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Chocolate Afternoon Tea at Harvey Nichols [NOT AVAILABLE]

Cocoa nib and mint infusion tea

Elsa found out that Harvey Nichols was offering a special limited afternoon tea throughout October only. It is chocolate themed and created by chocolatier Paul A. Young. At £20, Elsa thought this was a steal.

The Chocolate Afternoon Tea event is also running in Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge, Edinburgh, Leeds, Birmingham and Bristol.

Interior

Elsa: I’ve never sat inside the bar at Harvey Nichols so I wasn’t sure what to expect, other than it’d be a classy place. I was shown to a seat near the window overseeing Exchange Square and loved the tranquil feeling. The interior was clean with black and white furnishings with metal highlights. It speaks high class but not too snobby, this was emphasised by the friendly and courteous staff.

Ryo:  It was the first time for me visiting this bar as well and what a view! The interior is modern, minimalistic and high-class but quite casual at the same time. The service was exceptionally good – friendly and polite but not push. You could tell that the staff really care about customer’s dining experience.

Menu

Chocolate Afternoon Tea menu

Chocolate Afternoon Tea menu

Elsa: I looked at the menu and was very much looking forward to trying everything on the menu. I was originally thinking everything would include chocolate as it was a Chocolate Afternoon Tea, so was surprised to see only one sandwich had chocolate and similarly with the scones and desserts. My mind then thought of the overall experience and perhaps having some non-chocolate items helped to balance the flavours.

Ryo:  I thought this would be more chocolate-themed afternoon tea as well but surprisingly there were very little amounts of chocolate featured in the menu. I was particularly looking forward to eating savoury chocolate options but there was only one available. The rest of the menu also sounded more classic selections of afternoon tea (in other words, nice but boring) but the menu title can often deceive you – or so I thought!

The tea

Cocoa nib and mint infusion tea

Cocoa nib and mint infusion tea

Elsa: I quite liked this tea and it’s a very simple tea to make, I think I’d try this at home. The combination was odd and not unwelcome and went down a treat with the sandwiches; not so much the desserts though as the sweetness of the tea felt overpowering in combination with them. Perhaps just a simple mint tea afterwards would be better?

Ryo: I don’t drink anything sweet when I have something savoury, but this tea and the sandwiches worked surprisingly well. I think it was partly because (as we will cover in the next section) the sandwiches were either too salty or too bland. The mint flavour was a welcome bonus to freshen up the palate. As Elsa said, though, it was too sweet for desserts. Pairing with  bitter or fresh tasting tea would have been much better.

The food

Chocolate Afternoon Tea spread

Chocolate Afternoon Tea spread

Elsa: I love the presentation of this, the stand was very modern and clean keeping with the look and feel of Harvey Nichols. The staining on the wood is gorgeous and the desserts and scones within it seemed highlighted like little windows against the darkness of the wood frame. The waitress spoke through each item presented and sprayed the tarts with a chocolate scent. I was unsure how this added to the experience, it did seem a little show-offy.

Ryo: I also loved the presentation. Such a brilliant idea! And I agree with Elsa that the spraying the chocolate scent was a little show-offy. I couldn’t smell the chocolate and it was sprayed only on top of the chocolate tart. I still don’t understand how adding chocolate scent on chocolate tart would add… well, anything other than more chocolate?

The sandwiches

Sandwiches Rare roast beef and horseradish Cucumber, poppy seed and mascarpone Savoury chocolate, gorgonzola and rocket

Sandwiches
Rare roast beef and horseradish
Savoury chocolate, gorgonzola and rocket
Cucumber, poppy seed and mascarpone

Elsa: We ate the sandwiches from right to left starting with the cucumber, poppy seed and mascarpone sandwich. I thought this was a lovely combination instead of using cheddar.

Then we proceed to the chocolate and gorgonzola which was odd. I was unsure if I liked this initially but felt the saltiness of the gorgonzola was overpowering the more I ate it and I decided this wasn’t my cup of tea. After discussion with Ryo, I think we agreed that pear would have been a nice addition to this sandwich to help cut through the flavours, seeing as pear and chocolate go well and so do pear and gorgonzola.

The roast beef and horseradish was disappointing as well. The horseradish didn’t have enough kick to it, it was very mild.

Ryo: The cucumber and mascarpone sandwich was very nice and the poppy seed gave an interesting texture.  It felt creamier but lighter than the usual cucumber and cream cheese.

The chocolate and gorgonzola (which I had high hopes for – since it was the only savoury chocolate option) was indeed very odd. Gorgonzola itself is very salty but adding savoury chocolate made it even saltier. Then the rocket gave a bitter after taste. I think it needed something sweet or fresh to balance out the flavour. For this sandwich, you really need the mint and the chocolate nib tea as it gives more fresh and sweet edge. As Elsa said, pear would have been a nice addition… I also think that some sliced grapes might have been nice as well – it would give slightly tangy and sweet taste.

The roast beef and horseradish sandwich was more roast beef than the horseradish. The beef itself was very tender but overall, it was very bland.

The scones

Elsa: The brown sugar scone was an absolute delight to eat, especially with the salted caramel and clotted cream. The salted caramel was very sweet but the clotted cream helped to balance the flavours and add a nice richness to the combination. The fruit scone was also very well made and the clotted cream and strawberry jam complimented it well. I like how we got mini scones as well, I don’t really like huge scones as I feel compelled to eat a whole one. We (well, I since Ryo didn’t want her extras) ended up taking two mini scones home with us afterwards.

Ryo: Both scones were very nice but the mini brown sugar scone was exceptional. The salted caramel was also good though I found it too sweet to pair it with brown sugar scone. Adding clotted cream in that combination was a bit too rich though my opinion might have changed if I had this with more bitter tea. I also found that the clotted cream is even thicker than the usual, therefore, richer. I don’t think it was handmade clotted cream but maybe what we got was the top part of the clotted cream?

Chocolate and pecan tart

Chocolate and pecan tart

Chocolate and pecan tart

Elsa: These were well made with chocolate pastry and chocolate filling. I felt the flavours worked well, more so with the pecan added. Without the pecan, it was a bit simple. Adding raspberry coulis could have helped this tart shine more.

Ryo: The pastry was very good, it had the bitter chocolate taste. It was overall good but I thought it needs something fruity or fresh to balance out the heavy chocolate filling. Pecan made already heavy tart even heavier. Raspberry, orange, pear and etc… there are so many fruits that go well with chocolate but so far, I have found none…

Rose crunch cake

Rose crunch cake

Rose crunch cake

Elsa: Rose isn’t my favourite flavour in the world but I really like the texture and moistness of this cake. The rose was very overpowering to me so a little less rose (or just another flavour) would have been ideal for me.

Ryo: It wasn’t overpowering for me (I would say just about right…) but then I love roses in desserts. Having said that, the cake was moist but too sweet for me. This together with the sweet tea was just way too sweet. Also,  I was beginning to feel like the overall menu is too cake oriented and dense. No light or fresh options in desserts and sweet tea was catching up on me…Sugar overload!

Carrot and chocolate chip cake with coconut frosting

Carrot and chocolate chip cake with coconut frosting

Carrot and chocolate chip cake with coconut frosting

Elsa: The frosting on these were rock hard, they softened towards the end of the meal (2 hours later). The coconut flavouring was really nice but I felt there was too much sugar added to this, which was a shame. The actual cake itself was very nice and moreish, more of this please.

Ryo: I struggle to bite through the frosting of this cake.  I tried to break it with my fork and failed… it was that dense. The coconut flavour was really good but another piece of cake at this stage for me was way too much.

Morrocan spiced chocolate pot

Morrocan spiced chocolate pot

Morrocan spiced chocolate pot

Elsa: What can I say…. this was a major disappointment. I tried the mousse and it was denser than I would have liked, but what was really disappointing was the actual flavour. There was an odd mix of spices that I felt was overly complex. I actually preferred the mousse when I ate a little with the two mint leaves placed on top as the mint hid the spices used.

Ryo: I was earning for something other than cake and I couldn’t wait to try this one… but oh no. It was one of the worst items on the menu and one of the worst chocolate mousses I’ve ever had. There were too many flavours fighting against each other – not because they were contrasting but because they were too similar. All spices were more on the warm, spicy, peppery side but they didn’t match at all. Yes, Morrocan spices are on the spicy side but these are balanced with sweet fruits and fresh herbs. In this chocolate pot, chocolate wasn’t sweet or flavoured enough to balance out the flavours.  It was like eating a spicy curry gelatin. Not pleasant at all.

Overall rating and comments

Elsa: 5/10, -0.5 for the tea, bringing another tea might be nice to go with the desserts, -1 for chocolate and gorgonzola sandwiches,- 0.5 for mild horseradish sandwiches, -0.5 for overpowering rose flavour in rose cake, -0.5 for coconut frosting, -1 for the chocolate pot, -1 for the overall combination of items in the afternoon tea. I felt that something light would have been nice to cut against the richness of everything in the set as there was nothing delicate or fruity. A meringue dessert or a macaron would have helped balance out the flavours in the entire set.

Ryo: 5/10 And my points mostly go to the service and the settings rather than the afternoon tea itself. Although it was called chocolate afternoon tea, it was more like adding chocolates here and there (which would be the case for other afternoon teas as well). There was no coherent theme going through the selections – a bit of Morrocan, a bit of English, a bit of tropical flavours, a bit of chocolate… then there is an issue of too many dense items. Sandwiches, cakes and scones… and then there is a distinctive lack of any fruits or fresh flavours.

Would visit again?

Elsa: If they make changes to the tea, maybe. As the afternoon tea is set by chocolatier Paul A. Young, it would be up to him to change things. The staff were very nice and friendly and the waitress made note of the feedback we more or less covered in this review. I wouldn’t mind trying a normal afternoon tea or a different meal from Harvey Nichols in future, though.

Ryo: No, I won’t go back for the chocolate afternoon tea. But as Elsa said, this is set by chocolatier Paul A. Young and is not the Harvey Nichols’ usual afternoon tea.  Since the staff was very nice and eager to listen to our feedback, I might go back to check out their normal afternoon tea to see whether it is any better.

Information

Website: http://www.harveynichols.com/news/2015/08/26/chocolate-afternoon-tea/
Address: 21 New Cathedral Street, Manchester M1 1AD
The Chocolate Afternoon Tea event is also running in Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge, Edinburgh, Leeds, Birmingham and Bristol.

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