High Tea in Hong Kong - Peninsula Hotel
Wednesday, November 22nd
Afternoon Tea is one of my favorite things. There's something wonderful about dressing up and sitting at a nicely decorated table without having a care in the world. The waiter comes by to explain the tea options. You look over at your friend and both nod that of course champagne is necessary for tea time. The tea is poured quietly and elegantly and the tray of food arrives to the delight of everyone at the table. Time drifts away as you catch up with whoever is at your table while snacking on little sandwiches, scones and of course, the pastries.
Today was no exception.
As we began researching the trip to Hong Kong, it became very clear that we would be going to Afternoon Tea while we were here. The bigger question was where we wanted to go. One place stood out from the rest. The Peninsula Hotel. They were said to have the best tea in Hong Kong. Done.
Now here's the thing. The Peninsula Hotel does not accept reservations for tea. Their tea is served every day from 2p-6p.
The only day that would work with our schedule was Arrival Day. Thankfully, we were able to check into our AirBNB early. We walked the streets of Hong Kong a little dazed after traveling almost 24 hours to get to this point. We figured out the subway (super easy) and astonishingly we made it to the hotel almost 20 minutes early for service.
That was the moment we realized. Our idea of having Afternoon a Tea was not an original one.
The line for the parlor stretched quite a ways down the lobby of the hotel. And all we could do was wait, hoping we had arrived early enough to get in during the first seating.
There were two sides of the parlor, separated by the entrance to the hotel. This was able to put our minds at ease a bit that we would actually get fed in the near future. As the people ahead of us started being seated, the people eating lunch prior to the tea service were finishing their meals. The line of eager tea consumers moved at a decent speed to start. I've always believed that if a line was at least moving, it was better than nothing. We made it to the front of the line after about 10 minutes or so once the tea patrons began being seated. Soon, we were being ushered to a table and excited for what was ahead of us.
The menu was mostly straight forward. There were the tea options. Or you could order most of the items a la carte. We decided on the tea service, of course. With the glass of champagne, of course. But this is where we noticed a few inconsistencies with what we were expecting.
The servers took quite a while to arrive. While I'm sure they know what they are doing, it just felt like they were understaffed today. Also, the menu was a little lacking in the descriptions of the teas. Maybe I'm high maintenance or expect too much. But if you're going to list the Peninsula Afternoon Tea as an option, I'd like to know what the flavor profile is for this particular blend.
These inconsistencies were brushed away quickly as the place setting began to unfold. Multiple servers arrived with our items. The placemat and silver flatware were placed in front of us. The saucer and cup were off to the right. A bottle of water was put in a silver holder and was poured into a glass. The champagne arrived, first poured into Adele's glass for approval. Once she smiled and happily nodded that this was wonderful, the other glasses were filled.
Of course, we first made a toast to how a ridiculous trip was happening. Again. Our good luck with catching fares and finding just the right people who want to be a part of these trips was something to toast. And the champagne was wonderful.
Quietly, a beautiful three-tiered tray was placed on our table. And we were off to the races.
Again, though, I have to admit I was a little disappointed in the service. There was no real explanation of what we had been given.
The scones were obvious. There were six large raisin scones.
The sandwiches were not as obvious. One was a ham sandwich. The cucumber was easy enough to figure out. One was a spinach puff?? And the last, we had to all figure out while we were eating. Egg salad?? No. Tuna salad?? Wait. Egg salad is one layer and tuna another. Yeah. I think that was the thing.
The pastry layer was a similar situation. But as a server came by to make sure we had enough hot water in our tea pot, I asked what these were. We had a lime tea cake with cassis, an orange macaron, a green cookie with strawberry cream, and a passion fruit curd with panna cotta. Wonderful.
Once we began eating, the mammoth day started melting away. We were so tired already. The good part about deciding to have tea today was that it would get us moving and keep enough caffeine in us to push through to the end of the day, where we would surely collapse into a heap (we did).
Every 10 minutes or so, another server would come by and discreetly pour additional hot water into the tea pot to keep it full. Classy move.
The dirty little secret about Afternoon Tea, though is you think you're going to have a small amount of food. You won't. We were groaning as we kept shoveling the food in (daintily, of course. We are civilized ladies.). The sandwiches were very good (though the cucumber could have used something to jazz it up). The scones were remarkable. They were great on their own, but the clotted cream and raspberry jam were wonderful. No lemon curd though. Disappointing. The pastries...come on. Passion fruit was my favorite one. But as I kept eating, I knew I couldn't continue. Too much food. We left three scones on the table, feeling disappointed that we couldn't finish them.
It took a while before we were able to catch someone, anyone's eye to bring us the check. Again, it's a small thing, but it was noticeable. That was forgotten almost instantly though, as the server asked if we wanted the scones boxed up to go. Ummm, yeah we do!!
Between the tea, champagne and service charge, we each spent $78 USD for the tea and champagne. The price was on par with the other teas on this level in other cities. Even with the small issues, I would very much recommend coming here. Though, I'd get here early. As we left after 4p, there was still a line to get in.