Afternoon tea chez King David Hotel in Jerusalem

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King David Hotel in Jerusalem is a legendary luxury destination not only in Israel, but in the entire region whose style hardly changed since it was created in 1931,  by the Jewish-Egyptian family Mosseri. What changes though is the style of the kitchen and the new gourmet influences brought here by French cooking experts that moved in the country in the last years.

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I visited the hotel back in January, a relatively quiet season compared with the busy activity you may notice right now till the end of September. Besides the usual customers of the hotel, there is hardly any personality that visited Jerusalem, from Michael Douglas to King Juan Carlos, that was not the guest of the hotel.

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With such an impressive list of guests, the standards were and will always be high at King David. The delicate changes operated regularly in the menu are aimed to offer the best possible experiences to the guests. In the lobby, little pieces of French gourmet art are a proof of the latest changes of the Jerusalem’s high class cuisine. This is where the complex standards of kosher cooking are embraced by the creative spirit of the French cuisine. A very successful meeting, my eyes and smell dare to say.

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Besides the intensive sightseeing and its part of story telling that I am shared – minutes before returning in the lobby was just chatting with one of the oldest employees of the hotel about how the bar mitzva party of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zetta Jones was celebrated here – I am here also for some special gourmet experiences. For instance, to try the relatively new – one year and a half ago only – afternoon tea menu. As for now, we have: English preciousness, French creativity and kosher delicacies. What can I get out of it? Till everything is ready, I am tempted with orange juice and a red beet and apple juice that took my breath away and brought back all the energies spent in intesive sightseeings in and around the city. The sweetness of the apple and the earth smell of the red beet are exactly portioned to produce a completely new and delicious result.

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While I am sipping my Lemon Grass Cream infusion, the brioches are arriving. The fulfilling smell of freshly baked pastry, ready to be tasted in the company of butter and strawberry jam. Wish I can spend every day tasting such mouth melting pieces of art.

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But there is much more to come. The 3-layered plates are each carrying some new foodie works of art. Small pieces of smoked caramelised salmon with soy sauce and traces of yolk, a high end selection of cheeses, among which my favourite goat cheese, Camembert and Gruyere, freshly produced in the North of Israel, with blueberries and slowly roasted tomatoes. Although I love the cheeses a lot, the caramelised salmon is just perfect, with the delicate fried fish covered in moderate sweetness. To be eaten only in small unforgettable bites. Since I am back in Berlin, I am obsessively trying to recreate the recipe, bust probably it will not happen before taking some special gourmet French classes.

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But the afternoon tea is not done yet. After the puffy pastry, and the gourmet bites, it follows the sweet part of the menu. It seems that the classical three-tiered plates are here replaced at King David by three-course meals. As everything in the menu, don’t expect abundance, but high style. The soft dough of the scones is aromated with raisins, rhum and vanilla, and accompanied by fresh sour cream at the room temperature and the fine tarts are complimentary to the simple freshness of the fruits.

When I finally have to leave this island of culinary wellness, I knew that the memory of so many special tastes will follow me for a long time. I was right and the remedy is to find the fastest way to be back soon. Where else can I find such a beautiful mixture of apple and red beet?

Disclaimer: I was the guest of King David Hotel for a special afternoon spent discovering the hotel (a dedicated post coming up soon), but the opinions are, as usual, my own.

Afternoon tea chez The Ritz-Carlton Berlin

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Although it has the perfect ingredients – and I am talking about the weather especially – for a successful afternoon tea formula, Germany is still a bit far away till adopting the good English habits. Especially now, when the dark, cold and bad weather is present more than ever, having a cuppa and enjoying a luxurious afternoon could be a good smoothing way to offer yourself a spark of wellness. In one of the last days of this summer, I started again the search for the best afternoon teas in the city, ending up at the little palace of luxury hiding near the high-scrapers from Potsdamer Platz: at the unique The Ritz-Carlton Berlin. Early this year, I have been the guest of the first Ritz-Carlton in Germany, in Wolfsburg, where the afternoon tea left me with unforgettable memories of tastes and special tea flavours. As I was told that each hotel from this chain do have its special luxury trademark, I am here to discover the different reality. The afternoon tea takes places at the end of the huge lobby, designed according to the principles of Berlin’s main architect, the 19th century Schinkel. Although situated in an open space, there is enough privacy and quietness to relax and enjoy your afternoon. Regularly, background piano music creates a special ambiance for the guests.

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As much as I would love to close my eyes and maybe have a little end-of-the summer dream, I know that I am here for work. The passion of the master tea Hernan Caballero telling me the story of the various teas I can chose from brings me back to the daily life. As usual, I am highly impressed by people that followed their dreams and passions and Hernan is a successful one of them. Trained by the famous Mariage Frères in France, whose special teas are exclusively served here, he makes my tea choices even complicated, as it seems that behind each flavour it’s a whole fascinating story. I can spend full days in the front of this sniffing box so, who knows, maybe I have enough passion too to be a tea master myself as well one day.

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As Hernan explained, sugar can change completely the texture of the tea and if you really want to have the real taste you should be careful with the sweetness as well as with the various taste combinations of the side dishes. In the case of the black tea, for instance, the sugar and the lemon can smooth the flavour, while too much caramel to the green tea will almost completely neutralize the green tea taste. As for now, there are 68 sorts of tea available, introduced in detail, in English and German, in an elegant booklet offered to the guests for consultation and lecture. The organic honey offered as an alternative to sugar is made on the roof of the hotel, at the 7 beehives that produce around 3-400 kg. every year.

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With so many new stories, my brain is fighting hard to make the right choice, at least for now. Trying to make my life easier, I decide to stay around my comfort zone: the green tea. As I was missing Japan lately, I said ‘yes’ to Gyokuro. According to the explanation offered in the tea menu, this tea seems to the result of hard work, similar to that of a work of art. Only buds are plucked, very carefully by hand, and only once the year. But before that, the plants are placed under the shade for three weeks in order to increase the concentration of chlorophyll and reduce tannin. The result is considered to be ‘the most noble, refined, and precious green tea in the world’. Brought in Mariage Frères teapot, it’s the best green tea I ever had – and the secret is that I am drinking as much green tea as possible: very simple, balanced, flavoured in a very neutral, humble way. Every drop brings more peace and balance and I’m almost back in my dreamworld.

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But it’s time to add some good foodie company to the special tea. The three-tiered plates are not less surprising. From warm raclette to small sandwiches with cucumber and various veggies cover or the delicate small pieces of sweets, everything ask me to stay more, just because I need to be truly objective with my final review, of course.

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Now, the perfect ambiance seems to be complete: the elegant architecture, pleasant background music, the tailored furniture – especially made by German artists, the small pieces of food, each one having a small delicious secret, as only one different concentration of spices or a bit of salt can make things completely different and, of course, the exquisite tea. The afternoon tea takes place every day between 2pm and 6pm. Besides the usual classic and Experience French Aroma – offering an exclusive Mariage Frères experience – afternoon tea there are also special Ladies Tea offers – for before and after the shopping tours and tailored winter offer during the holiday season. Regularly, there are also offered various tea classes, especially for children.

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When I was expecting less, the fresh, delicately warm scones, with clotted cream arrives. The combination between smooth fresh pastry and the perfumed clotted cream, with flavours of orange and lemon, is like the yin and yang of food excellence. The recipe of creating simple things might be more difficult, as you simply should wish for that perfect measure. It seems that in the case of this simple plate, the secret formula was used.

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As for the sweets, every simple bit is set to impress: the macaroons are one of the best I had in Berlin, and believe me, I am desperately trying to find the most crunchy, delicious ones for a long time already; the small chocolate beds with slices of strawberries do mix the sour cocoa taste with the natural freshness of the fruit; the small slices of cheesecake with berries do have a natural taste of smooth cheese, moderately sweet but the fruits make all the difference; the many other lucky combinations between various fruits – from passion fruit to various types of berries – and fine dough.

??????????My sweet reveries are interrupted again by Hernan who is asking me to make the second choice of tea for the day. This time it’s easier – it’s not that difficult to get used with the good life – as during the first presentation, the story of the Lotus Blanc caught my attention. It says that on the high plateau of the Northern Indo China, the tea planter places at down some of his best green tea in the heart of each white lotus flower. He then folds the petals over to permeate the tea with the pure fresh fragrances of the aromatic stamens. It’s moderately smoked, which gives a very interesting air of mystery to the tea experience, rich in unknown flavours and slightly perfumed. Although aware of the special medical qualities of such a tea – helping among others to balance the low blood pressure – I am savouring every single sip with the same interest as I would share for looking at some beautiful jewellery. Maybe besides diamonds, good teas can be a girl’s best friends too. Need to seriously think about it one day.

When my afternoon tea is over – at least for now – I know that there are so many cuppas with their secret stories waiting to be discovered that I should be back soon. Maybe after so many years I finally found the right way to enjoy the long German winters, after all.

For more impressions from the afternoon tea, have a look at the dedicated Pinterest board: http://www.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/afternoon-tea-chez-ritz-carlton-berlin/

Disclaimer: I was the guest of Ritz-Carlton Hotel for tasting and testing their afternoon tea, but the opinions are, as usual, my own. 

Afternoon tea chez Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest

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Budapest is a source of permanent temptations for the travel blogger, and I during my stay – more details and stories coming up soon – I hardly had some free time left. The weather was hot and the streets were busy, with so many things to do that I needed to be up early in the morning every day. With such a crazy schedule, when invited to spend one full hour tasting the afternoon tea at Kempinski Hotel Corvinus I sigh with relief: I was finally able to have some free time only for myself without running in as many directions as possible. After a tour in the Jewish quarter, I walk around 15 minutes till I spotted the modernist architecture of the hotel, close to Budapest’s fashion street. A soothing background music, and the moderate cold accompanied the beginning of the relaxing process that was about to continue for the next 60 minutes or so.

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Compared to other Kempinski hotels I visited in the last years, the one in Budapest has a bold revolutionary look, with irregular shapes of the furniture and unusual angles of the building, reflected in the pieces of mirrors that give even greater perspective of grandness and multiple perspectives. A mixture of modern styles – the pop-art being easily recognized in some colorful patches and pieces of furniture that doesn’t bother the visitor in any way. I took a seat in the corner and had a look at the latest news from The Economist and some daily German publications available for consultation. With a mixture of customers, from travellers to business people, the selection was good enough for keeping various guests well informed.

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At the bar, a pastel coloured background that made me intensively think at cotton candy was displaying tempting sinful pieces of chocolate – small or big, with fruity decorations or just another layer of chocolate. As a late believer in the charms of chocolate, I might be so hungry for catching up with the long time of deprivation that I better keep myself away of an overdose. I returned to my seat, entering the stage 2 of relaxation, resting my traveller body on the pillows of the comfy plush chairs with the buzz of Babel around me, mostly German and American tourists telling stories about their latest travels.

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The service was prompt, friendly and patient with my begging for more time till having a final decision about the tea. Not sure what will be next, I decided for a simple red fruit tea, served in a traditional Zsolnay porcelain. It was refreshing, perfumed and equally tasty either hot or cold. The metal teapot kept the content warm till the end. What can be better on a very hot day than a hotter good tea?

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The tea was accompanied by a red box containing not diamonds – this time – but four different sorts of sugar. I admired the choices but decided to have my tea with a little bit of honey from the small jar brought on the tray.

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I have no idea in which stage of my relaxation I was when the 3-tiered plate had arrived, but from that moment on, I was already far away on a happy cloud. The smells of fresh pastry and pure cocoa met the seriousness of the sandwiches with salmon and cucumber. Very inspired and welcomed was the idea to bring different sets of cutlery for being used for the very different types of foods. The sandwiches were simple, not very sophisticated yet with genuine full tastes of cheese and salmon and well made white bread.

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In the middle, a very welcomed Hungarian-Austrian pastry, an apple strudel wrapped in Hungarian made dough. The crunchy feuilletage was soaked in a sweet creamy sauce, aromated by a leaf of mint and refreshed by the elegant strawberry on the top.

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The four petit fours were unforgettable for a long time. A massive drop of cocoa with a touch of gold, followed by a sandwich biscuits with milky cocoa cream, a white chocolate variant with a bit of white cream and the small fruits embraced in a fine yet consistent layer of chocolate.

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With every single bit I was feeling more at home in the small lobby, separated from the rest of the building by discrete parenthesis of the space. The huge flowers arrangements or the delicate pieces of arts and interior design were creating almost invisible separations of the area, enough for giving a special sense of intimacy not easy to grasp at the first sight.

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With a punctilious care, unexpected pieces of art were appearing from the space openings, while the colours and shapes of ceilings, pavement or furniture matched in the most spectacular compositions.

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When my afternoon tea experience was over, I walked a bit more in the lobby, for some last memories and more details of this futuristic space. In one corner, I discovered the lightning entrance to the Nobu restaurant while in another corner of the lobby, some beautiful macarons were displayed in pyramids. For me, the relaxation was over though. True is that chocolate makes you happy, but eating chocolate in a beautiful place can make you even happier. Now, my spirit was high enough for even more travels.

For more insights from the hotel and their elegant afternoon tea, have a look at the dedicated Pinterest board: http://www.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/hotel-kempinski-budapest/

Disclaimer: I was invited to test the afternoon tea at Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest, but the opinions are, as usual, my own.

Regent Hotel: the unexpected oasis of luxury

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I never have enough time to explore Gendarmenmarkt, except when I have to go to a concert or I am looking for a quiet place near Brandenburg Gate. Or, after the long tours of shopping visits at Galeries Lafayette. This time, I am happy to be the insider of Regent Hotel, a five star hotel with a well established 10-year tradition among the luxury brands in Berlin.

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At the first sight, the modernist simple facade doesn’t say anything about what is hidden behind the doors. People are coming and going around, busy or simply ready to find out where their new tourist destination is. Once I enter, all the rush and colourfulness of Berlin is left outside. A little palace of elegance and quietness, with huge beautiful flowers and marble walls.

??????????Regent Hotel was described by Condé Nast Traveller ‘one of the best places to stay in the world’, but it comes with a culinary delice: the two-star Michelin restaurant Fischers Fritz. Under the gourmet coordination of chef Christian Lohse, it also offers daily business lunch menu, but can also set up private dining, for a room up to 15 persons. The ambiance is very private, and no wonder that big world stars are often guests of this place. Like Bruce Willis, for instance, who paid at least one visit here during his stay in Berlin.

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The hotel is also the proud owner of a lobster press, one of the five in the world (out of which one is part of the collection of Christofle Museum). The lobster is introduce inside, in the dedicated compartments and press swiftly till the flesh is coming up. As usual, good gourmet results involves always a lot of technique.

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The hotel has 195 rooms, decorated in the elegant simplicity of Biedermeier style. The variation of colours is pastel, the rooms being painted in lime or the very powerful salmon rosé, my favourite. The space is well portioned, the massive classical furniture being placed in order to give a lot of space and freedom to the guests.

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The beauty is made of small details. The lobby of each store has wallpapers with motives inspired by nature that are matched with Art Nouveau lamps.

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Given the special home-made ambiance, no surprise that the hotel is offering extensive packages for children. The little ones are offered gifts such as cuddle toys, colouring books or chocolate candies. A nanny service is available for the families looking to have some private time during their stay at Regent. During this time, the children can be kept busy too, among others, with classes where they learn the good manners. The Executive suites do have adjacent rooms for children, provided with special amenities, such as child tailored DVDs. The guests who make their reservation up to 30 days in advance, may receive a complimentary upgrade.

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Visiting the rooms leaves you with a special feeling of quietness and strength. It is not difficult to make yourself at home and enter that unique ambiance you are longing for when you are on the road. Especially when you travel a lot, the need to be in the middle of familiar spaces is always there, despite all the glamours of the travel life.

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The rooms are provided with everything needed for creating an elegant privacy. Wifi is free of charge, the housekeeping service is done twice the day at least. The concierge service is available all round the day. At the spa, luxury massage and beauty treatments are available. Berlin tour guides, in German, English and French are available. The premier suites do have a small kitchinette space where the dinner can be prepared by the concierge. The concierge is available to help and plan various plans of the stay of the guests, such as car renting, booking flights etc.

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Another unique feature of Regent Hotel, is the possibility to have your own jogging concierge. Head concierge Stephanm Mehlhorn, an experienced sportsman himself, is ready to show the guests the most beautiful routes for jogging across the city (besides the well known Tierpark). Special jogging maps are offered, with directions and various recommendations tailored to the jogging needs of the customer.

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Sometimes we are reminded that the well-being and luxury are not for ever and while we are thankful for the moment, we need to consider the fate of those who have nothing. Regent Hotel is involved as well in charities, last year being awarded the Franz von Mendelssohn Medal for charitable commitment.

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The presidential suite is often hosting high-class VIPs, from the world of sports – like the VIPs of FC Bayern – politicians or movie stars. The small French style balcony was used by Tom Cruise’s daughter Suri for learning her first independent steps. In order to offer her special protection, a plexiglass shield was set up around the metal fence. With such a beautiful view, you might be inspired to walk by yourself to see all those place by youself! Cruise stayed here during the filming for his movie Valkyrie, that was partly shot at the Babelsberg Studios in Potsdam.

??????????Inside the hotel, a conference room can host up to 180 people. Press conferences are often organized there, as it happened this February, for the two Pussy Riots members Nadejda Tolokonnikowa and Maria Aljochina, during their first trip abroad as free persons. I am sure that the walls of the hotel saw many other personalities and their choices, but what happens in Regent Hotel, stays in Regent Hotel. 
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It is time to relax, and the simple afternoon tea is the happy ending of my short stay at Regent. Served in Meissen porcelain, it is prepared under the close supervision of the Tea Master Gold, Roland Pröh. Nearby, there is the terrace, which this year has a lavender summer theme.

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It is not easy to say ‘good bye’, and I can feel what the long-term guests may be going through when they have to part ways with this beautiful island of luxury. However, modern technology helps to keep in touch, and a special app, downloadable for free, helps the customers to keep in touch with the newest highlights. One of the newest offers is the special package made in cooperation with Rolls Royce and KPM Manufaktur, offering a high class experience with luxury cars and perfect porcelain.

Stay elegant, Regent Berlin, hope to see you soon!

For more insights from Regent Hotel, visit the dedicated Pinterest board: http://www.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/regent-hotel-berlin/

Disclaimer: I was the guest of Regent Hotel for an overview of the rooms and an afternoon tea, but the opinions are, as usual, my own.