Jon Favreau (director of The Jungle Book) was also responsible for Chef, a movie that took great pleasure in tantalising the viewer with numerous scenes focussing on delicious food. Although his adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s novel doesn’t give much scope for culinary teasing, despite the best efforts of the honey-obsessed sloth bear Baloo, Kona restaurant in London has picked up the challenge and delivered a menu that takes inspiration from the film and puts a uniquely Indian twist on Afternoon Tea.
The movie was Disney’s live-action reworking of their classic animation from 1967. As well as featuring a selection of songs from the cartoon version, Favreau also built an Indian location entirely out of green screen for Mowgli to play in. The man-cub is played by newcomer Neel Sethi, and the film has taken just shy of billion dollars at the international box-office, currently making it the third biggest film of 2016.
Unsurprisingly your first decision over tea itself. With fruit, black and green varieties available its worth looking ahead to the full menu before committing. Of course you can also add a glass of share a bottle of Vintage Roots Wild Thing Organic Prosecco if that takes your fancy.
Its ‘proper’ tea as well, so you won’t find any PG tips floating around in the bottom of the pot. Each variety comes with an elaborate backstory, so be sure to read up on it all from the separate tea menu. It feels like a missed opportunity to not suggest different pairings with the sweet and savoury dishes however, as unlimited refills of the same tea feel a tad unnecessary.
Once you’ve made your choice of drink, its straight into the savoury selection with a platter of five finger sandwiches.
The five on offer are the eclectic-sounding Smoked Salmon Bagel flavoured with Spiced Yoghurt, Sultana Coronation Chicken Wrap, Curry Egg Mayo in Brioche Bun, British Cucumber with Minted Crème Fraîche Cornish Yard and Tomato and Mango Chutney.
None of the spicing is overpowering, infact for most of the savoury plate, its hard to pick out any additional flavouring at all. A cucumber sandwich tastes just like a cucumber sandwich, even if it is given a pink tint thanks to some beetroot colouring.
There were two standouts from this section. The Sultana Coronation Chicken Wrap had a creamy texture which accentuated the flavour of the ingredients. The combination of the sultanas and chicken worked well together, with only a hint of fruit coming through in every bite.
The other highlight was the Smoked Salmon Bagel. Initial fears that the bagel itself might be too dry were quickly dispelled once we got to the salmon and spiced yoghurt. There isn’t any heat to the yoghurt, so don’t worry about having to wash down the food with a pint of warm beer as is often the way with some fast food Indian dishes.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’re really going to enjoy what comes next. Not only are there three types of scone, but also a tray of dentist-baiting treats that feel like they genuinely capture some of the best-loved characters from The Jungle Book.
Apparently you’re to start with Shere Khan’s Masala Chai Éclair and eat counter-clockwise through Baloo’s Himalayan Honey Macaroons, Bandar log Spiced Banoffie with Saffron Cream, Ikki’s Chilli Pineapple Cupcake and ending with Mowgli’s Jungle Pink Guava & Sweet Basil Jelly.
The flavours have bolder definition on the cakes tray. If you have any apprehension about the taste of guava, for example, there’s no getting away from it in the jelly. Likewise the pineapple cupcake, although the kick of chilli is somewhat lacking again.
The macaroon is enjoyable, if a little too dense for its small size, but the masala chai éclair (complete with gold leaf flakes) and spiced saffron banoffie are decadently delicious. This is also the perfect cue for someone to mention that pound-for-pound saffron costs more than gold… as if Stephen Fry hasn’t already done it on QI.
Finally we get onto the scones. Its not afternoon tea without a good scone, and here we have three! Give yourself a special prize if you can pick out differences between the plain, chocolate chip and golden sultana scones.
Although they all taste identical once smothered in Cornish clotted cream and strawberry jam, the scones also all taste fresh and light. If anything, you might end up regretting having finished some of the earlier cakes, so if it is the English classic you really crave, make sure you leave enough room to fully enjoy them.
Afternoon Tea is served every day at Kona from 12:00 – 17:30 hrs.
During that time The Walt Disney Company Limited will match Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, London donation of £1 for each Afternoon Tea purchased to Born Free’s tiger conservation work in India, home to more than half of the world’s 3,890 wild tigers.
The full menu costs £35 per person or £45 with half a bottle of Prosecco added.
The Jungle Book is out now on DVD and Afternoon Tea can be booked throughout August.