For those who grew up under the influence of Enid Blyton and her books The Faraway Tree, The Five Find Outers and The Famous Five, the concept of the British High Tea is not new. Remember Fatty munching on a cream-clotted scone, while Daisy in her prim and proper pinafore took delicate bites of a muffin? Tomboy George would gorge on salmon sandwiches, while Anne neatly nibbled on croissants, while we salivated at Blyton’s delectable descriptions.
For years, Mumbai restaurants have followed brick shifts called lunch and dinner, closing the place in the ’noon for ‘cleaning’. In the past two years, however, there has been a growth in holiday dining, according to Mumbai-based food writer Antoine Lewis. “Today, restaurateurs have to utiltise their space and time to the maximum to make a profit. Many eateries have had all-day dining, but now, they have a special afternoon menu with interesting presentations,” says Lewis, explaining the British concept of high tea.
“This is a tradition of British aristrocrats, the ones who have a lot of free time. It refers to tea time with a selection of bite-sized savoury and sweet items such as classic pastry scones with clotted cream, summer jams, cucumber cream cheese or salmon sandwiches,” says Lewis, adding that this concept overlaps with the Indian concept of chai-biscuit time. “Bhajia, biscuit and chai has been a 4 o’clock activity for us, but Mumbaiites are now lapping up the flavoured foods that high tea comes with.”
A month ago, Corniche, a nine month-old waterfront eatery at Carter Road, Bandra, started a special high-tea menu. The first few weeks saw only one or two takers per day. A month on, the eatery serves an average of 25 high teas in a day. “Between 4 and 7 pm, a lot of corporates from nearby offices and youngsters frequent the place. We thought it was a great time to serve them a light high-tea menu while they chilled and watched the setting sun,” says owner Shashank Kadam.
Corniche serves a mixed bag of croissants, sponge pastries, stuffed buns, veg and non-veg sandwiches, and a pot of tea and coffee for Rs 350 plus taxes.
While afternoon menus at many restaurants were previously sampled mainly by giggling students bunking class or kitty party groups, a lot of corporates today prefer conducting meetings over high-tea rather than a formal lunch or dinner.
Juhu resident Shyam Dalal, a regular at Corniche, walked in for a meeting last month. “The presentation of the high tea menu was amazing. While the serving was not very filling, it was ideal for an afternoon snack to keep me going till dinner time. I munched on a veg sandwich and some coffee,” says the 27 year-old analyst in the financial sector.
Akanksha Rawal, restaurant manager at Atrium Lounge, Taj Land’s End, however, feels that the Mumbai palate is not completely ready to indulge in a classic British high tea menu. “When it’s tea time, we want our basic masala chai and a filling snack.” That’s why their afternoon high tea menu, apart from offering the classic scones, muffins and open sandwiches, also serves items such as fish fingers and prawn tempura. “While the foreign customers go for the classic high tea, we do get a lot of Indian corporates wanting something more heavy with their afternoon tea,” says Rawal.
Where to head for high tea
Menu: 2 types of pastries; 2 types of croissants/ quiches/ muffins; cold sandwiches; 1 pot of tea or coffee
At: Carter Road, Bandra
For: Rs 350 plus taxes
A la carte menu includes waffles, French baguettes, Brushettas, teas and coffees
At: 1st floor, St Xaverian Court, Sherly Rajan Road, Bandra (West)
Menu: A la carte menu includes pitafils, cucumber sandwiches, samosas, apple pie and juices
At: 39B, Chowpatty Seaface, Next to Café Coffee Day, Marine Drive, Marine Lines
A la carte menu includes prawn tempura, fish fingers and a classic assortment of muffins, sandwiches, pastries, croissants
At: Taj Land’s End, Bandra
For: Rs 1,200 plus taxes
The Tea-Tox menu has Delhi chaat, galavati burger and shahi roll
At: Palladium Mall, High Street Phoenix, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel
At: Rs 325 and Rs 275