I’ve always been rather taken with afternoon tea. The tradition, how historical it is, the concept of creating hundreds of small delicate pastries and cakes, all with handmade or hand-finished decorations – it’s “play school” for a Pastry Chef like me, a place of pure creativity.
So when the Royal Opera House asked me to craft their very first afternoon tea offering, alongside Company of Cooks, my answer was obvious.
The Royal Opera House is a true stalwart of Covent Garden, and the Tea’s setting, the Paul Hamlyn Hall, a place once described as a mini Crystal Palace – is extra special.
Famously depicted in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion and then as the Covent Garden Market setting in My Fair Lady, the Paul Hamlyn Hall seems it was born for performance. A good thing, as the cakes we’ve created for Tea at the Royal Opera House are anything but timid!
With real whimsy but beautifully executed and retaining grown-up flavours, my favourite of the fancies must be the chocolate teacake – it reminds me of the ones ate growing up, just this time “poshed up”. With Oreo-cookie bases and soft gooey marshmallow, filled with a Grand-Marnier kumquat filling and then finished dramatically with lashings of dark bitter 72% chocolate to balance the sweetness of the marshmallow – it’s a divine indulgence that begs to be devoured.
And if you love how that sounds but don’t eat gluten or dairy, or are vegan or vegetarian, that’s fine too, as we’ve designed enough options to please everyone. I pride myself on making these “free-from” options as beautiful and delicious as all of the other cakes – it’s a challenge but very satisfying to get it right!
I feel privileged to be a part of Tea at the Royal Opera House, the very first of its kind in the historic building, and feel equally as lucky to have worked with such a spectacular team of Pastry Chefs in the Royal Opera House kitchen – headed up by the supremely talented Louise Rigden. Now, the only question remaining is what to eat first: the banoffee macaron, pistachio praline éclair, Royal Opera House Gateau…
All images courtesy of Lia Vittone