’t pass up the opportunity of sampling their delights this Sunday afternoon.

Saint Espresso is small in size but it’s bursting with a love of coffee which we as Londoners will always appreciate.

Saint Espresso
4, Angel House, 20-32 Pentonville Road, London N1 9HJ
http://www.saintespresso.com