Zafferano, Four Seasons Hotel Baku, Neftchilar Prospekti 1, Baku www.fourseasons.com Tel.: +994 12404 2424
Imagine Miss Marple, the Joan Hickson version rather than Margaret Rutherford, and you get an idea of my mother-in-law. She’s got that sort of beady eye and super sharp, super quick brain. She’s a Soduko Queen and a Bridge Maven and, at a very fit 85, she still travels from Surrey to Tasmania for two months every year where – wait for this! – she dresses head to toe in black leathers and goes around in the motorbike side car driven by a similarly adventurous Tassie friend! Her interest in life and everything around her have kept her young at heart and open minded and she is great fun company, so we were really pleased when this intrepid traveler decided to pay us a visit in Baku.
Now, the two of us get on like a house on fire, so don’t expect any snide mother-in-law jokes from me but let’s face it, one still desperately wants to make a good impression! So where to take the m-i-l on her first day in Baku? It seemed like a total no brainer: a meander around picturesque Icheri Şeher ( Old Town) and then afternoon tea in the traditional grandeur of the Four Seasons Hotel. Splendid! Perfect for a genteel lady from Surrey! The sun was shining and the lovely husband was in attendance, so tea for three on the terrace of the Zafferano restaurant it was.
The menu looked mouthwatering: finger sandwiches, little cakes and scones with clotted cream and jam. Just the ticket!
Oh but the disappointment! What was billed as egg mayonnaise sandwiches had less than a tea spoon of egg in the rather dry focaccia, the roast beef in mini baguettes was very bready and dry too. The little smoked salmon wraps were quite nice but not amazing by any stretch of the imagination, the duck pate squares looked beige and sad. The so called mini trifles consisted of a few raspberries with a dollop of clotted cream on a base of mini croutons without custard or sherry and, strangely, served without spoons. The little lemon meringue pies and the chocolate fondants were good but the macaroons were nothing Ladure or Pierre Herme would ever dare to serve up. The scones were overbaked, tasteless, hard and crumbly although the raspberry jam passed muster. The m-i-l and the husband ordered English Breakfast Tea but had to ask for milk which was not automatically served. I picked a Green Tea with ginger, mint and lemon which sounded very refreshing but got a pot of boiled water with some whole peeled ginger root swimming in it, only on my second request were the other ingredients added. Our server seemed like a nice helpful chap but in a hotel of that calibre, you do expect the staff to know how to lay a table properly, with cups on the right of plates.
In the past, I have had a few lovely lunches at Zafferano and the environment there is very elegant and appealing but in terms of their Afternoon Tea, I am sorry to say that they must try quite a bit harder. On this occasion, their efforts were well below par, especially considering the standard one expects from an International five star hotel with a price tag to match. Tea for two was AZN 42 with the third single afternoon tea at AZN 29.