In a magical realm of possibilities, where the air was iced with frosted snow, lay a secret cove. Intertwining labyrinths of hotels enshrouded in twinkling neon lights were juxtaposed with cherubic water fountains, that spoke of a time where liberalism ran rampant. Despite the festivities the courtyard at Taj London was almost pregnant in its silence and the gentle trickle of the nearby water fountain brought tranquility into the hearts of its visitors. The lights gleamed and flashed electric blue, while the Christmas Tree jangled under the weight of the bulbous but nevertheless striking baubles that adorned each individual prepuce. The children peered into the heart of Taj London and found a world where make believe still existed and the only sign of ‘adulting’ were the giggling adults who had regressed into childhood and become children once more.
Down the steps we went and into the chamber of secrets we escaped into, where the lights were dimmed and romantic. The croaking of imaginary toads splashing around in the fountains could be heard, while the dolls came to life in small houses that overlooked Taj London. For one night only the dolls had become mermaids and as they waved us goodbye, we entered Kona, where a sumptuous feast would await us and we would binge like ravenous crows. The hunger had hit us like a pack of tumbling bricks and we sank into our chairs, famished with our efforts. The teas came first: red liquid oozing out white china cups, slurped thirstily in a less than sophisticated fashion. The nectar laced our threats like honey and our smiles grew ever bigger. White mixed with red, the colours of Christmas cheer, one tea made from red berries, the other made with incandescent flowers. The music was lilting and sweet, a soft tinkle of the piano, accompanying our ever changing thoughts.
Next came the shots, arriving with majestic aplomb, frosted printed glasses, filled to the brim. “What was this delicacy” we asked, the question perched on our lips like a bird in flight. Salty caramel lassi, so creamy and sweet, with chikki toffee crunch, it sent our mouths into spasms. Like liquid gold it inflamed us and engorged our senses, we came alive that frosted night, with warmth in our bones. With a flourish the pinwheel sandwiches danced on the tables, vegetarian, pescatarian and everything in between, the magic spell had began and we were oh so entranced. We chanted 1,2,3, as the Darbari sandwiches marched down the table; spiced creamed cheese lovingly spread in beetroot bread, kachumber cut into miniature slivers. But like emblazoned streams of light, pinwheels of curried egg mayo took centre stage, sun-dried tomato its weapon of fatal seduction. The sandwiches slid down the hatchet, with the ease of a well oiled engine, but the battle between meat and vegetarianism had began.
I was the herbivore and she was the hunter, I ate plants and she devoured meat. Like two peas in a pod we had come together to ready up our taste buds for a night of delicious fun.Spiced paneer bhurjee puffs lolled on my awaiting tongue, soft and crispy like mama had ordered, while Chicken tikka pantheras were engulfed by her hungry mouth, streaming nostrils from strong spice flavour. Two different palettes collided for one night only, sated by the promise of a delicious Indian Afternoon Tea. Riots of colour and texture teased us tantalizingly with their sensual ways, red and white, milky pink, freshly plucked strawberries atop a ‘special Victoria Sponge Cake’. One sensual flavour after the other erupted in our mouths and our smiles reached our eyes as we basked in Kona’s glory. The pharaohs had long gone and the gowns of yesteryear, nothing but a distant memory, and in its place lay an afternoon tea that held glamour and charm, where the pastries melted in our mouths like butter and our parched lips sated by honey nectar from the gods.
Tart mixed with sweet and sour, our senses came alive. A fig chutney encased in brioche buns, aloo bonda so spiced and pure, the sweetest of the sweet gold leaf gulab jamun & cheese cake, soaked in a saccharine sugar syrup. The sandwiches had long gone, swallowed whole by eager tummies, that were filled to the brim. But the show must go on and the curtain call was coming, the cakes hopped through the gate at Taj London and into our laps, Gajar halwa macaroons like butter in our mouths. A crunch, a bite, a lick, a sip, the mouth was on working duty and each action was a pleasure intensifier. Rice pudding from childhood memories coated in royal saffron and chandi foam,fruit tarts and rasmalai cups, rose cookies and clotted cream. Cream on the nose like baking with kids, licked with one languorous large tongue. Every surface licked, scones taken home, a magical night to remember…don’t forget the fizz. Tables set for dinner, merriment in the air, bottles of fizz popping open, ringing in the new year.
The sun had long gone down and the rain began drizzling but we did not care. Like kids we skated down to the station, long limbs limbering up for post-tea action. Slipping and sliding through the hazy frost, the air was cooled with a bite of snow. The tubes whizzed through wired tunnels and we plunged into normalcy once more. A reminder of our magical night at Kona lay in printed boxes, a single almond scone, still warm from the bakers oven. We came home and there were no Christmas lights to welcome us back, nor was the tree weighed down with ornaments from festivities near and dear. The lights were out and the silence echoed, no water for mermaids to be frolicking in, no dolls come to life. One by one, the snores were heard throughout the house, couples spooning, kisses in the night. But still I lay awake, remembering.
Have You Ever Had An Indian Afternoon Tea Before? What Has Been The Best Afternoon Tea That You Have Ever Tasted?
Please note me and G were invited to Taj London, Kona for Indian Afternoon Tea but all thoughts are my own and are not affected by complimentary service. Thank you to the team who made us feel so welcome and even gave as a few special items that were not on the menu which made us extremely happy.