Not content with being demigod of the pastry world, Dominique Ansel is on a mission. First, he brings us the cutting-edge genius of the much-applauded Cronut, and now, his next foray aims to reinvent afternoon tea from a quintessential tradition to an innovative tour de force at Dominique Ansel Bakery. Tackling this most genteel of traditions, we were intrigued to see how the rock star of the patisserie genre would make his mark. After all, he is the world’s best pastry chef, so expectations were pretty high.
Cleverly crafted with such thought and detail, the tea stand showed the cycle of a flower in the immaculate teatime goodies, evolving from seed to full bloom. The signature afternoon tea can be enjoyed with Laurent Perrier la cuvee rosé, against the brilliantly rowdy backdrop of the colour-clash flower wall in the garden terrace.
Earthy and flavoursome, the theatrical squid ink choux kicked off proceedings, filled with wild mushroom and confit garlic, and studded with crunchy pumpkin seeds. This was a smart representation of the ‘seed’ part of the cycle, looking like it had emerged from the earth and reached our plate in the most sophisticated way possible. Spanning the flavour spectrum, the ‘shoot’ was my favourite of the savouries, with a refreshing mix of avocado and feta mousseline, tinged with green chilli and coriander. The light citrus of the yuzu dill cream cheese was a revelation on the ‘young leaf’ smoked salmon creation, along with flawless layers of Japanese cucumber and microbasil.
‘Full leaf’ was sophisticated Cornish crab salad on brioche with apple and walnut. Brasserie-style flavours you can’t argue with reigned supreme here. With a robust yet balanced combination, the ‘fallen leaf’ brought New York-deli vibes with pickle-perfect steak tartare, crème fraiche and red radish on brioche toast.
Next, warm scones and jam were a sight to behold, boasting some wonderful visual trickery to be seen with the strawbs.
A marvellously squished once-solid strawberry turned the humble scone into a meltingly gorgeous cream-and-jam-stacked bun of beauty.
With one tap of the knife, here was a readymade scone slathered with lashings of clotted cream and strawberry jam, as the crack of the squished strawberry untapped its inner core onto the light scone. With the added boost of the velvety chocolate coating, this was good enough to be trademarked. What an absolutely genius idea.
With so many of the creations, the immense skill of the pastry chef team really shone through, demonstrating talent blending potent flavours like lavender with a feather-light touch, forging a subtle flavour blend that was both delicate and light. The lavender meringue had a beautiful tangy passion fruit gelée inside, with the outer white chocolate petals clasping the inner ‘bud’ with the coconut ganache. The pristine ‘flower,’ comprised of vanilla mousse, was really something special, along with mouth-bursting lemon marmalade, rich with bergamot citrusiness. This had incredible afternotes of whipped basil ganache, with cookie crumb for added crumbly texture. The ‘flower’ was a real show stopper on flavours and an absolute must-try.
Yielding delicious amarena cherry innards, the painstakingly piped meringue kisses of the ‘blossom’ coated the mascarpone mousse like a pristine, exotic sea urchin. The dark chocolate coating was meltingly rich, and we thought were fit-to-burst, but then….
Finally, we were in ‘full bloom.’ The almost-too-pretty-to-eat finale was the striking financier with immaculately constructed scarlet-red rose petals, and sugary dew drops. Even the petite rose petals were delicious combined with the rose ganache and rich strawberry jam. What an absolute masterpiece of floral flavours.
As we left, we couldn’t help but feel seriously impressed with this series of clever combinations, blasting conventional afternoon tea out of the water with such a pièce de résistance. On the way out, with our stomachs in full bloom, the seed of sweet addiction had been planted in our gluttonous souls. We spotted gorgeous treats like banoffee paella, frozen s’mores and watermelon soft serve, giving ample reason to return and try more endless goodies borne from the brilliant mind of the world’s best pastry chef.
Dominique Ansel Bakery
17 – 21 Elizabeth Street, Belgravia, London, SW1W 9RP