On a blustery Sunday that looked almost mild enough to ditch the coat but windy enough to blow the change out of your pocket, I braved the in-between season to venture into the haven of the Four Seasons hotel, where a warm welcome was all that was needed to shake off the chill. Outside, the sun umbrellas were engaged in battle but even though the terrace was off boundaries, a cozy large table by the floor-to-ceiling windows was more than enough, and the ringside view of the giant brollies knocking about outside proved an unexpected treat.
Naturally, the Bollinger Rosé Afternoon Tea Picnic was on the cards: the thought of scones slathered in strawberry jam, thick clotted cream and lemon curd playing politely with the bubbly, too much of a temptation to resist.
A darling in the shape of a Jeremy was on hand, bringing out a large hamper and proudly displaying its china while explaining that he, too, had recently fled a strong wind, albeit perhaps a stronger one than that found on a blustery Park Lane Sunday: he’d nipped out of the Four Seasons Hawaii, especially to prepare our devilled egg sandwiches in London, just as a couple of hurricanes were headed to the island.
“Just as well,” I said, toying with a delightful combination of cucumber and smoked salmon on a nutty slice of black rye. Sandwiches almost finished, it was time to try the sweet: dainty cakes cunningly concealed in a retro tin labeled ‘biscuits’ – whereas the sandwiches had popped out of a retro tin labeled ‘cake’. To confuse the thieves and magpies, I expect.
Washed down with fine jasmine-scented silver needle tea, I was further tempted by show-stopping cocktails from the head bartender. It was only when I noticed that one of the umbrellas had surrendered and was out for the count, and that an enormous parmesan had been cunningly placed next to me, that I realised it was time for supper and I had somehow managed to while away an entire four hours.
Julian de Féral is an award-winning bartender-turned international drinks consultant and occasional raconteur.
Launched in August, the Four Seasons afternoon tea picnic is £96 for two and continues at the Park Lane hotel London throughout the Winter. For reservations, call +44(0)20 7319 5206 or book online at www.fourseasons.com.