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RESTAURANT REVIEW: AMETSA’S BASQUE AFTERNOON TEA

Ametsa’s new Basque afternoon tea at COMO The Halkin in Belgravia is the perfect modern take on the quintessentially British pastime, blending Spanish cuisine and British culture effortlessly

Words: Andrew Zuccala

The Halkin’s Michelin-starred restaurant Ametsa, headed up by the Arzak family, of the three-Michelin-starred San Sebastian fame have always excelled at creating marvellously decadent Basque-inspired food. And this year, instead of going down the easy road of presenting a traditional afternoon tea, Ametsa has decided to reinvent the entire experience by giving it a Spanish twist to work alongside their usual à la carte menu.

Having teamed up with the infamous London gin distillery, Sipsmith, I must recommend you commence the festivities with one of their new bespoke cocktails, as well as a pot of tea. I opted for the Ametsa Royale with sloe gin and rosé cava, a simple gin-centric drink, while my friend went for the Tea Collins, made with darjeeling tea and hibiscus-infused gin with lemon juice, orange bitters and ginger ale for a slightly more complex and sweet alternative. Both went surprisingly well with our quaint pots of jasmine silver needle tea.

The piéce de résistance had to be the pork croquettes on a bed of manchego cheese crisps

But before we could get past the first few sips, the tapas platter had been sprawled out in front of us. Silence quickly fell across the table as my guest and I nibbled on each tapas dish bit by bit, only stopping to sip on tea and cocktails or nod agreeingly to one another. Their take on the crustless sandwich was a piquillo pepper and avocado toastie, which while being in the spirit of afternoon tea, paled in comparison to the other tapas dishes.

The brightly coloured spider crab tempura burst with flavour and the Iberico ham was of a superb quality. This classic tapas staple cannot be missed. But the piéce de résistance had to be the pork croquettes on a bed of manchego cheese crisps. The warm and gooey interior oozed out onto the plate, and when taken with the crisps, made for the perfect balance of textures. It was a cheese lover’s dream!

Taking a break between savoury and sweet courses, we found ourselves trolling through the impressive list of teas, matching a new pot to another round of cocktails. We had a few moments to rest, admire the space, the drinks and the company we were in before moving onto desserts.

The sweet side of an afternoon tea is always meant to impress. And this was no exception. The lime custard and banana tartlets were enveloped in a citrusy web of sugar, accompanied by an array of frozen and charred sweets on a bed of biscuit crumbs.

The obligatory churros and dark chocolate were a treat while a deliciously sweet and sour sangria sorbet with passion fruit and lemon was a work of art. But the Catalan cream transported me back to my time travelling around Spain – I was back in Barcelona, having my morning pastry and espresso on the balcony overlooking the city streets. It was perfect.

The Catalan cream transported me back to my time travelling around Spain

As afternoon tea tends to do, this feast of small treats left us inconspicuously undoing notches on our belts. We were content on skipping dinner and going straight home for a well-deserved nap. It had ticked all the boxes. An enormous amount of thought had clearly gone into each creation. The diverse range of flavours coupled with a visually stunning presentation made this afternoon tea one of the best I’ve had in London.

This modern Spanish experience may seem like a sacrilegious deviation from the traditional afternoon tea, yet Ametsa’s Michelin-starred restaurant doesn’t miss a step. At only £32 per person or £36 for those wanting to treat themselves to a Sipsmith cocktail, it is the perfect way to indulge yourselves this coming winter season.

COMO The Halkin, Halkin Street, Belgravia SW1X 7DJ; comohotels.com/thehalkin

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