Despite “having the constitution of an ox”, according to a so-called friend, I was defeated by the afternoon tea served at the Hotel Metropol in Moscow.
This may have something to do with the fact that the price of 7500R ( approximately £85) is for 1-4 people. So it’s either an astonishing bargain or a little on the pricey side, according to your party size.
If you’re there on your own, as I was, the leftovers are neatly packaged up for you to take away in a very smart bag.
First, the venue. The Hotel Metropol was built in 1901 and in 1918, it was nationalized by the Bolshevik administration. Renamed the Second House of Soviets (and yes, I will have to find out what the first house was), it housed living quarters and offices of the growing Soviet bureaucracy. Eventually, in 1930s it was converted to its original hotel function and went through a major restoration in 1986-1991 by Finnish companies as part of Soviet-Finnish trade pact
I met one of the doormen on my way into Hotel and having heard I live in Manchester, we inevitably started talking football. He was concerned that I might be offended by his supporting Liverpool. Not at all.
The building has retained its art nouveau style and this is the main banqueting hall.
Afternoon tea, or as it is called here, the tea ceremony was served in the bar.
Maria, who served me, explained that the tradition came about when Catherine the Great became bored with drinking tea. (This is not a concept I understand). She also ordered that she be served different types of sandwiches every day.
By the way, the crockery I was to eat the food from is 50 years old. My hands suddenly felt a little unsteady.
To calm the nerves, first up was a cranberry liqueur. I suspect it was an appetite stimulant… at least that’s the story I’m sticking to.
Maria poured my tea throughout the meal. It was traditional Russian black tea with a range of options for additional flavouring- lemon, thyme, honey, sugar or what seemed to be black cherries in a sweet sauce.
There are a few key differences between the Russian tea ceremony and the English afternoon tea.
First ‘course’ today was…. dumplings, one filled with meat, one with potato, one with apricot and another with sweet cherry jam.
Next, a plate of blinis (pancakes) served with rad caviar and sour cream.
Then came the sandwiches…
By this point, I had to remind myself that I was now half way through the meal as opposed to merely starting.
Thankfully, Maria came back and we chatted about the Moscow City Day events and travelling by the Trans Siberian Express. She assured me that the trains on the Mongolian route are much nicer than those on the Vladivostok route.
Back to the food. The more eagle-eyed among you may have spotted the key difference. No scones!
This is the first variation on an afternoon tea that I’ve had where scones do not feature. Do the dumplings and blinis make up for this?
I think so. It was good to have something different.
Next, the cakes and sweets… twenty of them.
Actual cake, as covered in my previous cake posting, featured in a very limited way. However, they tasted amazing.
The tea ceremony concluded with macaroons and jellies sweets.
This was obviously a huge amount of food to abandon so, while I was having another cup of tea, Maria kindly and neatly boxed up the leftovers.
To conclude, beautiful food in copious amounts, a very different type of afternoon tea to the traditional English version and excellent service. It has been a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.
Make the most of this posting, afternoon tea fans: it’s almost three weeks until my reservation for Mongolian High Tea in Ulaanbataar.
Unless I find somewhere else along the Trans Siberian Express route.