The Beverly Hills Hotel Pastry Chef Jodi Gillespie is a very talented creative lady, and has put the pink hotel in Umhlanga on the map as serving the most creative High Tea in KwaZulu-Natal, and even in our country! I was lucky to check into the hotel yesterday afternoon, in time to see the High Tea, and enjoy a taste of it, the most creative High Tea display I have ever seen.
Chef Jodi is from the Durban area, and studied at the Christina Martin Culinary School. From there she moved to Dubai, working at the Fairmont Hotel, but returned to KwaZulu-Natal to be closer to her family, accepting a job at Zimbali. She moved to The Hilton in Durban, and then made a radical change by working at Le Quartier Français for a year. She enjoyed this time with its quiet pace, even milking the Le Quartier cow they boarded at Spier! Two years ago she returned to her home base, heading up the Pastry Kitchen at The Beverly Hills Hotel.
Jodi’s first priority was to introduce a High Tea at the hotel, offered in their Sugar Club Restaurant on Saturday afternoons. She did her market research, by spending two days in Cape Town and eating her way through ten High Teas in the city. She liked the one at The Taj the best, being low key and almost hidden, she said. We both agreed that the Belmond Mount Nelson Afternoon Tea is by far the poorest. She then repeated the High Tea tasting challenge at ten hotels in Johannesburg. For a point of difference she decided to create a theme for the High Teas, altering the theme month by month. Themes have been Romance in February; Easter in April; Chocolate Decadence with a focus on Valrhona, a first exposure for this top-quality chocolate brand in the province; Durban July horse race; and the Mad Hatters Tea Party for the month of August.
Chef Jodi organized that I receive the list of High Tea items on the menu yesterday, after one of her colleagues let her down in providing the list. The list has 29 items, the savory items being feta, pepperdew and sweet corn quiche; Camembert Cheshire croissants; Bread and Butterfly cucumber sandwiches; Tweedle Dum’s tomato and chicken tarts; Mad Hatter’s magical mushrooms; Humpty Dumpty’s Deviled eggs; biltong and caramelized onion March Hare muffins; Alice’s avocado and beef pastrami wraps; smoked chicken and mozzarella Dodo wings; and Salmon Club sandwiches.
Sweet items were the most beautifully decorated Chocolate Top Hat Gateaux; Paint the Roses Red Velvet cakes; Queen of Hearts cupcakes; White Rabbit carrot and Macedonian cake; Pink Flamingo strawberry layered cake; Curious Oyster macaroons; Marshmallow Doormice; Mock Turtle’s banana and walnut Madeleine’s; Baked Snozberry cheesecakes; Red Queen’s Frangipane tarts; Down the Rabbit Hole cinnamon and caramel swirls; Giggling Grape Gazpacho; Tea Pot shortbread; milk chocolate pizza; white chocolate pizza; honeycomb; scones with grated cheese, cream, and jam; orange and dark chocolate scones; and blue Caterpillar meringues. A number of the treats have an ‘Eat me‘ sign, but one needed little encouragement to do so!
When I arrived at the hotel and saw the beautiful High Tea display, I was told by Chef Jodi that they were fully booked, being able to take about 50 guests. What made the Mad Hatters High Tea even more special was that many of the guests had dressed up in Mad Hatters outfits, especially those guests that came in larger groups (one of ten and another of twenty). A violinist performed during the High Tea. I was grateful to High Tea host Shile for finding a space for a table for me, so that I could enjoy the Mad Hatters High Tea, with a dry cappuccino and water, both of which took long to get to my table and required a reminder.
Themed High Teas, The Beverly Hills Hotel, Umhlanga, Durban. Tel (031) 561-2211. www.thebeverlyhillshotel.co.za Twitter: @BevHillsZA Saturdays 14h30 – 17h00. R250.