Afternoon tea @ St Pancras Renaissance

The last afternoon tea I had was at the Lanesborough during last July. My friends were visiting London and they wanted to have a traditional afternoon tea (who wouldn’t?), therefore, I recommended there. This time, I wanted to take my girl Bella with me, therefore, I picked St Pancras Renaissance. In London, there were more than a few dog-friendly afternoon tea venues to choose from. However, most of the places were in West London and St Pancras Renaissance was the only hotel which was close from our place and also welcomed four-legged guests open-armed.

Hurry up, you all!

Even though her legs were short, she climbed the stairs much quicker than me. Why is that? Would I run up the stairs much faster if I got down on all four?!

Behind the present building, there are platforms for Eurostar…

The Victorian style building has Grade 1 listed status and the original structure was constructed in the late 19th century.

I distinctively remember how the place used to be before all the regeneration works transformed the entire area. It was in the early 90’s and the station just looked dirty and unloved. I think I was on my way to visit Cambridge and the train route was starting from St Pancras. The journey was made on one very cold February day and in my memory, the platform was utterly devoid of human beings and as cold as a tomb.

During the 1960’s, there were serious discussions regarding the future of the station. Some wanted the station to be closed and demolished altogether for inner-city redevelopment. However, the station was spared, thanks to fierce opposition by the Victorian Society.

The fortune of the station improved further in 1996 when LCR – London and Continental Railways won a contract from the government to reconstruct St Pancras. The company was to build a 109-kilometre (68 mi) high-speed railway between London and the United Kingdom end of the Channel Tunnel as well as to refit the existing St Pancras for accommodating 300-metre+ Eurostar trains.

After eleven years, during which there were a few ups and downs and the cost of £800 million, the station was reopened on 6 November 2007 by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Before the present St Pancras Renaissance opened its doors in 2011, the site was occupied by the remain of Midland Grand Hotel. The original hotel which was in the elaborate English Gothic revival style was designed by the architect, George Gilbert Scott in 1865. In its heyday, the hotel was known for expensive fixtures and luxurious decor. The place was decked with a grand staircase and every room had a fireplace. The hotel also sported the latest innovations of the time, such as hydraulic lifts, concrete floors, revolving doors and fireproof floor constructions. However by the 1920’s, all the utilities became out of date and it was decided that the hotel was to cease trading in 1935.

After the hotel was closed down, the place was renamed as St Pancras Chambers and it was used as railway offices by British Rail until the 1980’s before the building failed fire safety regulations.

In 2004, planning permission was granted to redevelop the existing boarded-up building into a new five-star hotel complex. The specification for the new hotel, which was to contain 244 guest rooms, two restaurants, two bars, a spa and a gym with a swimming pool, required a much bigger footprint than the former structure, therefore, a new bedroom wing was created on the western side of the Barlow train shed.

Steps leading us to a beautifully decorated hotel lobby…

The afternoon tea was served in their Hansom Lounge…

It was used to be the spot where the wealthiest passengers were dropped off during the time the place was used as a train station.

Bella wanted to explore the place. ‘Let me gooooo!’

No Bay-Bay! You behave yourself!

Then she went into the sulking mode. Oh no…

I don’t care. I’m gonna make you all feel guilty. Her turned back shouted her silent protest. Oh well. Never mind.

The lounge was very Christmassy…

We ordered their classic afternoon tea. For the actual tea, I ordered Earl Grey, Hubbie opted for Rooibos tea and David went for Darjeeling.

The first plates they brought to our table were sandwiches…

There weren’t any customary cucumber sandwiches but we were given a plenty of savoury fillings filled slices and rolls, such as salt beef with mustard & pickles, salmon with dill crème fraiche, roast chicken with fennel & orange, beetroot with goat cheese and so on. They were all very delectable.

For scones, I asked them to include a few scones without raisins or sultanas…

So Bella could join in our feast.

Then for the cake selections, we were served trays of coffee & amaretto panna cotta, lemon mousse, mini chocolate eclair, pistachio Madeleine and raspberry Victoria sandwich…

They were all great. However, I much preferred to have them, the sandwiches, the scones and the cakes, served altogether rather than to be brought separately. Also the time between each plate was served was a little too long for us. Therefore, for those negative points, I had to say the experience was 7 out of 10.

By the way, their dog-friendliness was 10/10…

One of the staffs brought a bowl of water as soon as we were seated and everyone was very attentive to us and Bella.

It was around 5:30pm when we left the hotel…

That meant we spent nearly two and a half hours chatting and drinking tea?! Wow, time flies when we’re having fun, we all laughed…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Cake break @ Zugspitzplatt

So mum and I came down from the windswept summit of Zugspitz by hopping on the cable car again.

Say hi to the climbers!

 

We found out that a return cogwheel train back to Eibsee had just left, therefore, there was another half hour wait for the next one. ‘Shall we have some tea & cake?’ We headed to a cafeteria.

The interior of the cafe was very Tyrolean.

Mmmm, there are so many moreish looking cakes…

I must say that the cost of food and drink up the Zugspitzplatt was rather high. I can’t remember exactly how much we paid for two cakes and two mugs of coffee but it was more than a double we paid normally in Germany. However, transporting all the supplies up the mountain didn’t come cheap and which must have reflected on the prices in the cafeteria.

It was around 11 o’clock when we queued at the till behind a group of workmen with high-visibility jackets and srturdy work boots. Unlike our tray with just coffee and cake, their trays were laden with plates of pasta and meatballs, a proper construction worker’s grub.

Our morning treat after being beaten by the wind.

Can you see how huge their cake was? And they were delicious too.

We chilled out at the cafe much longer than we first intended because their (pricy) coffee was very agreeable.

Now, we must get back to the car and travel to Salem, I urged mum. The place was 194 km away from Eibsee and the journey was expected to take four hours, therefore, we couldn’t do dilly-dally too long.

Bye bye, Zugspitzplatt.

We left the cafe and headed to the cogwheel terminal…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Topping up the Ozone

The 28th was dry but also rather cold. We were a little bored with being stuck at home, and Hubbie needed to buy a new cable release for his Canon. Therefore, we decided to brace the weather and to go out.

First and foremost, we must have some lunch before diving into the swirl of bargain hunters on Oxford Street, hence we made a beeline to Ozone Coffee Roasters on Leonard Street.

My Eggs benedict on autumn bubble ‘n’ squeak cakes with hollandaise. I opted for Kupros halloumi…

Mmmm, I adore the way soft egg yolk cascades down and seeps into the bubble and squeak. The dish was divine.

Our well-behaved Bella, curling up on my Pendleton jacket and having a nap throughout.

For dessert, we shared a piece of Lammington cake…

I have been a huge fan of this Aussie cake ever since I had one at Department of Coffee and Social Affairs off Carnaby Street. Despite the robust and somewhat solid appearance, the cake is surprisingly light and delicate. The one we had at Ozone was rather unconventional because the patissier used raspberry sauce for coating instead of chocolate sauce. The resulting treat was even lighter than a traditional version, and it was a perfect dessert after a hearty main dish.

After we finished our lunch in a leisurely manner, we headed to the West End. As we expected, Oxford Street was mega-busy. The pavements along the thoroughfare were heavily packed with a mass of slow moving shoppers, and they were totally unsuitable for letting an excitable puppy walk on a leash. ‘Ok, I will have to carry her.’ I picked her up and cradled in my arms while we negotiated through the crowd. Bella weighed mere 2.2kg, but holding her, like a guard presenting a rifle vertical in front of the body so Bella’s head would not be knocked by the oncoming traffic, started to feel like carrying a sack of bricks towards the end of our shopping expedition. Oh Bella, I didn’t know you were so heavy…

You mean I should go on diet?

Or you should do more push-ups to beef up your arms, mummy.

Yup, the point taken, Bella the Milkman…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Feeling Most Portly…

2015 has arrived after a raucous firework display, which scared the hell out of poor Mr.B, and I feel most definitely portly this gloomy grey wintery morning.
All those indulgence passed through my lips during the festive season definitely have taken up permanent residences here and there around my body! Eek!! How am I gonna do with this emerging muffin top? Well, I have a strategy – eating less & exercising more. And I must stick to it so my face won’t change into a muffin. Ahh…

These following exhibits were some of the sins consumed since last week.
A crazy cute Battenberg from Albion with my new headphones before disappearing into oblivion…

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And another banana & walnut cake with my copy of Magnum Contact Sheet…

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A gigantic chicken escalope with salad in a bap which was ordered at Shepherdess the greasy spoon. I did order it with salad, not with cheese. A small brownie points to be noted…

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A pan full of homemade meatballs pasta. Mmmmm…

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This murky concoction in the pot was actually lamb stew which I decided to make on impulse in order to keep my sleepiness at bay yesterday afternoon…

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I felt so sluggish and would have succumbed to the temptation of stretching out on a sofa for a leisurely nap. However, there would always be a risk of a short nap turning into a serious slumber and it would sap my will to go out in the evening. I was invited to my neighbour’s party and it would be a mighty shame if I missed it.
As I peeled and chopped carrots, celeries, onions, leeks and parsnips, the smells released from freshly prepared vegetables did help me to perk up.

Look, what I saw at my friend’s New Years’s do…

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Isn’t her headdress fabulous?

And at last, my belated greeting.
A happy new year to everyone! Wish 2015 to be happier, more successful and prosperous for all of us!! XXX

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Best Mince Pie Award (by me)

As Christmas-related paraphernalia starts to invade every corner of our sights, especially November onward, so are mince pies which proliferate on the shelves of every bakery and coffee shop like a bunch of mushrooms in the autumn forests.
I gorge on them every winter not because I am very fond of them but because they are seasonal and the only time they are available is…NOW!

Firstly, I tried the one by Duchy of Cornwall, a brand created by Prince Charles. They were available in upmarket supermarkets and sold at £4.00 for a box of six. While their counterparts were priced at between £1.00 to £2.50, the Duchy’s pastry was significantly more expensive. Was their price tag justified? I am afraid not. The amount of the filling was much less than I expected and also it was consisted of too much sultana. The pastry casing was ok but also nothing remarkable. I don’t think I will buy them in future.
Another posh one I tried was from Fortnum & Mason. I tried it when I visited Somerset House with Hubbie. At their tea room within the Christmas Market, a pair of mince pies were offered with brandy butter. So I tried them with a mug of mulled cider. My verdict? Mmmm…, the shortbread crust was too thick and the filling was, how should I put it…, “gluey”. I really don’t think it will be worth parting with my precious £12.95 for six of this.
Then, I came across my winner by chance the other day.
I was sauntering around Shoreditch and decided to have a latte break at SCP on Curtain Road. There was a mince pie by St.John on display and I was intrigued by its rather rustic appearance. The top of the pastry was shiny and plump. I had had enough of the false pretence produced by de luxe brands by then. So I resolved to give another try to this artisan mince pie before going back to buying more down-to-earth cakes…

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I had my first mouthful and I loved it! The filling was fresh and crunchy in a good way. I could feel the texture of the filling – apple, sultanas, currants, lemon, orange, almond mixed exquisitely with cinnamon and nutmeg. The pastry casing was robust enough to hold the generous filling without being too hard nor heavy. It was probably one of the best mince pies I had ever tasted!
If you happen to be around Shoreditch, Clerkenwell or Bermonsey this winter, pay a visit to St.John’s bakery and try their pastry. And let me know what you think…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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