Creating an afternoon tea menu with Michael Topp, The Royal Crescent

09 August 2022, 07:21 AM
  • Michael Topp, head pastry chef at The Royal Crescent, discusses how independent fine food retailers can create a unique afternoon tea offering and answers the controversial question - jam or cream first
Creating an afternoon tea menu with Michael Topp, The Royal Crescent

What does your afternoon tea offering consist of?
Our cake offerings currently consist of an exotic macaroon, summer berry choux, passionfruit, milk chocolate and praline gateaux and an apricot and lavender tart. We try to curate our cake selection by making sure we have a good selection of the best seasonal fruits available as well as always having something with that luxurious chocolatey offering. I love to use herbs and flowers from the hotel gardens and if you’ve visited The Royal Crescent before, you will have seen the abundance of lavender lining the pathway to the restaurant. It was an instant winner for me when looking for something to pair with the freshness of the apricot in our tartlet.

We always keep to the traditional sweet scone, but we serve this alongside a bath bun which as the name suggests is local to the city. It’s a sweet, lightly spiced bun with a sugar cube hidden in the centre. Served alongside cinnamon butter it has become a real favourite amongst our guests.

What makes the perfect afternoon tea offering that stands out from the crowd?
For me, afternoon tea is all about keeping that traditional experience but putting your own twist on it depending on the venue. Restaurants up and down the country are really starting to push the boundaries of what you can serve for afternoon tea, and I think it’s really gained a new fresher customer in the past few years. If you want to stand out from the crowd, I believe the flour combinations are super important. Daring flavour pairings draw customers in and if pulled off, can really wow guests.

How can independent fine food venues go about curating their own afternoon tea offering?
Afternoon tea should always start with a good light fluffy scone. Nail that and your guests will know they are in for a treat. With the cakes and pastries try and stick to ingredients local to you. Although small dainty finger sandwiches are the traditional way to go, don’t always feel like you must stick to this. More and more venues are serving mini savoury bites such as sausage rolls and vol au vents to try to something different than their competitors. Look at your style of venue and base your offering around that.

How can indies ensure it is a special experience for their customers?
Be different! Customers can end up seeing the same brownie slice or cucumber sandwich at several different venues, so try to do something they haven’t seen before, it will have people talking for much longer. The service is super important to afternoon tea too. The idea of going somewhere for afternoon tea and being treated like a king or queen is what made it popular. Getting poured your fresh pot of tea and having freshly baked warm scones arrive make for such a special experience.

Cream or jam first?
I’m team cream. For me, I look at it from a structural point of view. The more cream and jam I can get on my scone the better, so laying the foundations with the firmer cream means it’s easier for me to spread the jam on after.

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