Update to this post 3 Feb 2015: The Paramount Bar and Restaurant has since closed their doors (as part of a larger redevelopment plans for Centre Point).
It fascinates me how Afternoon Tea is moving further and further from the original idea of serving food that would complement that perfect cup of tea sometime after noon. The High Spirits Afternoon Tea served at the Paramount has quite a different energy to any images of a languid Victorian meal that its title seems to conjure up.
Afternoon tea is described thus in the 1893 edition of Mrs Beeton’s book of Household Management which was the era in which I would suggest that this meal reached its apogee (there is no mention of the meal in the first edition of 1861).
This is the opening chapter on Teas from Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, Ward Lock, 1893:
“Under the head of “Teas” how many different meals are served? We say “meals”, perhaps, incorrectly, for the afternoon cup of tea (in many fashionable houses the only tea served) can scarcely come under this head: but independent of this, we have wedding teas, high teas, “at home” teas, ordinary family teas, and in some old fashioned places, whose inhabitants have not moved with times, still a quiet tea where people are invited to partake of such nice things as hot buttered toast, tea cakes, new laid eggs, and home-made preserves and cake. A pleasant meal, that is only the precursor of a good supper, of which we shall speak later on.”
The Paramount (restaurant and bar) provides a sophisticated, very urban meal that has overtones of the world of James Bond. Each morsel of food is infused with alcohol. That, along with the sugar, provides such a giddy rush of energy, that neither I, nor my guest, Samantha Pearce, were brave enough to dive into a cocktail for which the Paramount is famous for serving, and feebly opted for a virgin Mohito each.
The cocktail theme runs through the presentation of the food. Rather than serving conventional cakes and pastries, the focus was on presenting, each deliciously concocted alcohol laced dessert in unusual miniature cocktail glasses and jars. See the wonderful Amaretto Sour and Porn Star Martini
The sandwich shapes were almost created to mirror the high rise buildings that we viewed from our window side table – 385ft above the London streets.
Everything was snappy, smart and exciting and very much in keeping with the character and feel of the bar.
Possibly, the least discernible part of the meal was the tea itself. The strong boozy flavours permeating the food and the Virgin Mohitos rather overwhelmed the senses. The tea is supplied by Blends for Friends. Samantha had a Classic Black and I had the Altitude Afternoon. Both were good on the initial tasting but needed to be drunk quickly before going slightly bitter. However that is a minor quibble as we were both offered fresh pots of tea on request.
I urge you to go for the sheer joy of being so high above London and enjoying a really unusual take on this meal. Whether Mrs Beeton would approve is quite another matter!
The address is: Paramount Restaurant and Bar, Centrepoint, 101 – 103 New Oxford Street, London WC1A 1DD. The tea is served between 2.30pm – 4.30pm. At the time of writing the cost is £28 per person, or with a cocktail…£42 per person.