A traditional afternoon tea is probably as quintessentially-British as you can get: crumbly sweet treats, pots filled to the spout with hot liquid gold, and the charming “Englishness” of feeling a necessity to point one’s pinky to the ceiling when pulling a cup to your lips. Add to this a Sherlock Holmes twist with the promise of “a mystifying selection of culinary rarities”, and you essentially have an amalgamation of James Bond, cricket, and Her Majesty the Queen.
The Sherlock Holmes Afternoon Tea is just one of the three English Classics, Reinvented experiences now offered by St James’ Court, A Taj Hotel, London – launched alongside a bespoke, limited edition cover design of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic.
And the hotel certainly doesn’t hold back when it comes to embracing the themes of the Sherlock stories. Upon arrival, we were taken to “the library” as the staff prepared our table, a room so packed full with gorgeous antique décor that it wouldn’t look out of place on the film set of a Victorian period drama. The book shelves were ceiling-high, while the walls stood embellished with aged maps and beautiful oil paintings.
And yet, the hotel’s building is far from being “old-fashioned”. Oozing elegance and class, and just yards away from Her Majesty’s Palace in London’s Buckingham Gate, it’s not hard to see why St James’ Court is irresistibly attractive to so many. Led through to the dining area, we were seated at a table decorated stylishly with props from the literary series – Sherlock’s traditional deerstalker hat, a set of handcuffs, a pipe, a small fiddle and a beautiful music box in the shape of a typewriter.
With a menu of 40 different teas to try – from traditional English breakfast to the refreshing taste of Darjeeling – we were certainly spoilt for choice. The experience allowed for one pot per person, which proved more than enough to keep us hydrated as we made our way through the selection of treats that greeted us next.
It wasn’t difficult to be impressed by the assortment of delectable finger sandwiches served first, with an incredible explosion of flavours and textures, and inspired by Conan Doyle’s second Sherlock Novel, “The Sign of Four”.
“Study in Scarlet”, one of the short stories within the novel, featured a refreshing combination of English cucumber and minted cream cheese, while the “Baker Street Pie” included a warm filling of chicken breast and ale gravy. “The Five Orange Pips” took the form of a smoked salmon sandwich with orange-flavoured horseradish, but a personal favourite had to be “Hound of the Baskervilles”, a roasted beef and English mustard savoury delight packed within a soft brioche bun.
Similarly inspired by elements from within the Sherlock Holmes stories, the sweet treats on offer included Moriarty’s Bomb – a coffee and Bailey’s cheesecake – and a 221B macaroon filled with a delicious 25-year-old Scotch cream. A golden chocolate-shelled “cigar” combined smoky flavours within a caramel mousse, while Watson’s Moustache made for a boozy surprise in the form of a Stout cupcake. Completing the experience was a selection of six warm scones served with clotted cream and strawberry jam, bringing a pleasant sense of the traditional to this daring (yet delicious) blend of incredible flavours.
Alongside the faultless service and exquisite menu, this afternoon tea experience echoed everything that the Sherlock Holmes behemoth represents and delivers: a sense of the traditional and familiar, set among a tantalising mix of surprises that leave you unsure where you’re headed next. Certainly worth a taste.
The Sherlock Holmes Afternoon Tea Experience costs £35 per person, and is served every day at Kona from 12.30pm to 5pm. To book and view the menu, visit taj51buckinghamgate.co.uk