Ironically the first ballet I ever saw, thanks to my Godmother, was The Nutcracker. As a special Christmas treat she had organised tickets for mother and me for a matinee performance of the ballet at the Royal Opera House, and it included tea and biscuits brought to us in our seats.
Little did Godmother know that many years later her Goddaughter, by now an avid ballet fan, would be sitting at an elegantly set table in the Park Room of London’s famous hotel witnessing two dancers from the Birmingham Royal Ballet pose for photographs to commemorate the launch of the hotel’s Nutcracker Afternoon Tea.
London’s Grosvenor House Hotel has been renowned for its excellent, leisurely and beautifully served afternoon tea since 1929.
This year along with the traditional afternoon tea the hotel’s clever chefs under the direction of Executive Chef, Paul Bates, have choreographed a special Nutcracker Afternoon Tea to celebrate the Birmingham Royal Ballet company’s festive season performances of the famous ballet The Nutcracker currently being performed at the Royal Albert Hall.
When we were in the Park Room, coming round the tables with Paul Bates to say hello, were Clara (Beatrice Parma) and the Prince (Mathias Dingman) soloists from the Birmingham Royal Ballet. In the background, playing Tchaikovsky’s score Igor, the hotel’s resident pianist.
It has to be said that the Nutcracker Afternoon Tea was absolutely delicious. Our table groaned under the weight of all the goodies and the elegant crockery, which must have made life so difficult for the staff trying to fit everything onto it. If we had a criticism it was that Clare and I, neither of us very tall, had trouble seeing each other over the cake stand.
Overture and beginners please
Before the First Act our lovely waitress appeared with ‘palate cleansers’ – glasses of pureed peach, blood orange and lemon grass topped with a pillow of candy floss. Delicious.
First Act and corps de ballet…
The First Act, ie the bottom tier of the cake stand represented the scene of the ballet set in the house – finger sandwiches of cucumber with an interesting garden mint butter, smoked Oakham chicken with tarragon and crème fraiche, roast beef and horseradish, honey roast ham and mustard and prawn with its classic Marie Rose sauce.
Alongside the sandwiches came a platter of dainty open-face brioche buns topped with either smoked salmon and prawns, or quails egg.
Second Act and Soloists
The second act which is partly set in a pine forest (middle cake stand tier), was meltingly tender plain and raisin buttermilk scones served with a supporting cast of jams and clotted cream.
Clare opted for the rose petal jam, I for the rhubarb and ginger – an all-time favourite of mine.
Third Act and Principle Dancers
The third and final act (top tier) – jewel-like in their shapes and colours were the sweet treats.
The Nutcracker itself turned out to be a hazel nut chocolate ganache tart; the Sugar Plum Fairy a delicate plum cheesecake on shortbread with a raspberry gel; the Angels exquisite William pear cream with white chocolate – and was that really edible silver that made it glisten.
In addition, the Spanish Dancers and the Arabian was a light flourless chocolate cake with a honey chocolate mousse and the Danish Shepherdess, a mandarin and almond sponge with redcurrant gel.
The sandwiches had been good, but the show stoppers for us were the palate cleansers, the dainty brioche buns, those fabulous light scones and the entire top deck of the cake stand’s imaginative and delicious cakes.
We know the dancers from the Birmingham Royal Ballet will be dancing their hearts out to enchant audiences at The Royal Albert Hall between now and the beginning of January, and so too are the pastry chefs and their colleagues in the kitchen of JW Marriott Grosvenor House creating their tribute to this enchanting Christmas ballet.
The Nutcracker Afternoon Tea is served in the Park Room at JW Marriott Grosvenor House, daily from 12.30pm until 6pm from £55.50 per person.