Santa Claus comes to Tea in Beijing!

My Festive challenge : Find 3 fantastic Christmas Inspired Afternoon Tea’s in Asia. December festivities have taken me to the Great Wall of China, the city that never sleeps – Hong Kong and Singapore for a Singapore Slinging Christmas.  Starting the advent month with an exhilarating trip to Beijing with temperatures of -4C, a cosy and warm Festive Afternoon Tea @ China World Hotel Lobby Lounge felt Christmas fitting! Reviews by City Weekend rated China World Hotel as the leader for Afternoon Tea in Beijing. With limited time in Beijing I took on their ranking and paid a visit to the busy China World Trade Centre. The hotel was decked out in full Christmas cheer and had me excited with anticipation of what an afternoon tea service would be like in China.

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The Christmas Afternoon Tea set is priced at RMB328 +15% service charge and includes two teas, coffees or hot chocolate. Tea selection is broken down into three categories with multiple options available in each selection: Classic Tea Selection (English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Darjeeling, Assam and Sencha), Chinese Tea Selection (Jasmine, Pu’er, Chrysanthemum) and Herbal Tea Selection (Peppermint and Chamomile). For an added indulgent there is also a Champagne Afternoon Tea option available which I took along with my option for a hot chocolate.

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The table setting was quite vintage with white lacy dollies and striped armchairs. The hot chocolate was divine and rich, I had two cups! The Perrier Jouet Brut was accompanied with the most moorish sweet popcorn, I just couldn’t stop!

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The Tea Stand was presented in true festive glitter…it just brought the biggest ‘big kid’ smile to my face…I knew this was going to be a tasty tea!

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Chinese snacks were next in line for demolishment. The BBQ Pork Pao was decent not like the delicious ones you get in Hong Kong or Singapore but still fun to have at tea time. IMG_0041

The scones were good and the variation of a chocolate scone was interesting but the real highlight was the  Clotted cream, one of the best Tea condiments I have tried in Asia. The egg custard tartlet was also a great alternative option but lacked a little on taste.

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The finger sandwiches were a good palate cleanser to make way for more sweet pastries, of which the Cinnamon Stars were a favourite.

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The China World Hotel is one of the few afternoon tea events in Beijing that requires a reservation to ensure a seat at their fantastic Tea.

Top Tip: I would highly recommend doing a bit research before heading to Beijing, the Internet and language can be a bit of an obstacle if you are not mandarin speakers. City Weekend was a helpful guide for dining and restaurant reviews.

Lost in Translation Afternoon Tea @ The Park Hyatt Tokyo

Courtesy of the “Lost in Translation” movie The Park Hyatt in Tokyo has become a stomping ground for tourists to stop by for a cocktail @ The New York bar on the 52nd floor. The bar hosted the famous scenes between Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansen and has admiring skyline views of Tokyo City – worthy for a tipple pit stop. 

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The New York Bar opens for the evening and gives an opportunity to see the sun set over the city. The food and drink is suitably New York inspired with great american cocktail options, I opted for a Pisco Sour which was fresh and frothy!

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We took the opportunity to dine at the Park Hyatt’s Peak Lounge for Afternoon Tea in their Skylit Bamboo Garden so that we could indulge in great natural light views of the city. In our time in Tokyo the Park Hyatt’s views were the best we had seen – due to its location being a bit afar from the action it gave a wide city view.

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The atrium had a wonderful spaccey feel due to its large glassed windsows and high covex ceilings. The decor was a little underwelming but the views made up for it.

The Afternoon Tea menu provided a vast tea selection, ranging from the traditional to herbal and japanese varieties. There was also an option to have a completely “Sweet Afternoon Tea” however I have chose the Traditonal “Afternoon Tea” to sample their savoury bites. Both menus were priced the same at 3800Yen.

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After selecting our teas the finger sandwiches soon followed. The Japanese have a way of making things very cute and precise, and this tea was no different! The sandwiches were some of the smallest and cutest I have ever seen…..who knew you could make white sliced bread thumb size?!

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The tea settings were pretty and the cutlery – simple and white elegant.

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Scones came out warm with a variety of Praline & Plain. This was the first Praline scone i have ever tasted and I loved the caramelised flavour it added to the crumbly scone. The condiments were good but portions of the clotted cream required me to request for an encore.

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Just when I thought it was time to start on the sweet pastries we were surprised with a variety of savoury canapés….

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Once we had tasted all the little additions we started devouring our sweets. Favourites were the chocolate & cassis mousse and macaroons. Alike to the savoury round, additional sweet treats were presented and the sweet square jellies were moorish!

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All in all the Park Hyatt tea was a well executed afternoon tea service with fantastic views of the city. The wide variety of treats and extensive brew menu should find something to your fancy. A little refurb on the sofa and a few more flower displays would notch up the deco.

I would highly recommend a cocktail at the New York bar….its famous after afterall!

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L’Eclair High Tea is the way you host a Pop Up!

Singapore’s Pop up events have started to take a real swing! 2014 has seen bespoke Cocktail Bars Popping up all over town with heaps of creativity and award winning mixologists mixing up notorious local flavours with hardcore liquor. Home-ware and boutique fashion markets appear available for browsing nearly weekly and of course interesting Food Pop Ups are stepping out constantly. Being a foodie city that specialises in local street food delicacies, Pop Up Food cartels in Singapore have high expectations upon them and rightly so. I recently dined at a wonderful pop-up cafe conecptulaised by two Singaporean ladies Michelle Looi & Sarah Tan of L’ÉCLAIR. The event is called DINETTE and is held at the Three Years In A Balloon Cafe.

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Dinette is running every weekend from 8-30 November between 1-6pm, serving a High Tea for 2, which showcases their spectacular eclairs and includes some light savoury bites, macaroons and coffee/tea. The ladies were inspired by the fine patisserie they had devoured in Paris and have since been driven to re-create the perfect eclair. After much research and experimentation they have created 8 unique eclair flavours. Their menu had us teased and boy were we pleased when presented with the swirl of mini-eclairs. Top 3 Favourites in taste order – Ispahan (Rose, Lychee, Raspberry), Madagascar Vanilla Bean & Caramelised Pecans and Hazelnut Praline. That said all the eclairs were divine but these 3 were so exceptional for me that I bought a box of eight of them to take away!

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It would be wrong to not mention the savoury offerings L’eclair provided as they were the best high tea savoury bites I have had in Singapore. No question these ladies are giving the hotel establishments a run for their money. I was still thinking about their Chicken & Bacon Basque pie the next morning. The pastry was Very Francais – butter, butter, butter!!  The “Peking Duck” mini sandwiches were peking good and  had me thinking why I had not made them at home before! The pistachio crumbed white bread really showed their ability to go further then the average high tea though. Hats off L’Eclair Ladies!

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Their creativity in this pop-up is dreamy and the flavour concoctions superb. Quite frankly the most stunning looking eclairs I have seen to date! Fear not if you are unable to get a table, it has been a booked event with a waiting list – (that does open up though – so try)! or else L’eclair are going to be at Naiise Xmas Pop-up Store on 6th & 7th Dec, 12-7pm at 72 Dunlop Street! IMG_0048

The Afternoon Tea Room @ Grand Front Osaka

Now for something quite different – afternoon tea in the centre of Osaka, Japan’s foodie capital – for those more interested in the local delicacies watch out for my next blog on our own Nippon food safari in Osaka.

Located in the new and vast Grand Front Osaka complex in the Umeda area which housed several great dining areas (Umekita cellar and Umekita dining) as well as some off-beat stores and cafes. There is one shop that immediately grabbed my attention, fittingly named Afternoon Tea. This store has both a retail and a cafe side to indulge in some high tea –  eating your cake and shopping concurrently – quite my dream day!

Upon entrance the store is full of tea time goodies which immediately gets you in the mood for a cup of brew and some teatime fancies.

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There is a great diversity of tea-related items including tea towels, mugs, other kitchen related bits and bobs and of course many many different types of teas! After browsing for quite a while I was no longer able to resist and filled my basket with a number of goodies from this wonderful shop.

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One of the highlights of the shopping spree was the superb precision gift wrapping   (which is fantastic in most Japanese stores). They have  seriously nailed all things art, craft and gift wrapping in Japan!

Shopping done. Now time for Tea & Cake!

We went for the traditional afternoon tea set priced at 1,400 yen. For this you get a pot of tea and a choice of 3 types of sweets presented in a beautifully weaved Japanese basket. I went for the traditional scone, an apple strudel and a berry mousse short cake that was the special of the week.

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For those looking for a sweet little tea snack (post lunch) thats not going to stop you from your shopping spree – this is a perfect teatime pit stop!

The scones were a real highlight, warm, crunchy and with a great texture they were wonderful with the jam and the very whipped japanese cream which was to die for! The Apple Pie Cake was buttery and scrummy, the short cake was amazingly light and tasty, I would eat it all again.

We had the Earl Grey tea which was nothing to write home about, I would suggest trying something different, perhaps the matcha green tea next time, and maybe save space for a savoury main course too. Definitely pop in if you love your kitchen home ware!

Also check out their website for more info (in Japanese) or to ogle at the homeware goodies!

http://www.afternoon-tea.net

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Singapore Heritage Afternoon Tea

The recently re-vamped Clifford Pier @ The Fullerton Bay Hotel hosts a wonderful Singaporean Heritage Afternoon Tea. Full of novel tea time treats that are spun off favourite Singaporean local flavours this Tea Time does not disappoint.

Singaporean cookbook author, Shermay Lee, curates a selection of 8 savoury and 8 sweet items to reflect Singapore’s multifavoured culinary past and present. The little ‘creations are handcrafted with a nod to traditional skills and are based on heirloom recipes handed down to Shermay from her late grandmother, Mrs Lee Chin Koon, author of the famous Mrs Lee’s Cookbook and widely recognized as the doyenne of Peranakan cuisine in Singapore.’

Like all Afternoon Tea rituals we commenced ours with a selection of brew and were thrilled by the local options. The deliciously sweet Teh Tarik being the most popular on our table I opted for the strongly brewed Moroccan Mint Tea.

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In good stead we kicked off with the 8 Savoury items which were topped up galore! Firm favourites were the nostalgic Kueh Pie Tee, Bak Kwa Jam Sandwich and Chilli Crab Bao. (for novel Singaporean eaters check the menu pic for the delicious details). 

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Being a condiment connoisseur I was excited by the choice of asian dipping pots – sweet and savoury were both demolished. The fiery local red garlic chilli sauce was yumtastic when accompanied with the sweet and sticky Kurobuta Pork Kong Ba Bao and Nonya Chicken Curry Roti Jala Wrap.

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The Tropical scones were surprisingly crumbly and moist (not a norm in Singapore’s humidity), and the Pineapple-Vanilla Jam and Kaya spread were very well paired. I would say a really good scone job done by Clifford Pier!

For those who have room – 8 Sweet Singaporean treats await you! The Hainanese Roti with Kaya got my attention first as did the Sugee Financier and Bandung Macaroon. The bright green Pandan Swiss Roll unfortunately didn’t deliver for me – a bit dense which was a shame as I love Pandan!

This is the Ultimate Tea for those who love to savour the culinary delights of Singapore or for those that want an intro into Singapore’s long love affair of blended South East Asian cuisine. The Clifford Pier’s colonial feel is a well suited venue for the Heritage Tea with its oppulent deck and great views of the Singapore River.

For reservations, email cliffordpier@fullertonbayhotel.com

http://www.fullertonbayhotel.com/latest-specials/culinary/heritage-afternoon-tea

Birdcage Afternoon Tea @ W Singapore

W Singapore housed on Sentosa hosts a modern afternoon tea with their – Birdcage W T Time. Seated in the sparkly purple Woo Bar, Birdcages of sweet treats decent to each lounge @ $58 per cage (for 2 persons).

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The Savoury beginnings were plentiful with staff continually topping up. Favourites were the Tikka Inspired Salmon, Mint & Spice Poppadum, Torched Double Brie, Pickled Cucumber Nigiri and the ultra favourite Chocolate Ganache Foie Gras Tartsextremely tasty and well balanced with a sparkling gold leaf topping!

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Being a fan of Chilli Crab I was excited by the arrival of The Double Cooked Hen’s Egg, Chilli Crab Mantou, tasty they were but slightly over done. Softer buns please!

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The desserts were decent – but lacking in some scones! In replace were some sort of jam fruit filo tartlets which I didn’t waste my time trying. The Chocolate tea cup and Fresh Berry Trifle Shot were far more appealing and tasty enough to leave appeased.

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All in all a relatively reasonable Afternoon Tea overlooking some prettiness of Singapore with all the dazzle of the W Hotel.

To book your Cage…..http://www.wsingaporesentosacove.com/en/woobar

 

Ham Yard Hotel – To Tea or Not to Tea?

My London Afternoon Tea Safari broke a new record,  4 afternoon teas in 6 days. The last Tea Date took me to the newest Firmdale group opening – The Ham Yard Hotel in Soho.  The Ham Yard is defiantly one of their most flamboyant, owned by Tim and Kit Kemp with their beautiful british interiors designed by Kit. The Ham Yard describes itself as a boutique village with the hotel revolving around a tree-filled garden square. Guests are are not only spoilt in their beautifully designed bedrooms (91 rooms) but also by the array of communal areas, shops and skyline views of London from their unique rooftop bar.

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Floors of colourful glittery art and luxe aesthetics make you want to explore every room, and rooms of interest are a plenty. A quick whizz around the hotel is definitely worth it before you cosy up to your scones. The Library is a particular British beauty as was the quirky basement private bar and dining rooms. I couldn’t help myself from continually taking snaps of trinkets of art dispersed all over the hotel. Her Majesty also had her special place!

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The route to the gorgeous basement bar was guided by walls of vibrant colour, eclectic fabrics and strokes of fun pop art. It was an enjoyable four floor walk.

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Now for the private bar and dining rooms, what gorgeousness for an exclusive party. Situated next to a “wedding chapel”, “The Croc” 1950’s bowling alley and private theatre, I would assume many great PR parties are to be hosted at the Ham Yard.

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Though my party was a tea party I was neither disappointed with the beauty of the adjourning main floor bar and restaurant. Before my tea was served I took a moment to have a tipple and meet the friendly cocktail makers for a glass of Cherry Pie! I would recommend their freshly made aperitifs but get there before the Soho herds come in at 7pm, or on a warm day get a seat in the outdoor courtyard.

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Afternoon Tea was hosted by an adorable waiter who showed me the way to the pretty conservatory lounge. Modern taupe and grey macerated the walls and wooden ornaments filled the gaps.

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The menu for the Afternoon tea was flexible in that you could choose whether you desire to have the set tea menu or opt and pay for only tea addition items.  So great if you are not a sweet tooth as you can stock up on all savoury or great if you only want scones!

I opted for the set Afternoon Tea (that changes weekly) for a very reasonable 18pp. The Peppermint Tea came highly recommended so I took it and agree it was one of the better ones I have had. My tricky choice came with the bubbles –  the selection is divine and I upgraded with a smooth pink glass of Roger Pouillion Rose de Maceration Brut 1er Cru. I would again, and again!

The smiles were all out when the purple multilayered plates of savoury rolls and sweet cream morsels arrived. Particular favourites were the Chorizo Sausage Rolls and Pulled Duck Sliders. The scones were good and better then many others I have tried at other London Hotel establishments,  but their sweet green pistachio and blueberry profiterole was a master gem of the sweet items for me.

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Considering the beautiful setting, great service and tasty tea treats I would highly recommend the Ham Yard’s extremely well priced tea service. The hotel’s decor is worth the visit in itself and I would definitely drop in again for an aperitif, scone or nightcap! A gem in Soho.

Check out the Ham Yard Village……@ https://www.firmdalehotels.com/hotels/london/ham-yard-hotel/