I love High Tea, or ‘Afternoon Tea’ as we call it in England. I grew up on a staple of clotted cream and jam on scones still warm from the oven; pretty china tea pots of steaming English Breakfast (with milk of course!) and delicately assembled sandwiches with their crusts removed. Naturally, I was delighted when I discovered the array of options available in Doha, and I set myself the challenge of finding the best on the market. Now, three years (and countless High Teas later) and I think I’ve found it…and it’s probably not what you would expect.
You might remember how much I enjoyed the Afternoon Tea at La Mer and how much I felt at home at Tea Garden in The Torch, but my top pick of places to enjoy this very British past-time, is City Centre Rotana for their Caramel High Tea which takes place every Thursday.
Here are six reasons why it’s not to be missed:
1. You can sample the array of Dilmah tea on offer before you choose your tipple
On entering Caramel Lobby Lounge, guided by your waiter, your first stop will be the extensive tea station.
I feel an affiliation to Dilmah, a family-run brand renowned for its passion and commitment to quality and authenticity in tea. The range of teas on offer at Caramel Lobby Lounge’s tea station is impressive, and I love the fact that you are allowed to have a little taste of as many as you like before you make the important and taxing decision about which one to commit to.
2. The sandwiches, scones and cakes are faultless
Executive Chef Matias Ayala has poured passion and precision into the main feature of the evening and created something very special. Imagine warm, buttery, slightly crumbly scones smothered in cream and home made strawberry jam…
Close your eyes and conjour up an image of the perfect sandwich, with soft bread and a tasty filling with a twist: Coronation Chicken with green apple ever-so-slightly curried mayo; foie gras mousse with smoked duck and cranberry jam; truffled egg; cucumber textured mint cream cheese; roast beef with baby spinach, celery and onion jam…
Finally, pick some of the world’s best-loved sweets and assemble them on a plate: from Florentines to Fig Tart, Vanilla Profiteroles to Dark Chocolate Truffles. The options and execution of this High Tea are unparalleled elsewhere in the city.
3. You get to enjoy several courses, spread out over several hours
I was surprised to discover that the Caramel High Tea is far more than your usual sandwich-scone-cake combo. A selection of homemade and deliciously nutty and sweet Arabic treats such as Ma’amoul and Baclava accompany the traditional cakes and scones.
At some point in the evening a carving trolley will be wheeled out by the chefs to your table, where pink and tender slow-cooked Beef Wellington will be served to you straight from the oven, with a spoon of mushroom duxelle, a scoop of potato purée and dash of rosemary jus.
And if that’s not enough, a warm ratatouille tart with goats cheese covered with puff pastry will swiftly follow.
Set aside a good two to three hours for this one, you’re going to need it!
4. There are a few surprises thrown into the mix
Getting the opportunity to watch the chefs carving their creations directly at our table was a spectacle in itself, but when they wheeled up an interesting looking contraption in between courses, which they proceeded to add liquid nitrogen to, and concocted a three-minute sorbet, along with all the drama of liquid nitrogen ‘smoke’ pouring out over the table, we couldn’t help but stare on in open-mouthed wonder.
Aside from its theatrical beginnings, this sorbet is something special: apple pie flavoured, with Dilmah tea-infused meringue and passion fruit sauce. I was in heaven!
5. The staff are the friendliest I’ve encountered
From the moment we arrived, they made us feel warm and welcome. I was meeting a friend, with our two eleven month olds in tow, and the waiting staff went out of their way to ensure that they were well-catered for by bringing some baby-friendly vegetables and extra sandwiches for them to munch on.
What’s more, they didn’t bat an eyelid at the mess that ensued, and smiled on as they escaped our clutches following the meal and burned off their excess sandwich-fuelled energy by crawling all over the restaurant wreaking havoc before we could reach them.
In fact, rather than being irritated, I do believe the waiting staff were actually rather taken with them…
Any place that carries off an air of class, yet still manages to be welcoming and friendly to children and babies is a winner in my book.
6. It feels like a real celebration… at a very reasonable cost
The lilting, live piano music, the plush marble interiors, the high quality food and all of the theatre described above combine to create an event which I can only describe as pretty fabulous.
This is not the afternoon tea to rock up to in jeans, for a casual munch. Instead, it’s befitting for a special occasion such as a hen party or birthday celebration, a long-overdue catch-up with a good friend, or simply a celebration to mark the end of the week.
Astonishingly, despite the impressive creativity and thought that’s been put into every element of the High Tea, it remains one of the most competitively priced out there at only QAR 125 per person.
Now, do you think I can justify heading over there for the second Thursday in a row? I would do it for those scones alone.
Caramel High Tea, every Thursday from 3-7pm
Caramel Lobby Lounge, City Centre Rotana, Doha, PO Box 25522 | (+974) 4445 8888
I was a guest of City Centre Rotana Doha this time, but as always all views are my own.