Afternoon tea and gin in Henley
Champagne and a boat ride down the Thames. Then High Tea and Gin. Perfect. If only we lived in a sunnier clime. As it was, we were greeted with torrential rain when we arrived at the Hotel du Vin in Henley. But not to worry, rather then have champagne on a boat, we were warmly seated on the leather banquettes of their lounge, daintily sipping away. Who needs a boat ride, anyway?
The hotel more then made up for the rather trad English summer weather with a fantastic welcome. The Assistant Sommelier, Aranka Komjati came out and gave us a short tutorial on the house champagne. Lombard & C0, which was founded in 1925, supply the HdV with their champagne. A light, fresh and fruity wine, plenty of green apple, lemon and lime on the nose and palate and the cutest little bubbles. I don’t know why but bubbles always make me happy and the ones in this champagne were particularly playful. Afterwards, we headed into the bistro for afternoon tea.
Tiered serving platters instantly appeared laden with finger sandwiches, brownies, cakes and, my favourite, scones with CLOTTED CREAM. I adore clotted cream although my arteries probably are against it, along with fresh strawberry jam. Heaven. Served alongside all those lovely pastries were loose leaf tea in charming blue and white china.
After we’d had our fill of tea it was time for a quick look around the hotel. Originally, we were supposed to have our gin tasting on the “sun-drenched deck” of one of the master suites. We got to see the 2 floor suite and the now rain-drenched deck which had some specatular views of the Thames and the surrounding hills. I should mention that the deck has it’s own personal bathtub so you can sip your favourite libation while having a good long soak. Not to worry, there was also another giant bathtub in the second floor bathroom.
Back in the bistro and time for gin. Not any old gin either but Martin Miller’s. I’ve had Martin Miller’s gin before and enjoyed it immensely. Mike Pulvertaft from Martin Miller was on hand to give us the lowdown on Martin, who is a real person and still alive (somebody asked that question) and his gin.
Martin came up with the idea back in 1998 to make his own gin because he didn’t like the gins available. The story goes he was sitting in a bar in Notting Hill despondently sipping on a sad G&T when he suddenly announced he was going to make his own gin. After much experimentation, he came up with 8 unique botanicals, all of the best quality, and one secret ingredient -not so much of a secret anymore as a competitor blabbed a few years ago and added it to their gin (it’s cucumber). We got to sniff and squeeze the botanicals as they were handed around in small glass bottles.
Martin Miller is incredibly smooth. Mike says it’s the water which comes from Iceland that gives it that silky smoothness. I also like the fact that it doesn’t burn on the way down and has spicy citrus aromas. We were giving a brief demo on cocktails and various concoctions made their way round the table before we got a chance to try our hand at making our own.
Despite the rain, it turned out to be a great summer’s day out. And, we had a bottle of Miller’s gin to keep the summer spirit going on the train ride home. Hotel du Vin do afternoon tea, champagne tea and a special “G & Tea” with gin served up in a tea cup. Have a look at their site for full details. Prices start at £11 and tea is served everyday from 2pm – 5pm.