Food, Reviews, UK

Chocolate High Tea at Banyan on the Thames

21 June, 2015
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After the amazing experience at Ham Yard Hotel’s Afternoon Tea, I was looking forward to another enjoyable afternoon at Banyan on the Thames. I bought a £34 voucher off Groupon for a Chocolate Afternoon Tea for 2. It was advertised as being 50% off, though it was obviously a marketing gimmick. But at £17 per person it seemed a reasonable price to pay for afternoon tea.

We went on a Tuesday afternoon after calling in advance to make reservations. It was in quite an inaccessible area as there happened to be strikes that day and there were no buses servicing the area around Victoria Station. We had to take the rail and then walk another 15 minutes to the hotel.

The hotel looked tired as if it’s days of glory were long past. There was no one in the lobby and the reception desk was tucked in a dark corner such that I wondered if there was even any one working there. The receptionist pointed us to the back of the lobby when I asked for directions to the restaurant.

banyan-3We exited from the building through doors located at the back end of the lobby and that brought us to a foyer area where cars could drop people off. The tarmac was all knocked up and there was a sign saying that there were replacing the floor. Not exactly a great start, but little did we know that this was only the beginning.

When we entered the dark restaurant, the guy sitting at the counter was on the phone and he didn’t bother to ask us what we were looking for till a few minutes later. We dismissed his poor attitude as we were still looking forward to the afternoon tea.

We need not have bothered with reservations, as the place was completely empty. A very different sight from the bustle of activity at the Ham Yard Hotel

After we were seated, service was swift and the first course was brought out. It was a plate of sandwiches. The portion was so large that it seemed more fitting for lunch than afternoon tea. There were 4 slices of bread worth of sandwiches for each person. This would have been a good thing, if not for the fact that the sandwiches were dry, bland and seemed like someone had just run off to Tesco or Sainsbury, bought the cheapest loaf available, made lousy sandwiches out of them and then stuck them in the fridge for a few days waiting for some poor soul to order it. The sandwiches were cold and the fillings were cheap and stale and just plain horrible. We knew by this point that this whole thing was a mistake and we did not expect much of the desserts.

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Then the chocolate martinis arrived. It was honestly the only decent thing on the entire menu as it was strong and you could taste some chocolate.

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I was still able to muster a smile here as  worst was yet to come.

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The hot chocolate was a joke. It was more a cup of milk with some chocolate colouring than a hot chocolate. You can see that the chocolate colour is very faint and totally not what a hot chocolate should look like. You could probably get better hot chocolate at a petrol station. The other glass was strawberries and cream which, again, tasted only of milk.

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The meal got worse still when the waiter brought out the cake stand. It was filled with cheap and ugly looking desserts which tasted like some supermarket house brand.

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The slices of cake were so huge it was repulsive. It seemed like the modus operandi was to ply you with a huge amount of sandwiches and lousy cake and hope you didn’t realise how bad everything was. The layers of sponge in the cake were not even straight, as you can see below. It’s as if someone cobbled together scrap pieces of sponge from elsewhere and slathered the entire thing with cream to hold it together. But once you cut through the cake you can see how poorly it was made. I’ve honestly never seen a cake as bad as this and the taste was boring as well. Just plain sponge, whipped cream and some lemony custard glaze on top.

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The chocolate fondue was even worse. It tasted nothing like chocolate and was actually somewhat salty. I suspect they just opened a packet of instant hot chocolate mix and added a little bit of water. I’ve bought those sachets of instant hot chocolate mix before and when I add too little water to it, it actually tastes artificial and a bit salty — exactly what this so-called “chocolate fondue” tasted like.

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The tragedy didn’t end.

The scones were average, nothing like the ones we had at the Ham Yard Hotel. Again, I think it was some supermarket house brand. The jam looked more like jelly that someone had haphazardly scooped out of a jar and plonked into a nice serving dish. It was obviously a cheap brand as the manufacturer added more gelatine and skimped on the actual fruit to hold the jam together, making it look like jelly. A good jam should be chockfull of fruit and it should actually look like jam!

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The other desserts were boring and nothing to shout about.

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