I am very particular about my afternoon tea. To my mind, afternoon tea is much more than a mere snack to fill the void between lunch and dinner. It is an institution that is steeped in tradition. It is an occasion that requires gravitas and fineness. Meticulous table dressing and menu planning are mandatory. A stiff little finger and a clipped British accent however, are optional. Did I mention that I was very particular about my Afternoon tea?
I am pleased to report that the Samovar Lounge at The One&Only Royal Mirage have embraced the concept wholeheartedly and include most of the elements required for a successful Afternoon Tea and made it their own with a distinct Arabic feel.
First of all, let's talk table dressing, for which, the Samovar scored top marks all round. The linen napkins were suitably crisp and generously proportioned to protect the most ample of laps and shirt fronts from spillages. Crockery was quite properly fine bone china with a pretty floral motif. The tiered cake stand and sugar bowl with tongs for dispensing sugar lumps were all present and correct.
Next up, beverages: There was a decent array of teas to choose from, including many of the herbal variety, with all the great tea nations were represented. It was even a nod to regional beverages with the addition of Moroccan Mint tea to the menu. So, again, top marks. In fact, the Samovar Lounge gets brownie points for serving the milk cold!! (I cannot, for the life of me, understand the penchant of local eateries for serving steamed milk with tea….)
The sandwich selection was good, though vegetarians may feel short changed, with only a choice of two sandwiches – cucumber or tomato and cottage cheese. And strictly speaking, I feel cucumber sandwiches should comprise only bread, butter and cucumber. However, I freely admit that cream cheese was a tasty addition to the sandwich.
Scones were deliciously light and there was a choice of jams to dollop on top of the scones, but unforgivably, the cream, plain whipped, was most definitely of the un-clotted variety. The cream cakes were quite late arriving at the table - no bad thing, providing time to digest. They were pretty little things and tasty too, though they could have done being taken out of the fridge 5 minutes earlier to allow the cream to soften to a delicious unctuousness which decorates your face as well as satisfying the palate.
The ambience of the Samovar restaurant is wonderfully conducive to Afternoon tea. Its shabby chic armchairs and sofas heaped with a mishmash of cushions set the tone nicely. The dark wood furniture added a colonial feel. We had tea on the terrace (where else?) overlooking the hotel pools, whilst the Arabian Sea peeked from behind gently rustling palm tree fronds. You can easily picture Miss Marple taking tea with Hercule Poirot in the corner whilst quietly discussing the body in the library. I suspect she would have gone for some Earl Grey (splash of milk, no sugar) whilst Mr Poirot would have opted for a peppermint tisane (with 4 lumps).