LONDON - The British colonial rule in India may have concluded 60 years ago, but the fading memories of the British Raj can be relived at Sotheby’s Café through the Indian Afternoon Tea service.
Introduced in conjunction with the Indian and Islamic Week taking place at Sotheby’s, the Indian-themed menu conjured by Chef Amanda Kellar has been inspired by her month-long travel to India and the smells and sights she encountered along her way. Almost 200 years after The East India Company first enticed the British palette by bringing back ships laden with spices and tea from the sub-continent, it seems only fitting that Sotheby’s pays homage to the history shared by India and Britain.
Chef Amanda Kellar and her team have spent weeks experimenting with delicate flavours and aromas, and these sessions have resulted in a menu that is appropriate enough to have been served by the turban-clad attendants of the Raj to their sahibs and memsahibs, as they sit under the sweltering heat of the Indian summer watching their children play a game of afternoon cricket. The tempting spread includes quintessential British tea sandwiches, proud in their new Indian-ised avatar. Egg mayonnaise is teamed with creamy coriander butter while the customary cucumber sandwiches are spread with a curry-flavoured crème fraiche. This is certainly not the traditional way of eating your curry, but definitely as enjoyable; especially when combined with an uninterrupted view of the Tantric-inspired GR Santosh painting hanging directly in front of the cafe in anticipation of the forthcoming Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art auction on 7 October.
The King, or should we say the Maharajah, of the whole menu is the popular Indian spice – cardamom. The fragrant cardamom, indigenous to south India, lifts every dish to which it is added. In the shortbread, its unique flavour is a perfect foil to the glistening sugary crystals coating the pastry. A classic English teatime treat, the scone, also features on the menu under an Indian guise – Orange Star Anise and Cardamom and Cheese flavours. The plum chutney, served as a perfect condiment, sweetens the punch of the spices, making it wholesome and flavourful, and for dessert, the Pistachio, Coconut and Rose Water Cake transcends all other items on the menu.
In an afternoon tea service the painstaking ritual around creating the perfect brew is top priority. With no less than ten Newby teas, herbal and fruit tisanes to choose from, it is difficult to make a selection, but the Masala Chai – the spiced milk based tea that is a staple in Indian households - proved a delightful and tasty choice. The Darjeeling Tea and the green tea variety, Jasmine Pearls, are also wonderful accompaniments to the cakes and sandwiches.
All in all, the generous tea service satisfies the desire to experience a sense of British culture with the requisite tea time favourites, with flavours intensified and borrowed from the East.
Sotheby’s Indian Afternoon Tea service at the Sotheby’s Café is available on the 3rd, 6th, 7th and 8th October, 2014 from 3pm onwards.