Just when I thought that my afternoon experiences could not get any more indulgent, along came an invitation to review a chocolate-themed afternoon tea at Kimpton Fitzroy, aptly named ‘Do You Like Chocolate?’ – to which my response was a definite yes! Located in the heart of Bloomsbury by Russell Square, the striking Grade II-listed building, originally designed by Charles Fitzroy in 1898, is certainly an imposing sight to behold, with its ornate terracotta exterior, and grand columns.
The interior of the building was just as impressive, with multi-coloured marble, dark wood features, and opulent chandeliers. Walking down the grand corridor, we entered Fitz’s where afternoon tea is now served. Contrasting in style with the rest of the hotel, Fitz’s oozes full-on glamour vibes of the ‘Roaring 20s’, adorned with lavish furniture in swathes of opulent fabrics, quirky artwork and antiques, flamboyant plumes of pink ostrich feathers and a large disco ball hanging from the roof.
This deliciously decadent afternoon tea is inspired by chocolate’s rich history and versatility, specially designed by celebrated pastry chef, Thibault Marchand, winner of Bake Off: The Professionals 2019, artfully paired with equally inventive concoctions by cocktail connoisseur, Sean Fennelly. We both decided to go for the full menu which included four pairings of chocolate-infused cocktails – because, why not?
From their fine selection of loose leaf teas, sourced by the Rare Tea Company, I stuck with the chocolate theme and ordered the Grenadian Cacao Nib, a blend that combines the bright, fruity notes of organic Grenadan cacao nibs with the rich maltiness of hand crafted Malawi black tea.
The cocktails take reference from early Mayan culture through to 30s Italian Futurism, each cocktail thoroughly explained to us by cocktail extraordinaire, Sean Fennelly. We started with an aromatic champagne spritz, infused with cacao fruit eau-de-vie, jasmine, olive, Waina 35%.
The dainty hand-cut sandwiches included smoked trout with fennel and apple on beetroot bread, carrot with star anise and wood sorrel on white bread, goat’s curd with fig mustard on onion bread, and my favourite amongst them, the Tandoori chicken with raita on caraway bread. I was tempted to order seconds but logically decided against it to pace myself for the tantalizing treats that followed.
These savoury delights were paired with a cocktail infused with Alpaco 66%, an oaky and floral dark chocolate. Leaning towards the darker end of the scale, it had less sweetness, and more of a dry savoury earthy aroma, mixed together lime, marigold, bay leaf, achiote, and finished with two spirits: Raicilla and Aguardiente.
The two varieties of scones included a traditional plain scone and the other a rich and luscious chocolate scone, served with Rodda’s Cornish clotted cream, blueberry jam and passion fruit curd – I’ve always been partial towards a chocolate scone and wish that more places offered them!
Finally, it was time to tuck into the much anticipated sweet showpieces which included a Tonka, Kalingo 65% and lime choux, a Macae 62% and blackcurrant Petit Gâteau, a sweet Passion Fruit, Mango, Bahibé 46% and Tainori 64% layered cake, and the fourth, and my favourite of them all, the Orelys 35% coffee tart – coffee and chocolate has always been a winning flavour combo for me!
Complementing the sweet flavours of the scones and pastries, was a cocktail infused with a sweeter milk chocolate, Bahibé 46%. The drink tells the story of the accidental invention of chocolate by the then unsuccessful confectioner Rodolphe Lindt in Bern, Switzerland, back when chocolate was hard to process and not very pleasing to the palate. The process was long and arduous with many failures, until one Friday evening when Rodolphe Lindt, jeered as one of the “jeunesse dorée”, left the factory and had forgotten to switch off the machines which continued to run for a whole weekend. Upon his return on Monday morning, instead of a hard, burnt chocolate mass, the chocolate in the stirring tank was silky smooth and smelt wonderful – hence the birth of the melt-in-your-mouth chocolate that we know of today. Along with Bahibé 46%, the drink also contained many other things that Swiss people enjoy drinking, most particularly kirschwasser, a cherry brandy, accompanied with cherries three other ways: cherry blossom, cherry wood, and cherry wine, a flavour combination in honour of the classic black forest gateau.
The fourth and final drink was based on Tulakalum 75%, an exceptionally rare single estate Belizean cocoa variety, which had an incredible concentration of flavour due to the 75% cacao solids – the darkest variety in our afternoon tea experience, with a long, clean, bitter finish, that still maintained its flavour even after being watered down with milk. It was inspired by chocolate and London, specifically chocolate in the mid-18th century. This warming concoction was mixed with a French liqueur, Green Chartreuse, Stout, and vanilla cream.
Our stomachs were definitely filled to the brim with chocolate by the end of it – I was ready to drift off home on my chocolate cloud, but alas I had to settle for the joys of the underground.
An artful pairing of chocolate-infused cocktails with elements of a traditional afternoon tea, this is undoubtedly an experience not to be missed, and the perfect feel-good indulgence to treat yourself to this winter.
This chocolate-themed afternoon tea served in Fitz’s is priced at £65 per person (£45 per person for the non-alcoholic option), Thursday to Sunday, from 12:00pm to 3:00 pm.
- My afternoon tea experience at Fitz’s, Kimpton Fitzroy was complimentary – views and photos are my own.