Dame Kelly Holmes tries Japanese afternoon tea ahead of Tokyo 2020

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The double Olympic gold medallist is getting a taste for Japan, trying a new Japanese afternoon tea at Akira.

“I’ve never been to Japan, but I’ve always been fascinated by the country. I wanted to see what a Japanese afternoon tea would consist of – our ones are a carb overload, with cakes you can’t even finish because you’ve stuffed your face too much, so I expected it to be a lot different – and it was. 

The venue was Akira at Japan House, on Kensington High Street in London. You go upstairs to a clean-looking room with an open-plan kitchen: it was very white and minimalist. I took my friend Kerrie, who’s just celebrated her 50th birthday; we’ve been friends since our first day of school.

I love my herbal teas and you can choose from Japanese green teas or smoked black teas. I had the sakura, which is smoked with cherry tree wood. They describe it as clean, rich, botanical and fruity, and you really could taste the smoke.

Dame Kelly Holmes afternoon tea Akira London with friend
Tea for two: Kelly Holmes and her friend Kerrie.

The food – sweet and savoury – was all served on one plate and it looked very pretty. The crockery was mismatched and very homemade looking. We had three sushi rolls; the best one was spicy prawn. As well as an eel roll, there was a vegetarian one with cress and cucumber which was nice and fresh – a different take on the cucumber sandwich. Then there was a warm mushroom croquette that had a really lovely flavour with a small mayo dab on top. I asked for another one because I liked it so much.

There were more sweet than savoury options, with three sponges (strawberry was best) and a lot of matcha. Three sweets had a texture similar to Turkish delight, but with a very subtle taste, and I would have liked a stronger flavour.

I haven’t tried much Japanese food but I would be more inclined to now. The biggest difference is that British afternoon teas tend to have a lot more food, so although we didn’t feel full, we did enjoy trying new things. It’s a little bit of Japan in London.

If you’d like to experience something different and go with an open mind, then it’s definitely worth it.”

Japanese afternoon tea for two, £28 per person, Akira at Japan House, London, W8; japanhouselondon.uk

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Jenny Tregoning

Jenny Tregoning is deputy production editor and food editor at Stylist, where she combines her love of grammar with lusting over images of food

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