It is hard to find something more quintessentially British than the afternoon tea. Originally invented as a means of tiding you over between lunch and dinner, it has since become entrenched in British culture. However, the traditional tiers of finger sandwiches, genteel cakes and tarts, and scones served with lashings of jam and clotted cream have always been up for interpretation.
Master chocolatier Paul A Young has never shied away from reinventing and refining classic recipes. Renowned for his experimental, often daring takes on flavours, he has now turned his hand to the traditional afternoon tea, adding his own unique chocolate twist. Teaming up with Harvey Nichols as part of their Art of Scent month, Paul has created a perfectly balanced menu which appeals to all five senses.
From the very moment you sit down, you are taken on a deliciously chocolatey journey. The first sense to be hit is smell. As you peruse the scented menu you are engulfed in a delicious waft of buttercream candy. Then comes a second wave of scent from the intense chocolate flavours of the Cocoa nib and mint infusion tea. As Paul explains, ‘it’s supposed to be a little bit staggered, so you are brought on a journey: smell, the fragrance from the tea, and then the taste’. This order was extremely important to Paul when designing the afternoon tea, ‘I think it has to be [served in this order] because smell makes your mouth water. So that starts your digestion. If you taste, then smell you don’t know what you are tasting really’.
What a mouth-watering menu it is too. ‘You get everything: scones, cakes, tarts, drinks,’ Paul enthuses, and happily every single course bears the mark of his ingenious chocolatey touch. The finger sandwiches have also been given a Paul A Young makeover and include a Savoury chocolate, gorgonzola and rocket sandwich, nestled between the more traditional flavour pairings of roast beef and horseradish as well as cucumber and mascarpone. This unusual combination has of course split people’s opinions, as Paul explains, ‘it was love or hate. I’m love. It’s delicious,’ and I am definitely a convert.