As I sat down at the table immaculately set with a crisp white table cloth and classic white china I suddenly felt the desire to don evening gloves and discuss the shortcomings of my butler, Jeeves.
Le Cordon Blue’s High Tea at the Mandeville Hotel is the showcase of the Diplôme de Patisserie graduates where these hard working chefs demonstrate their command of confectionery. Attempting not to drool as I gazed at the silver tiered cake stand groaning with the weight of culinary masterpieces my heart did a little leap, these delights looked almost too good to eat. Almost.
Tucking into a light choux pastry filled with smooth whipped praline I chatted to the chefs as they weaved in and out delivering yet more sumptuous cakes. As they detailedly explained the composition of each of the gorgeous dainties gracing the table and shared their journeys to finding their niche in the pasty world, two things became very clear. The first is that these people are incredibly passionate about their craft, the second is that the crisp delicately rose scented macronade I was cramming into my mouth is the result of extreme dedication and hard work. The diplôma is an intensive programme, condensing what would usually be a four year course into nine months. Now that’s commitment to cakery!
Hailing from all over the globe, after completing their diplomas, 40% of these graduates will go on to start their own businesses. Not only are the students varied in their roots but also in their backgrounds; nibbling on a densely rich pistachio cake with a gooey chocolate glaze I chatted to Natasha, originally a lawyer who decided she had had quite enough of the office based nine to five and followed the sweet aromas of bubbling preserves and melting chocolate all the way to Le Cordon Bleu’s kitchens.
Getting progressively more full but unable to resist the alcohol soaked fluffiness of the rum-baba in front of me, I found out that the Le Cordon Blue is committed to enabling people to pursue their dreams by offering a number of scholarships and various grants and subsidies.
Dolloping gargantuan amounts of clotted cream onto an airy apple and cinnamon scone I took in the full bounty before me. Every intricate detail is flawless, the perfectly piped butter cream crowning the macaroons or the pear silhouettes stencilled in cocoa on the poiriers demonstrate the artistry of this craft. Not only a feast for the stomach but also for the eyes, combining a plethora of delicious flavours with exquisite presentation. These creations really are edible sculptures. It’s no wonder that along with amazing new skills in cuisine the average female student also gains a stone in weight over the duration of the course. One can only assume the male members aren’t admitting to it!
High tea at the Mandeville encompasses an old world sort of elegance that we’ve forgotten, sitting down with tea and gorging on cakes is not only decadently enjoyable, but also encourages a leisureliness of conversation that simply isn’t possible in other dining experiences. Formal enough to feel special and allow a bit of afternoon glamour whilst being relaxed enough that one doesn’t worry about putting one’s elbows on the table. Pure pleasure with a sweet crispy coating. Spiffing!
For more information on attending a High Tea at the Mandeville, please check the hotel website. http://www.mandeville.co.uk/