Not your typical traditional setting perhaps for afternoon tea, but the trendy interior and jovial crowd of the Park Plaza’s Laguna restaurant was a good setting to get high (on sugar)…
The Laguna Kitchen and Bar at the Park Plaza Hotel is a large open room with full windows along one side – which is where I’d have preferred to be seated (we were on the opposite side, which meant glum lighting and constant traffic – both a challenge to my photography skills!).
We arrived just before 3pm – and it was busy, with large tables mixing traditional, gentleman’s and Hendrick’s (curse being the designated driver) afternoon tea. On our table, I’d gone traditional and Mr. H. had opted for the gentlemen’s afternoon tea (read his review here).
A good selection of teas (including jasmine green, orange and lemon rooibos, and hibiscus berry) – however, I played it safe with breakfast tea. Mr. H. went even safer with decaf breakfast tea. Both were loose-leaved, and the waitress’s recommendation to brew for 3 minutes was spot on. Mr. H. usually ends up with warm milk and a hint of a tea, but we were both very satisfied on pouring.
My afternoon tea was served on a three-tiered plate. I was impressed with the presentation, and who wouldn’t be?!
Would you like moisture or flavour with that?
The bottom tier comprised a selection of finger sandwiches (smoked salmon and cream cheese; cucumber and crème fraiche; egg mayo and cress; and roasted ham).
However, the sandwiches were a total let down – the bread wasn’t the freshest, but it was the ratio to filling that was the main culprit. Triple thick (that could be a thing, right?) slices of bread, with measly fillings – it was a struggle to even taste the egg mayo. Fortunately, Mr. H. needed some bread to mop up his bloody mary sauce, so the chore was cut short.
A worrying start – surely, it’s not that hard to make a sarnie? Even I can manage to do that!
How about a bag of sugar?
With some trepidation, I moved on to tier two: a sultana scone with clotted cream and jam, and a welsh cake.
The scone was nothing special, but thanks to an ample serving of butter, and high-quality strawberry jam and clotted cream (not too sickly), this was pure joy. I do like a bit of warmth with my scone, but in fairness, I only had myself to blame for its cooling (well, the room lighting didn’t help) with my initial photography preoccupation.
The welsh cake was a nice touch (being in Wales and all that), but it was a bit dry – and I think somebody dropped the whole bag of sugar on it.
Just give me more tea!
Now I had to decide where to start on the pretty collection of dainty cakes on tier three (that I’d been rushing to get to from the very beginning).
On reflection (now I’m writing this!), I probably should have taken up the waiter’s offer to describe them – but I didn’t want to spoil the surprise at the time (or waste any time for that matter!).
I started with the mini-cupcake. This was a coconut sponge (a little too dense perhaps) with a cream icing that simply overpowered the coconut flavour. The two-bite portion was just enough!
The raspberry macaron was a delight. Normally, I find macaron’s dry and uninteresting, but this one was perfectly gooey, falling apart after the initial crunch with an intense raspberry filling.
We were on a run. The thin pistachio sponge finger was gone in an instant, but the light sponge and marzipan flavoured cream were a heavenly combination.
At this point, my blood sugars had rocketed. I was sweating, light-headed and thirsty – drinking more and more tea to try and keep my anxiety at bay and cleanse my palate.
I stopped for a breather.
And to ask for another pot of tea – promptly delivered at no extra cost!
“I saved the best looking for last.”
Once I’d composed myself, it was time to eat the beautiful looking jelly, which served as a bit of a cleanser – even though it was probably just on there for decoration.
All that was left was the chocolate tart – I saved the best looking for last. In fairness, it had more to it than an eye-catching sheen, with the light, mousse-like chocolate containing an intense orange tang. Wow.
The ultimate sugar-fest. I can tell you it took me a good few hours to come down again.
But whilst I found it all a bit too much, that’s not really a reflection of a high-quality dessert offering.
However, there were issues – the welsh cake, scone (saved by the jam and clotted cream) and cupcake were all on the dry side, and the sandwiches were an abomination.
It’s such a shame as it looked so impressive, the tea and the service were spot on – and that top tier had some special little creations.
It wouldn’t take that much to make this brilliant – when I come back down to earth, maybe I’ll give it another go. – Mrs. B.B.