The ritual of afternoon tea has always been strongly upheld in London, with hotel teas in particular a tradition in their own right. It is, the internet seems to agree, very much an exciting time for afternoon tea. With home baking more popular than ever, every aspect of a menu must be perfected and chefs are able to experiment more freely to cater for an increasingly discerning crowd. With this in mind, I was excited to get amongst the dainty plates and china trios to try the new tea menu at The Capital Hotel.
Behind the development of the tea is senior sous chef Dennis Easton, who boldly waded through the sea of people popping Bakewell tarts into their mouths to tell me a little more about the thought process behind it. Easton grew up in Kent before moving to Cornwall to train under Rick Stein – a story which, standing next door to Outlaw's at the Capital, sounds awfully familiar. ‘It is a similar path to Nathan Outlaw, yeah,’ he said. ‘But that’s not surprising . . . We actually grew up together – I've known him since I was three, he’s a fantastic mentor.’
Unlike Nathan Outlaw, however, Easton ‘never really went near the fish’ at Stein’s restaurant, instead training on the bread and pastry section. This experience perfectly equipped the chef for developing the hotel’s afternoon tea: ‘other places, especially the bigger hotels, will have a full team just to do the tea. At The Capital we’re a lot smaller – it’s family run, still – so there’s just us here and we all chip in.’