Monday, July 3, 2017

Teamaster's Choice Afternoon Tea at Mandarin Oriental, With Truly Experiences

Two years ago, something amazing happened that irrevocably changed the way I felt about living abroad in London: my best friend, Udita, finished her PhD and decided to settle in London too. Twelve years after meeting in college, there's a kind of silliness that still pervades our friendship - one that instigates lists and lists of "hilarious things" that only seem to happen to us when we're together, which we rehash in emails written to each other with exuberant subject headings like, "MEMORIES!!!"

In August, we're spending a weekend in Paris together - our plan is to shop, sip coffee, attempt to order macarons in French (with horrible American accents), and take a bazillion photos in front of the Eiffel Tower. This, of course, takes in-depth planning, so the amazing concierges at Truly Experiences (the same company that organized this wonderful date night for me and John a few months back) planned a fabulous afternoon tea for two in the Rosebery Lounge at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park: The Rosebery Teamaster's Choice Afternoon Tea, where we could plan our Parisian getaway to our hearts' content.

Dazed from our hot and muggy journeys on the London Underground, we were ushered into the Rosebery Lounge upon arrival: a beautiful, expansive room filled with plush green seats, fresh flowers, floor-to-ceiling mirrors, and a dazzling oversized chandelier that dominated the space in front of a striking, colorful mural.

With a dizzying selection of over 40 teas to choose from and a whopping 14 other beverages served on request (from "Barista Specials" like creamy matcha shakes made with ice and almond milk to Valrhona hot chocolate - which is so fancy, I don't even really know what it is!), the Rosebery Lounge's tea menu alone gave new meaning to the phrase, "spoiled for choice".

The Teamaster, Chiara, patiently took us through the menu and suggested a light, white tea to begin with, before asking the magic words, "Shall I serve it on the rocks?" Turns out any of the asterisked teas on the menu (Jasmine Pearls, Sweet Lemon, Lychee Strawberry, and Mango Black Tea, for example) can be served hot or iced - perfect for a hot summer's day (and especially perfect for me, since I was parched after my tiring, muggy trek across London on the tube).

Although we were inside, it felt very much like dining in an enchanted garden. The cushions were adorned with embroidered flowers and antique brass branches hung over the tables, from which a two-tiered "bird cage" of finger sandwiches and homemade cakes was suspended! It was extraordinary (in fact, I think the takeaway "memory" from that afternoon was me practically shouting, "Oh, it hangs!" after I'd hastily cleared space on our table just for the attendant to effortlessly perch the birdcage inches from my head).

For me, the definition of "luxury", is being able to have what you want, when you want - which is the hallmark of the Rosebery Teamaster's Choice Afternoon Tea. We began with the apricot iced white tea, to sip with the sandwiches, before moving on to the stronger Mandarin breakfast blend and Chai tea to have with our cakes.

While I typically rush through sandwiches in order to get to the cakes at an afternoon tea, it was actually the sandwiches that I enjoyed most at The Rosebery Lounge: highlights included the Portland crab, crayfish, curry mayonaise, with coriander and carrot, and the smoked salmon tartare with granny smith apple, horseradish, and creme fraiche. But the Cotswold egg, white asparagus and black truffle stole the show. Luxurious in name and equally luxurious in flavor, when asked if we'd like seconds, we couldn't help nodding yes.

Feeling emboldened, I got into the spirit of the Teamaster's Choice Afternoon Tea, and requested a matcha latte to enjoy with our freshly baked scones. A few minutes later, it appeared: milky and frothy, in a double-walled glass cup. Delighted, I took a sip and marvelled the light, but sweetened taste. I alternated between sips of this and Udita's astonishingly delicious Chai latte, which Chiara had brewed herself.

And so, over numerous cups of tea and bottomless cakes and sandwiches, Udita and I chatted, gossiped, conspired, and - of course - laughed our way through the afternoon.

Truly's motto is, "Experiences for people who collect memories, not stuff" - and it couldn't be a better way to describe the friendship that Udita and I have. Although we love exchanging knick-knacks and buying each other small gifts, the greatest gift (and I get a bit choked up writing this) from my friendship with her are memories of the raucous, rollicking times we have together - crystallised by inside jokes we'll share forever.

Huge, huge thanks to the talented team over at Truly for arranging this sweet, perfect afternoon for two friends who crossed the pond - and made it. I can't think of a better way to create more "MEMORIES!!!" with friends than with this ultimate afternoon tea experience. If you're interested in booking this (or a similar) event, find more tea and coffee-tasting experiences from Truly here.

Our experience at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park was complimentary. All opinions are my own. Book your own unique and truly unforgettable Truly experience here.

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