If you thought Afternoon Tea was all about cakes and cream, think again. Established Italian restaurant Piccolino’s in Heddon Street has turned the quintessentially English tradition on its head, and introduced the glorious Aperi-Tea.
Combining the classic British afternoon tea and the Italian version ‘the aperitivo hour’ Cocchi
– the makers of award-winning aromatised wines and vermouth from the Piedmont region – have united the two with the ‘Aperi-Tea’, best enjoyed al fresco at the Mayfair venue.
Aperitivo hour is when dry or bittersweet drinks (like a spritz or Negroni) are sipped early evening, awakening the appetite before a meal and usually accompanied by complimentary snacks or antipasti. The Aperi-Tea at Piccolino’s consists of refreshing tea-laced Cocchi spritzes including fresh jasmine tea with peach, and Earl Grey tea with rhubarb, served in ice-filled wine glasses on the outside terrace this summer.
Sitting ourselves down on a beautifully sunny day last week, my companion and I were immediately served a Cocchi rose rhubarb spritz each. The refreshing mix of the smooth vermouth with Earl Grey tea and an elderflower tonic is as good a cool-down drink as you could wish for.
A selection of ‘terra e montagna’ antipasti is served alongside the spritz featuring fennel salami, Parma ham, Bresaola, Sardinian pecorino, truffle honey, arancini, and Gorgonzola with fruits and pickles. Additional dishes of fried calamari, tuna carpaccio, and bruschetta can be ordered too. It’s like an Italian tapas so you can suit your order to how hungry you are, then just keep ordering.
We began with a broad bean and goats cheese topped bruschetta and a plate of calamari, accompanied by the most deliciously squidgy and creamy mozzarella you could imagine. Having enjoyed another Cocchi each we decided there was room for a bit more food, so ordered the dish of asparagus topped with a perfectly poached egg, and a slate of the Gorgonzola to spread over a selection of freshly baked breads.
The quality of ingredients served is immediately obvious. The calamari had a great texture, no chewiness or oily aftertaste, and the asparagus crunched on every bite.
Sitting on the terrace overlooking the bustling Heddon Street we could easily have been in a Tuscan square or Venetian lido cafe, not just a few seconds walk from the shoppers haven of Regent Street.
The antipasti plates are light, we recommend 3 for two people sharing, plus one or two of the moore substantial dishes. Our waiter kindly talked us through the whole menu, recommending items suited to our particular tastes, and detailing the size and composition of each dish.
The Aperi-Teacan be an accompaniment to a few Cocchi cocktails, or a more substantial meal should you wish. But whatever you decide, do leave room to finish with a classic Affogato (Amaretto, espresso and vanilla ice cream). Other desserts on offer include Tiramisu or cioccolatini (Frange lico-laced chocolate truffles) but we simply didn’t have space!
* Aperi-Tea is available at Piccolino, Heddon Street from Sunday to Thursday, 3- 6pm until September. For groups of more than four, advanced booking is essential.
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