Restaurant review: Cuban afternoon tea at the St Martins Lane hotel
- Credit: Archant
Experimental afternoon teas have been popping up all over London in recent years but the new offering from boutique hotel St Martins Lane has to be the quirkiest and unconventional so far.
Fusing together culinary inspiration from Asia and Cuba, the restaurant has teamed up with Shoreditch design collective Luna & Curious to recreate the ambience and mystique of a teahouse in Havana. Unsurprisingly, it’s part of the Morgans Hotel Group which also brought us the madcap Alice in Wonderland themed afternoon tea at the Sanderson.
And like that popular attraction, every attention has been paid to the detail with this new addition at the Asia de Cuba restaurant.
On sitting down you’re presented with a classic wooden Cuban cigar box containing the tea utensils and menu, which comes in the form of a mock newspaper, and the intricately patterned mismatched crockery also helps to set the scene. Light bulbs hanging down from the ceiling to cloak the venue in a soft white glow, and columns of unique artwork are dotted around the place.
We started off our gastronomic adventure with one of the specially crafted cocktails to compliment the tea, with our favourite proving to be the Old Cuban Martini.
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The food comes out in two stages, divided into savoury and sweet, and things were kicked off with a mango, kiwi and strawberry layered bottle – a smoothy-like treat to cleanse the pallet.
Tiny treats in the first course included a hot smoked salmon tart with quails eggs and chipotle hollandaise and hot sour and chicken avocado spring rolls. But my stand out favourites were the sandwiches filled with tender and tasty BBQ pulled pork given a twist with swiss cheese and ham, and the flavoursome and spicy beef and vegetable empandas with Caribbean hot sauce.
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The tea here is just as adventurous as the food and we tried all three offerings with the savoury course. The Bohea Lapsang black tea had an unusual smokey flavour, which took me by surprise at first but became my favourite after a few sips. There were also separate teas to match the sweet course, with the lychee red proving to be my favourite.
Our second round of indulgence included banana spring rolls filled with white chocolate and coconut ganache which had perfectly crispy pastry, delectable and fluffy freshly made doughnuts rolled in cinnamon sugar and butterscotch sauce and my favourite, the chocolate cream and pistachio crumble infused with chilli, making an unusual but addictive flavour combination.
To finish we had more tea – this time a soothing lemongrass and ginger brew to aid digestion.
This afternoon tea was the perfect antidote to what was a cold and dreary day and, for us, it certainly achieved its goal of providing guests with a dose of escapism – all that was missing was Cuba’s blue skies and white beaches.