Take a journey of inspiration from forlorn seed to exquisite bloom.
To the millennial generation, Dominique Ansel is to pastry, what J.K. Rowling is to books. Rowling made it “hip” to read books, and Ansel triggered the never-ending trend in Instagram-able food creations. Specifically, Ansel bred the doughnut and the croissant together to conceive the “cronut,” and Instagram has been constantly flooded with his swirl of neon-pink soft-serve sandwiched between watermelon halves. New York may have more than one Ansel sweet boutique, but London’s sweet shop offers afternoon tea.
By reservation only, afternoon tea takes place in the backyard terrace of the sweet boutique. Draped with waterfalls of blooms, it’s a cute casual and carefree environment, rather than rarefied hotel-like. Tea selection was limited; we selected Earl Grey as our traditional go-tea. Savoury bites numbered five in total, and sweet nibbles numbered four. You protest, that’s all?! Fear not, dear readers, you will look and feel as round as a cream-filled cronut by the end of this afternoon tea experience. For the first savoury nibble, the so-called “Seed” was a black choux pastry ball filled with wild mushroom, confit garlic and pumpkin seed. This was followed by the “Shoot”, another black ball wearing an avocado hat, and accented with green chilli and coriander. The “Young Leaf” wore a pretty headpiece of thinly-sliced cucumbers, encasing smoked salmon and cream cheese. We skipped the “Full Leaf” due to an allergy, but the “Fallen Leaf” was an orb of steak tartare embellished with a radish fascinator.
Resembling fried Chinese man tou buns, the scones at Dominique Ansel were probably the most symmetrically round and most perfectly golden creations that these Dessert Correspondents have ever had the pleasure of nibbling. The accompanying condiments were presented in the most creative way — tap your spoon against a strawberry chocolate, crack it open to reveal a centre of cream and jam. The sweet end of the afternoon tea reinforced why Dominique Ansel surpasses most of the vividly-coloured, gloriously crazy, but-oh-so-completely-not-edible Instagrammable desserts bombarding cyberspace. Appearance aside, his desserts are actually, edible. Indeed, that is an understatement – they are exquisitely delicious, if you can bear to disturb the delicate elegance of his works. The “Bud” was a delicate cluster of white chocolate petals perched on a lavender meringue ball with a heart of passionfruit gelee. The “Flower” was rooted in cookie crumbs, and exploded with vanilla and lemon tones. Both “Blossom” and “Full Bloom” were chocolate nests, the first featuring soft spikes of meringue, mascarpone mousse, and tart cherry, and the second setting the indulgent finale with rose-accented brown butter, strawberry and chocolate.
It’s very easy to make ribbon cut sandwiches at home, to slice up a chunk of sponge cake or serve a platter of mini tartlets and chocolate-covered fruit pieces. But if we can do this at home, why would we bother to venture out for afternoon tea? Yet, countless other high tea venues persist in this tragic version of an afternoon tea experience, we cry just thinking about it. By contrast, afternoon tea at Dominique Ansel has become one of our favourite afternoon tea experiences to date. Revitalizing the tradition to the 21st century, afternoon tea at Dominique Ansel embodies an elevated creativity and inspiration that many other high tea venues forget or ignore. In this case, these Dessert Correspondents confirm: the hype is real, join it. #dessertsforever.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: Dominique Ansel London, 17-21 Elizabeth Street, Belgravia, London.
- ☑ Budget: $$$ (GBP 42).
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: Afternoon Tea.
- ☑ Must-eat: The divine sweets, and the strawberry jam in a strawberry.
- ☑ The short and sweet story: A journey of inspiration from forlorn seed to exquisite bloom.