Sipping from a pot of tea and munching on the juicy, tender corned lamb shoulder, Alvin Thomas gets transported to a cozy tea room in the UK sitting right here in Muscat — dream blends with reality seamlessly.
Have you ever imagined joining the Queen of England for tea and scones at the renowned Buckingham Palace? My current outing at the Tea Library could be the closest to that dream.
No, this is not a story of sipping tea and chatting about pet dogs with Queen Elizabeth II but rather a quick snacking session with Y’s editor Nishad Padiyarath.
Close enough? Maybe not, but I’ll tell you why it is nearly up there. The Tea Library at the Sheraton Oman is the closest you can ever be to drinking traditional tea in the UK – I’m serious.
For starters, the interior décor of the Tea Library is reminiscent to that of Britain’s finest architecture; it’s simply superb.
Sure, it may be a far stretch from most tea or coffee lounges in Oman, but the way the decorators have captured the essence of the tea-loving nation is truly commendable.
It’s unlike anything I had ever seen. Upon entering the lounge, you are greeted by tall glass tubes with tea leaves in them.
It reminded me of those tall pipes from the organs that they usually have in churches in Europe. Truly, all of this must be seen to be believed.
The waiter handed us the menu. We quickly opted for a serving of the Delicious Meatwich On Caraway Rye (yes, that’s what it’s called) and a Lamb Chipwich.
It took them 10-odd minutes to prepare, but I didn’t sense the time flying as I was constantly clicking photos and sharing them on Facebook. There is a group of envious friends who do not follow my social feeds anymore.
The sandwich Nishad ordered contained corned beef brisket, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing; it was all neatly packed in two crispy slices of thick Rye bread.
While the sandwich was fresh and delightful, Nishad said it wasn’t too fancy to write home about.
My Lamb Chipwich, however, told a different tale. Finished in a pile of crispy chips, harissa corned lamb shoulder, mint-rucola and garlic cream, it was the best sandwich I had ever tasted!
It felt like it was a touch above the gourmet sandwiches that you can usually order from expensive restaurants across the capital. The corned lamb shoulder was juicy and tender, and the blend of garlic cream gave the sandwich its distinct flavour. Still, the flavour didn’t overpower the lamb and the rye.
The vegetables were garden-fresh but cheese lovers may want to opt for an additional serving of Feta cheese on the side.
Next, we chose to have a serving of cake. I decided to go for the Chocoholic Treat, while Nishad went for his favourite – Red Velvet cake.
While my cake stood out with its various shades of chocolate (and different palates), Nishad’s cake took the cherry (figuratively) with its melt-in-the-mouth red velvety sponge. I had to concede that he had made the right choice.
We were then ready for the ‘Signature Tea’ – the Flowering Lily & Jasmine – which was a broad base of green tea buds topped with crown of orange lily petals and a tower of Jasmine flowers.
The presentation was an art in itself; the chef brought us the tea buds before setting it in our glass pot.
The hot water then extracted every ounce of flavour, aroma and natural colour from the bud, thereby creating a very fragrant tea. The bud slowly spread apart to form a flower, as it began diffusing its flavour slowly.
A simple compliment wouldn’t do justice; it was that great. Every sip evoked a different response from my taste buds. The essences were distinct – there was the delicate flavour of lily, accompanied by the aromatic jasmine strains, and then the bitterness of the green tea.
Of course, as the tea cooled down, the bitterness of the tea also dissipated. But I could easily swig down more servings of the tea with no haste. Soon, Nishad and I also found ourselves indulging in a light-hearted conversation about tea, which slowly trickled down to other aspects of life: politics, televisions and then music.
Without knowing, we had already passed the two-hour mark.
This is probably where the Tea Library scores points: it gives visitors an opportunity to spend time in absolute comfort while sipping on their favourite teas and munching on savouries.
Never again will I question the people who love spending hours over a cup of tea or coffee as they chat away with their friends.
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Excellent variety of tea served with a smile. The ambience is perfect, too.