“Only One Quality, The Finest”, is the long-standing motto of the legendary House of Veuve Clicquot and anyone who has sipped on this consistently excellent vintage Champagne knows it to be true. It is little wonder that this premium house would choose to team up with Brown Thomas, the first and last name in Irish luxury, to offer Veuve Clicquot Summer Afternoon Tea – an indulgence we simply had to enjoy as a recent Friday treat.
Housed in the iconic Grafton Street store on the third floor, somehow The Restaurant by Johnnie Cooke is a bit of a hidden gem in the heart of the city. A slick and chic space bathed in powder blue and dotted with plush upholstery, the Restaurant is an oasis of calm which is tucked away behind the Brown Thomas luxury food hall, with Dean and De Luca and Godiva vying for your attention as you stroll in.
Afternoon Tea at The Restaurant takes place in its own little white table-clothed enclave and is served on bespoke Wedgwood china with kaleidoscopic floral pastel designs unique to each piece. Perfectly mismatched, like Alice in Wonderland with a touch of opulence, our dainty tea cups are quickly filled with our brews of choice, which we had to narrow down from a selection of no less than twenty Ronnefeldt teas.
Ronnefeldt is the creme de la creme of tea, with hand-picked leaves infused with everything from Jackfruit to coconut husks and The Restaurant will soon be the only standalone venue, alongside The Westbury and The Shelbourne, to offer a Tea Sommelier service. Sarah settles on Strawberries and Cream, which evokes childhood memories of sweet shop visits and I decide to fool myself with a saintly sip from the Ayurveda Wellness Collection, with exotic hints of fenugreek seed and cinnamon.
Bespoke Veuve Clicquot flutes are filled to the brim with classic almost nutty and biscuit scented Yellow Label for me and Rosé for Sarah as we tuck into shots of Andaluz Gazpacho, which sets the tone for an Afternoon Tea with a difference. This light and refreshing intro was followed by the towering crowning glory, cascading with temptation.
Kicking odd with an abundant savoury tier, nods to classics of canapé style Egg Mayonaise and Dingle Gin Cured Smoked Salmon with creme fraiche and asparagus were stellar bites to whet the appetite but the title of star of the savouries was a toss up between two rare beauties. First, a taste of the Med, Bruschetta topped with meltingly good Parma ham, vibrant diced vine tomato and creamy Buffalo mozzarella – we would have eaten a trayful of these.
Next, Coronation Chicken, a retro classic brought bang up to date and tailored to the ladies who lunch in Brown Thomas, is served on Cooke’s Bikini Bread to keep things light. Like a hollowed ciabatta, this genius bake encased delicious curried pulled chicken breast and had me transfixed – the perfect vessel for all sorts of fillings, I did attempt to pry the recipe from Johnnie when he popped out of the kitchen to say hello, but alas it remains his secret. That said, this Bikini Bread creation features on the lunch menu, so I may just have to pop back for another fix.
Petite, shortbread-like Fruit Scones are just the right size for smearing with whipped cream and homemade strawberry jam before moving on to yet another unusual, but ridiculously delicious Afternoon Tea addition – Portugese Custard Tarts. Perfectly crisp and buttery puff pastry bursting at the seams with bruleéd, oozing vanilla custard can never be a bad thing and in this case, Sarah reckoned these were better than those she enjoyed in Lisbon – a ringing endorsement!
By the time we scale the top tier, we’re groaningly full but as a macaron enthusiast I was utterly unable to resist a bite-size Salted Caramel Macaron – crafted in-house and as perfect as benchmark Ladurée. Similarly tempting were feather light Mini Eclairs, dainty Lavender Lemon Teacake squares and elegant Strawberry Shortcake tartlets which were summer in a bite.
Indulgent as each sweet morsel was, I was delighted that they were just that, perfectly proportioned for the ritual of Afternoon Tea and light enough to ensure you can still bear to face the fitting rooms on the way out! Well, it would have been, had we not tucked in to the piéce de resistance of the procession – a luscious Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte which needs to be tasted by every self-respecting chocolate fiend – trust me.
This utterly unique Afternoon Tea experience starts at €47.50 for the full compliment of the above treats with a glass of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label, or €52.50 if you’re a Rosé lover.
You can easily linger for hours over this most luxurious and chic high tea experience with a Mad Hatter meets Philip Treacy feel. The Veuve Clicquot Summer Afternoon Tea is an absolute must for lovers of opulence and indulgence…”Only One Quality – The Finest”.
The Restaurant by Johnnie Cooke
88-95 Grafton Street
T: (01) 605 6701
Growing up with the name Darina, I was constantly asked if I could cook like my namesake. With that(and greed) as the ultimate motivator, I realised that baked goods make excellent bribes and an obsession was born! I am the only person to have contested both Masterchef and the Great Irish Bake off, fuelling my desire to focus on food in a serious way. Working with TheTaste allows me to satisfy this craving and marries my food fascination with my love of writing and ranting.