Have you ever eaten something that’s so unbelievably sweet that it makes you break out in a bit of a sweat. Not just a normal sweat either, but sweat under your eyes that signifies a whole new level of assault on your body?
No? Well, you’re clearly not doing enough experimental eating. To be honest, I’ve only done it fairly rarely and I always take such a reaction as a crystal clear reflection of whatever craziness I’ve put my body through. On this latest occasion, I wasn’t quite expecting this, but little did I know what a sugary treat an afternoon High Tea at Robata Bar & Grill could be.
Robata is one of the eateries at Resorts World on the outskirts of Birmingham. You might remember I was rather blown away by the dessert at Andy Waters’ eponymous restaurant at Christmas, yet I haven’t made it back to try any of the other eateries. With that in mind, I thought it was high time I returned and what better reason than to try Robata’s High Tea.
Robata sells itself as a ‘fusion of Western European, Australasian and Pan Asian Dining’. You see this phrase ‘pan Asian’ around a lot these days and it sometimes seems to be that it’s a bit of an excuse to be a jack-of-all-trades, but I don’t really believe in judging places until you’ve been there, and I was keen to see how a Pan Asian place would interpret a classic High Tea.
We visited on a day that Robata was actually closed for staff training. Sounds far more boring than it actually seemed. They were taking staff through a new menu, letting them try each new dish and talking them through it to make sure they can speak to diners knowledgeably once it’s launched. Always a nice touch I think – there’s nothing worse than asking your waiter or waitress what a dish is like only to have them shrug their shoulders and say they have no idea.
The interior is impressive – high ceilings, full length glass windows with views across the lake, and a minimalist, simple but chic decor that fits in well with the cuisine. Kristel, who looked after us, was an absolute dream, so much so that I had to write her name down and mention her here. That was while I was trying to drag my mum away because she’d found a new bestie!
I’d already checking out the High Tea menu before we went, and was a mixture of intrigued and tempted. It had the usual mixture of sweet and savoury that you’d expect from an afternoon tea, but all with an Asian twist.
First Wave – served with ginger and lemon iced tea
Robata Grilled chicken yakitori – tenders pieces of chicken thigh in a fragrant soy marinade
Prawn and tofu ball – minced king prawn and tofu with chilli nd ginger in a panko breadcrumb coating
Duck Long Bao – shredded cantonese duck leg with hoisin wrapped in a soft steamed bun
Second wave – with choice of Nespresso coffee or Newby of London tea
Avocado Maki Roll – traditional soft rice wrapped in nori and filled with avocado and wasabi
Squid Ink tapioca Cracker with beetroot cured salmon and grapefruit – crisp tapioca cracker with beetroot cured salmon and grapefruit gel
Yuzu and Lime Curd Tartlet – graham cracker tart filled with sweet yuzu lemon and lime curd
Hazelnut and Chocolate Delice – a rich hazelnut and chocolate layered mousse cake glazed with fine chocolate
Spiced strawberry trifle – layered trifle with compressed intense strawberries and spiced biscuit crumb
Orange scone with orange curd – orange blossom scone with orange curd
We started off with our ginger and lemon iced tea which was very un-tea-like (much to mum’s joy – she hates tea). The High Tea options at Robata include the optional addition of a cocktail or champagne, so we both opted for a little non-alcoholic cocktail – a ‘Viva Coco’ for me and an ‘English Garden’ for mum. Both were light and refreshing and exactly what you’d expect from a ‘pan-Asian’ restaurant.
Okay, enough of the mucking about with mocktails and on to the stuff you want to hear about. The first wave came in a traditional bamboo steamer. First up was the chicken yakitori. I have to say, I’m a massive fan of chicken thighs, they’re just so much more tender and full of flavour than breast.
These were lightly flavoured with soy, and both they and the pieces of leek they were skewered with were browned and slightly charred (in a good way).
Underneath were prawn and tofu balls in a panko breadcrumb coating. Not something I thought I’d enjoy but the minced prawn and tofu gave a nice little burst of chilli and ginger once you broke through the crispy panko breadcrumb coating.
But of the first wave, it was the Duck Long Bao that knocked our socks off. Think the winning flavours of that old classic, crispy duck in pancakes, but in a whole new league. The shredded duck mixed with sweet, sticky hoisin sauce, was instead wrapped in a soft steamed bun. A winner. I could have eaten about eight of these.
Let’s also not forget the sweet chilli sauce they came with. Apparently the guys at Robata make theirs on site, and it really was a cut above your average Tesco sweet chilli sauce.
So on to Wave 2 it was. And this ladies and gents, I have to say, was one of the – if not THE – most impressive afternoon tea displays I’ve ever seen. Look, just look, at that glorious arrangement of delights! Cue a seriously excited mother and daughter. Each element was exquisitely presented, with a level of detail you don’t always see. It really was a joy to look at, hence the many, many photos.
One of the fun things about any kind of tea, afternoon or high, is deciding what order to eat the different parts in. It was a no-brainer to go for the bottom shelf first, since that had the savoury offerings on it.
First up was an Avocado Maki Roll. Maki rolls aren’t my favourite kind of sushi, I’m more of a sashimi kind of girl, as you’ll have seen from my musings on places like Rofuto and Yo! Sushi. It didn’t blow me away, but was nice enough and well put together, with a warmth of wasabi and creaminess of avocado.
Much more up my street was the squid ink tapioca cracker – another thing they make in-house – delicately decorated with ruby red beetroot-cured salmon and a little blob of grapefruit gel that added a citrus twist. This looked, and tasted, fab and was certainly a million miles from your average afternoon tea.
Savoury done, we moved on to the sweet. And what a selection of sweet it was. This is where the tough decisions on what order to tackle them came in. I started with the orange blossom scone with orange curd. The scone was light and still warm, and the curd was sweet yet tangy.
While I was munching on the scone, mum had started with the Yuzu and Lime Curd Tartlet because she thought it would be her least favourite. Oh, how wrong she was. Neither of us could quite believe how such a tiny treat could hold such a rainbow of colours, flavours and scrumminess.
The meringue on top was sickly sweet and gooey, not chalky, while the green disc next to it was a melt-in-the-mouth disc of chocolate. And next to that, not just an innocent little raspberry, but a raspberry that seemed to be filled with an intense raspberry coulis that hit you like a little flick on the nose.
All that before you even got to the tart itself. Custard laced with the citrus flavours of yuzu and lime, encased in a crunchy graham cracker base that hid inside it a secret layer of chocolate.
That done, we weren’t sure anything else would quite hit the bar. We both moved on to the spiced strawberry trifle, leaving the hazelnut and chocolate delice until last. Trifle is such an English staple, I wasn’t sure it would do much for me, especially after the wonder that was the Yuzu and Lime Curd Tartlet.
I was left impressed yet again. The trifle looked fab, but there was far more to it than your average fruit custard and cream. The strawberries had been rendered into an intense, fruity sweetness, layered with what was one of the most perfect creme patissieres I’ve ever had. And with each mouthful, there was the added texture of tiny lumps of biscuit crumb. Another fab twist on a classic.
And so to the grand finale, the Hazelnut and Chocolate Delice. When Paul Hollywood talks about the mirror-like sheen on a chocolate ganache, this is what he means. You could nearly see your face in it.
I knew it was going to be good, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the sugar hit that came with the first mouthful of the layered mousse underneath. This was the mouthful that started the sweating round my eyes and, in fact, prompted both me and mum to laugh out loud at its crazy sweetness. A strong Nespresso coffee with it (you get that with Wave 2) was just about enough bitterness to counteract it and help us survive to the end, but we were well and truly done.
While you may think I spend my life eating out, I don’t actually indulge in too many sweet things, so this afternoon of sugar-filled fun left me and mum seriously giddy from over-indulgence. With the giggles continuing, we staggered out of Robata full of beans and ready for an afternoon of shopping.
Though that wasn’t before we had a good look at the dinner and lunch menus, planning our return, and I had a sneak peek at some of the dishes from the new menu that were being tested and trust me, they look good.
And so, food fans, if you’re looking for an afternoon tea with a difference, I can recommend Robata. The interior’s great, the service is too, but more importantly, the attention to detail in taste and flavour of every single element of our impressive high tea was astounding.
It’s all too easy to chuck together some sweet treats and put them on an impressive stand, but Robata really seem to have put a lot of love into creating something that knocks your socks off. Try it, I dare you – but remember you might get the sugar sweats 😉
I was invited for a complimentary high tea at Robata, but wasn’t asked for a positive review.
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