A journal, inspired by my love for my daughter, that embraces quality food, service and experiences which make life worth living. In the words of Tennyson's Ulysses, " I cannot rest from travel. I will drink life to the lees." Seeking that incredible dining or hotel experience and writing about it. Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
A rather stylish Afternoon Tea at Mosaico Lounge - Palazzo Versace Hotel, Dubai
There are many things I love about Afternoon tea, but one thing stands out for me. Rituals are becoming less important in a world where we everything is becoming casual and easy. One can almost say that various aspects of life are becoming functional and ]beereft of ceremony and beauty. Thankfully, there is still Afternoon tea. My experience starts before I leave home as my daughter asks me what she should wear - A dress, of course, I shout lovingly. She does not understand it fully yet, but it is Afternoon Tea that is full of such tradition and indeed ritual and as I bemoan the withering away of traditions, it stands firm.
Today, we have a reservation for Afternoon Tea at the sumptuous and opulent Palazzo Versace Hotel in Dubai. The hotel oozes luxury the moment you arrive. Do not be intimidated by the luxurious cars valet parked, though. Having been here before, I know well that staff manage to balance this by exuding friendliness and warmth. But make no mistake, the feeling of luxe is inescapable, and as we walk inside, the pristine lobby accentuated by Versace iconography from the Medusa design on the floor to signature cushions in the lounge, Mosaico, a stone's throw from the hotel entrance and the venue for our Afternoon Tea.
We are seated adjacent to the floor-to-ceiling windows. Privacy is afforded thanks to the spacious layout in the lounge. A view of the terrace is not enough to entice us to sit outside in the heat, but I imagine in the cooler months that the terrace is the place to sit, itself offering views of the expansive swimming pool.
Our waitress approaches us and I notice immediately the high staff to guest ratio in the lounge. At a time of cost cutting in some hotels, it is good to see this. She hands us the menu and I see there is a choice of a Classic and Chocolate Afternoon Tea. Furthermore, a Celebration Afternoon Tea is also on offer, basically the classic set with two glasses of Prosecco. I have to mention though, that for 85AED, you can have the Palazzo Versace experience by indulging in scones and your choice of tea or coffee.
We settle on the Chocolate Afternoon Tea set, so named because the sweet plate on the three tier stand features chocolate treats. For tea, I appreciate the succinct selection by Damman Freres. It is easy for us to decide what we want. I always think that while it is impressive to have a booklet of tea options, this is not guest friendly. Less is definitely more. I opt for the Earl GreyBlack Tea while Mitsuki goes for the Indian-inspired, Anichai Black Tea.
A short while later, our sharing stand is served. I am impressed by the reinforced idea that Afternoon Tea is not a meal. This notion lends a certain class to the stand. It would have been so easy to fill the plates, but Chef has resisted this. The savoury selection is highlighted by the Marinated shrimp with mango salsa on squid ink roll - there is a mere hint of heat here, nicely balanced by the mango and natural sweetness of the shrimp. It is also hard to fault the Tomato and mozzarella with pesto on focaccia. However, the self-indulgent soul in me wonders what would have happened to this offering if there was burrata instead of mozzarella! Finally, and this is my favourite of the day - Quail eggs, lemon in dill sauce in a chocolate tart wins the day because it is seemingly such an odd marriage of flavours, but trust me, it works!
Before trying the sweet plate, I indulge in the scones, the make or break element in any Afternoon Tea. It is served with lemon curd, clotted cream and orange jam - all three accompaniments are home made. Orange jam is an apt choice considering it is a Chocolate Afternoon Tea set. I understand that they served raspberry jam with the classic set.
How are the scones? While Mitsuki is taken in by the chocolate chip scone, I am really satisfied with my plain scone. It is not crumbly and keeps its form perfectly as I cut through it - a beautiful scone, plain and simple. By the way, the clotted cream is the best I have had in an Afternoon Tea - it is all about the texture.
After a top up of tea, I try the chocolate plate. The White chocolate and raspberry brownie is a delight. Sweet and sour come together as do white and brown - the contrast is obvious but deserves being expressed. Next, I try the Dulsey chocolate and pecan nut cream stands out because of the texture that a fresh pecan lends texture and contrast. Finally, there is a profiterole that is not sickeningly sweet as Chef interprets his Profiterole crunch and milk chocolate. Nice!
As I sip the dregs of my tea, it dawns on me again how beautiful an experience Afternoon Tea is. Yes, it is important that the scones have the right degree of fluffiness, perfect texture; how essential it is for the three-plated stand to offer a balance of sweet and savoury; how vital it is for staff to be bold enough to recommend a tea, while grounding the whole experience in this lavish setting and making the guest feel relaxed. Ultimately, it is about how this ritual that started in 1840 with the Duchess of Bedford, which would be tweaked through the years, has retained its essence - a refined experience. There is a place in an ever-changing world for little girls to wear dresses, their dads to throw on an extra bit of eau de toilette, where waitresses, in hushed tones, talk one through the menu. There is still a place for these. That is Afternoon Tea, and the Mosaico Lounge at Palazzo Versace is a fitting stage for this elegant ritual to be played.
Afternoon Tea at Mosaico Lounge Palazzo Versace Hotel, Dubai +971 4 556 8888