Sunday, 20 March 2011

British Tradition Still Going Strong

Afternoon Tea for two at the Four Seasons
Since the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, the mail boxes were removed and coloured green instead of red; street signs remained the same, Queen Elizabeth II was removed from the currency and the city flies the bauhinia flag and the Chinese flag.

But what British tradition is going even stronger than all of these?

Afternoon tea.

It's a favourite past time of tai tais, but everyone seems to like a good bite with a cup of tea in the afternoon and the high-end hotels cash in on it.

A few friends were visiting from out of town and I thought afternoon tea would be a good way for us to catch up. Thinking Central would be best for us, on Friday I tried calling the Mandarin Oriental Clipper Lounge for a Sunday reservation, but it was fully booked. Then I called the MO Bar at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental and it was completely filled up until the end of the month.

Turns out there is a promotion there are the moment where fashionistas can have afternoon tea eating things that designer Stella McCartney likes to nibble on, like inside-out cucumber sandwiches and her spring and summer prints on fondant. It's a steal at HK$200 ($25.64) per person which includes a Stella McCartney gift set too. No wonder the MO Bar was completely booked.

Exasperated at this point I called the Four Seasons and they said it was first come, first served with afternoon tea starting at 3pm. I thought this would be fine as long as I got there early enough.

So today as I was on my way to the Four Seasons, one of my friends called me to say he was already at the hotel. I asked him to put my name down for the afternoon tea. He later called to say I couldn't get a table until 4:30pm. How could that be?

Dessert treats on the top tier
I marched down there and asked the staff what was going on. They showed me a giant wait list and apologized that I'd have to wait until at least 4:30pm for a table. I demanded to know how this could be when it wasn't even 3pm yet and these people weren't even physically here waiting. She eventually explained some people came early and put their name down, probably went to the mall to do some shopping and were due back for their scones and tea.

"So I can come here at 11am and put my name down?" I asked, annoyed that my efforts to go by the rules were in vain. She was surprised I even threw out this possible scenario but did say it was possible. She quickly thought of another solution which was to see if the Blue Bar on the other side of the hotel had a free table.

They did and she personally escorted me there and we had a nice table at the back looking over at a foggy harbour due to the high humidity today. My friends were confused about how I snagged the table but were pleased to see we didn't have to wait.

The afternoon tea set presented in the three-tier silverware is quite good here, and better to share for two, as one portion is HK$200, while it's HK$380 for two. There are some square finger sandwiches at the bottom, cucumber, smoked salmon and ham, as well as a curry chicken, and a mini burger filled with egg salad.

The next tier up has four large scones and generous portions of clotted cream, marmalade and raspberry jam. Finally at the top there are some interesting desserts, a kind of puff pastry with custard in it, a mango mousse with jelly cubes on top, and macaroons topped with strawberries and a bit of gold foil.

We also shared a juicy steak sandwich (HK$180) that came with nice fat fries and ketchup.

We had a good time catching up and were amused watching the next table that seemed to have a power meeting going on that included real estate developer Peter Lam Kin-ngok (林建岳) and they all spoke in Mandarin. While they were chatting, three young leggy Chinese women approached the table, but they were asked to wait elsewhere until they finished their meeting. The men had ordered afternoon tea too but it was left untouched.

It wasn't until after Lam left did the girls return and finish off most of the items on plates with ice tea...

We now know the Four Seasons is where the power brokers are. The ones with the cute arm ornaments...

No comments:

Post a Comment