Shekha and Jack try afternoon tea at The Chilworth Hotel, a culinary adventure inspired by Indian flavours…
The sheer variety of morsels on offer mean that anyone who loves Indian flavours will enjoy this tea. We think it would be perfectly suited to friends catching up; hen parties; couples’ afternoons; those looking for a refreshing idea for Mothers’ Day and of course, hotel guests.
In a Word
Travelling to The Chilworth – which is a short walk from Paddington Station – takes visitors on a little tour through this leafy part of London, populated by white stucco townhouses and elegant colonnades that suggest a slower, more peaceful pace of life than some of the city’s other neighbourhoods. The adjacent parkland offers a pleasant view and a welcome respite from the concrete bones of the capital. One could almost miss the hotel, which beckons quietly from an unassuming group of townhouses, set back, away from the main road.
The hotel itself is quaint and calming; the dark wood and velvet furniture, classically stylish. Service is attentive, with welcoming towels offered and coats graciously taken. While the dining room and bar are both warm and intimate – with booths and tables that make for a comforting dining experience.
Seated at our booth in the little bar, we are welcomed with a glass of champagne. The selection of teas are from JING and include Assam Breakfast, Jasmine, Chamomile and Roiboos. After taking in the pleasant aromas of each tea from jars, which are brought to the table to help make our choice, we select an Assam Breakfast and a decaf coffee and eagerly await the food.
A veritable feast greets us, all from the imagination of the hotel’s head chef Vijay. The papdi chaat is tasty, with a tartness of tamarind and smooth, soft potato, but would have been elevated with a crispier base. And the vegetable samosa, with crumbly shortcrust casing, is solid – flavoursome with a gentle warmth.
The aloo ponda pav is a little stodgy but the assorted pakoda make up for this. Delicious, crisp batter yields to a sweetness from onion, lightly imbued with black salt which gives another dimension to the popular snack.
Finger sandwiches are interesting – a vividly pink bread houses a creamy combination of green and sweet chutneys – a strange sensation on the palate, a little like “eating a sweet cloud”, according to Jack. The chicken tikka sandwich is decent but lacks punch and I long more heat to make it memorable. The paneer kathi roll, cubes of paneer ensconced in a tortilla wrap, is only partially toasted but hums pleasantly with sweet pepper and piquant onion.
Spiced scones are a highlight. Crumbly and buttery with a wonderful caramel flavour from studded sultanas, these are lathered thick with clotted cream and jam, a gleeful reminder of scones from my childhood.
The nan khatai – an Indian savoury biscuit, rich with cardamom – is very tasty, as is the wonderful, syrupy gulab jamun (a traditional Indian sweet), albeit being inexplicably set into a tart crust. Two dessert pots are also good – a jar of rose kheer (a rice pudding-like dessert) os fragrant and indulgent, while the other, a sweet yoghurt and fruit based jar, is a lovely note to end our experience on.
The themed afternoon tea is a tasteful nod to India’s long and and rich relationship with the humble tea leaf, which has now become a quintessential part of British culture. The wide array of dishes on offer are a wonderful introduction to, particularly, northern Indian cuisine. For me what would make this stand out, however, is more bravery in the spicing. While the sweet dishes are a success, it feels some elements of the savoury ones have been toned down, which I feel does this remarkable cuisine a disservice. Nevertheless, there were standout highlights and anyone who loves afternoon tea should try it. As themed teas are something of a recurring occasion at The Chilworth, we are keen to see what the hotel will focus its attention on next.
The Indian Afternoon Tea is £29 pp and includes Champagne on arrival.
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