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.

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

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

 

To Tea or Not To Tea – The Penultimate Round

Before the summer escapes us, why not dose up on all things summery! 

The Intercontinental London Westminster promises to take you back to childhood memories of a day at the seaside with their British Summer Holiday afternoon tea, available from 1st July – 31st August 2014 for £37.50 per person, including free pouring Laurent-Perrier Brut Champagne.

Drawn to novelty themes and Brighton Beach, “The British Summer Holiday” felt worthy a try on my tea safari around London –  and who can resist an offer of free pouring Champagne on a summers day!

The Intercontinental is well situated across St James Park tube station and a great spot if you are in the vicinity of Westminster. The hotel is as one would hope in the area, professional, organised and elegantly furnished. Greeted by a very friendly and helpful bowler-hatted doorman I was led straight to the fresh furnished tea lounge.

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The lounge is spacious allowing friends to enjoy uncivilised conversation without neighbours eavesdropping. Decorated with modern sofas and high stem brightly flowers the lounge exceeded my expectations.The service however did not. Being the first to arrive I requested to choose our table but was given a flat no with no explanation as to why. Still bemuses me as the room never filled to its full capacity even upon our departure 3 hours later.

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The service continued to be professional but lacking in warmth, but it is the city, and warm and friendly don’t always tend to be part and parcel of its horticulture. Oh well, you can’t have it all but you can drink free flow bubbles. Silver Lining!

Now for their menu, “The British Summer Holiday Afternoon Tea begins with a Picnic Treat of Miniature Pork Pie with homemade Piccalilli and a Prawn Cocktail shot, followed by a selection of Finger Sandwiches that include classic summer favourites of egg and cress, cucumber and mint, smoked salmon and coronation chicken”. This can also be adapted for those with dietary requirements, including gluten free, pork free and vegetarian options.  I opted for the menu as it stands and had friends opt for the vegetation alterations. On conclusion of the savory feast, the vegetarians seemed most gratified – The green based quiche won them over and my pork pie was not able to tie.

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The Scones were a tad unmemorable but their selection of adjourning condiments stuck to mind – offers of both Marmalade and a Strawberry and Yoghurt variety with delicious Lemon Curd, Strawberry Jam and Clotted Cream. Don’t stuff here as  “just before the tide comes in, the sweet selection arrives in the form of The Beach – a fanciful array of a seaside fun, complete with Chocolate Fudge Beach Huts, Cherry Cheesecake Bucket and Spades, Peach Mousse Sandcastles, Toffee and Chocolate Wheels and Jivara Chocolate Cones all of which sit on almond sand.”

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All elements of the Beach including the crumble sand were delicious and had you wanting more, especially the spongy chocolate beach huts! A special pink lemonade was served up at the Beach and was a fun little surprise to round off the tea.

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With a week of August to go I would recommend the Intercontinental Westminster for their Brightly British Summer Afternoon Tea. The Beach being the highlight with bubbles a plenty! Book before the 31st August for a Summer Seaside Celebration.

http://westminster.intercontinental.com/afternoon-tea.html

To Tea or Not To Tea

Another day, another scone. My second London tea-themed experience took me to my favourite Drawing rooms within the beautiful and quaint boutique – Ampersand Hotel in South Kensington.

Before I reveal the delicious details of their Afternoon Tea I have to admit I love the Ampersand Hotel and bias happens to creep for me, but for all good reason. After my 6th visit in 12 months I still say its chic, modern and easy to enjoy. That said I am not alone in my opinion – I have taken and recommended many friends to try the Ampersand whether for tea, lunch or dinner or even a night cap and to date all have enjoyed its boutique ambience and personal touch service. Given that the hotel opened in 2012 it remains to hold a new feel upon entering with a gorgeous fresh interior.

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There are plenty of places that serve afternoon tea in London but it pleasures me when I find a place like the Ampersand that is more off the beaten track and yet low on the pretentious pretence that many London establishments hold.  The Drawing rooms relaxed “french finess meets british style” gets you cosy quickly. For me an ideal spot for a pot of tea and girl time gossip.

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Their Afternoon Tea theme alternates every few months inspired by current London events. A long running one is their Science Afternoon Tea – super fun, creative and totally delicious. I really recommend trying it.

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This summer has had three other fun themes inspired by Wimbledon, the Chelsea Flower show and the BBC Proms. A friend of mine tried the Chelsea Flower show tea and voila! Looks pretty divine…..

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The Musical afternoon tea is their current running theme and to my delight I got to try out their musical inspired sweet treats @32.50 pp and 44.50pp with a glass of bubbles.

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The tartines (french open sandwiches) and gougeres (savoury profiteroles) are more then moorish and available with all of their afternoon tea selections. The team are very flexible and invite you to switch and swatch whatever fillings you prefer more of. So great if you are a vegetarian or like me want more of the yummy coronation chicken tartines!

The white chocolate scones really are one of the best in town. Even after my recent scout this month I still think the Ampersand have mastered these beige boys! Worked perfectly with my pot of peppermint tea.

Now for the sweet musical treats, for me the highlight was the passionfruit coulis mousse and salted caramel macaroon. I’m not an avid fan of macaroons usually but these turquoise ones had me wanting more. The cello  cookie, grand piano cake and raspberry mousse cake were all delightful and not too heavy to finish!

The Ampersand team really made the experience a special one. Their friendly Head Chef Chris Golding made a point to escape from his hot kitchen to welcome us and gave us an opportunity to take a tour of where the magic is created. He also provided some extra cakes and brownies on the house for my friends who couldn’t eat the raspberry cake with gelatine in them. Super kind!

Chris introduced his Head Pastry Chef Ji Sun Shin who was busy creating the next batch of delicious cakes.

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Chris also heads up the menu at Apero the main dining restaurant & bar at the Ampersand; its worth checking out for lunch, dinner or like me for cocktails and bites. The menu is always interesting and his selection of house breads such as the flower pot and beetroot buns for the UnBeetable burgers are yum! He’s such a beetroot believer he has one tattooed on his arm! Also, the squid scotch egg is a must – my favourite battered egg to date!

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Another option is to have evening drinks in the Drawing rooms. I have enjoyed their canapés and champagne and found it to be a charming way to catch up with a group before the night begins.

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All in all the Ampersand is an elegant little find that I recommend for any time of day. Their afternoon tea is consistently inspiring and the Drawing rooms a charming cocoon in busy South Kensington. “Brush off your glad rags and try out their Fashion Afternoon Tea” in September and make sure you have a potter around the corners of the hotel and you will find all sorts of character and quirk –  fancy a game of ping pong or vino party….you’ve found a great place!

IMG_5552Find our more at http://www.ampersandhotel.com

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