I love afternoon tea! The extravagance of a mid-afternoon meal of an abundance of savoury and sweet dishes is wonderful. I was therefore intrigued and excited by the idea of Vela pop-up, bringing an Indian high tea to Bristol (Hart’s Bakery to be exact): an afternoon of friends, tea, talk, but most importantly: food. Plates and plates of food! Even my years of eating training were extremely tested that day.
Social media lovers are likely to already be familiar with the hosts: Arushi and Ishita (or @arushiwabisabi and @withmustard_uk). Lovers of food and feeding people, they created a menu that drew on influences and flavours of Gujurat and West Bengal. We arrived a refreshing drink of Lebu Jal (a spiced limeade, made beautiful with fancy cocktail sticks by pearly king cake), while we perused the menu – full of names unknown to me. A small introduction cleared up any confusion before the savoury dishes arrived.
First up, keeping with tradition of high tea: the cheese and cucumber sandwich. This was massively brought to life by the tasty coriander chutney. Many were tempted by seconds; however, I tried to pace myself for the rest of the 12 courses!
Ghugni with luchi – a spiced chickpea dish with crispy flatbread, freshly cooked as we arrived. As you can see, the portions were generous. I was planning a mid-point run at this point.
Handvo. The closest thing I can compare to this to cornbread. It was a bit dry for me, but brought to life by the mango chutney from ginger bread preserves.
Kutchi dabeli – A gorgeous potato based “burger” with chutney and pomegranates. My favourite savoury dish! Potato in bread. yes! Perfect balance of flavours and textures. If I had room I would have eaten a lot of these!
Beautifully soft brioche bun by Hart’s Bakery.
Jhal muri – spicy puffed rice. I can imagine this as a great snack for watching a movie.
Beguni – Aubergine pakoras. A thankfully small dish! Served with Chiili sauce (once again provided by ginger bread preserves)
We were warned that the kewra was a controversial flavour and some may love the Kewra & cardamon choux buns (our first dessert) and some may not. I LOVED IT!!! In fact it was my joint favourite sweet dish. I could eat a whole plateful.
The other joint favourite? The almond cake with rose syrup. Perfectly moist (cake is the only place where the word moist is acceptable). Absolutely stunning to look at, with a sprinkling of gold dust. Delicious flavour combo of almond and rose.
If I wasn’t pacing myself for six desserts (SIX!!!) I could also have easily eaten a lot of the Gajare halwa pie – a carroty, fudgy meringue pie with gorgeously crunchy caramelised nuts and beautiful flower and golden ball toppings. Scrummy!
This is where I hit my wall…
Next up, a steamed yoghurt dish called Bhapa mishti doi. Many around me scoffed this up, but the texture was too odd for me.
Yes, I did start taking notes on my menu…
Luckily the Aam peda, or mango fudge, was small. I am not much of a fan of mango anyway, so could only take a nibble.
I had to draw on special eating reserves for the last course though: Sev Kheer. Similar to rice pudding, but made with vermicelli, this was scrummy. I scraped every last bit of the dish. And then waddled home!
Absolutely beautiful food and exciting flavours throughout. If anything, there was too much!!! (I can’t believe I am saying this…) Arushi and Ishita, you definitely did not need to worry about there not being enough food.
Loved, loved, loved trying all the new dishes and experiencing a new take on high tea. The question is: when is the next one?