Saturday 10 November 2012

Afternoon Tea @ VIEW62 by Paco Roncero

The opening of VIEW62 back in May 2012 was highly anticipated. Every food columnist was talking about it - with good reasons. The restaurant is an ambitious project by Paco Roncero, Michelin 2-star chef and protégé of legendary Ferran Adrià (i.e. the big name behind elBulli). It features nouvelle cuisine, which is said to be a more advanced approach to cooking than molecular gastronomy - sounds more like magic than cookery doesn't it? And if you used to love La Ronda of Furama Kempinski Hotel, you would be happy to know that VIEW62 is a grand revolving restaurant where you can relive your fond memories!

With such an impressive profile, it almost seemed absurd not to visit VIEW62. When they started to serve afternoon tea in August, I knew it's the time to go! 

In terms of view, VIEW62 is no match to restaurants in Ritz-Carlton, which pride themselves on the stunning vista of Victoria Harbour. But here you can enjoy a 360-degree panorama of Hong Kong Island without moving your butt! A shame that the weather was rather bad on my day of visit. 

As the restaurant was only half-full (obviously their tea set was not known to many ppl), the tea set arrived soon after we placed our order - 

Anchovies with tomato, basil and black olive

Mini burger with old fashioned mustard

Iberico ham baguette

Melon caviar and chocolate truffle cake

Melon caviar!

Chocolate macaroon and berries with white wine jelly

Pistachio sponge with yogurt and lemon cup

White coffee cream

The savouries looked rather conventional but they were brilliant taste-wise. The anchovies were fresh and silky. The addition of pesto and tomatoes neutralized the heavy saltiness of the fish and the result was surprisingly refreshing. I also liked the Iberico ham, which was delightfully juicy and chewy. It formed a great combination with the crispy baguette shell.  It's not easy to find decent Iberico ham in HK (which is why I often crave for it ever since my visit to Southern Spain some years ago), but I was quite satisfied with what I had this time. 

But the good things seemed to end here. The sweets had a relatively more futuristic take; the finest examples being the melon caviar and pistachio sponge. The former was invented by Ferran Adrià and is now a classic dish in molecular gastronomy. Through a technique termed "spherification", liquid melon juice is transformed into jelly-like caviar. Sadly, the chemistry behind was far more spectacular than the caviar itself - the orange pellets were soft and tasteless like tapioca. There's a faint hint of fruit but I didn't think I could name it if the menu didn't say it's melon. The alien-like pistachio sponge was another letdown. It had the most unusual, if not weird, texture. It was extremely light, even lighter than soufflé despite its pretty solid appearance! Eating it was like swallowing a gush of nutty-flavour air. An interesting work of art, but as a cake it was seriously unsatisfying... :0

That was only the beginning of a series of disappointment. The macaron was neither crunchy nor chocolatey. The white wine jelly, which had the most self-explanatory name ever, was just white wine made into a simple jelly (at least that was what it tasted like). I was also shocked that they served cream that tasted nothing more than the cream topping of Starbucks coffee as part of the tea set... even though the lemon cup (I loved the langue du chat cup!) and chocolate cake were ok, they could not change the fact that the tea set was doomed.

Each tea set came with 2 choices of beverage - Earl Grey, English Breakfast, coffee, etc... boring stuff. I was more curious about the "choice from special tea trolley" mentioned in the menu. The waiter explained that I could choose from a list of over 40 special teas at an extra cost of $40 per person. The price was steep definitely, but I got curious as I was browsing the long list... "Check Mate", "Pink Flamingo", "Gold Rush"... it was unmistakable that these were blends from Canadian tea brand DAVDsTEA!

Since we had never seen DAVIDsTEA anywhere else in HK, we seized the opportunity to order Earl's Garden and Kiss of Love (officially known as Read My Lips). Earl's Garden was a sweet, girly blend with a dominant strawberry candy flavour. Though it's supposed to be a variation of Earl Grey, the bergamot flavour was glaringly absent. Kiss of Love was a more complicated tea - a chocolate-flavoured tea that also tasted spicy and minty. Guess what, the website says it even contains little red candy lips! Too bad I did not check the teapot. Overall, the teas were interesting; I would recommend them to light-hearted tea drinkers who look for fun more than taste. 

Ambience: B (I thought I was in a Macau hotel when I saw the mishmash of glossy panels, glittering surfaces, satin cushions, as well as the gold-purple colour scheme.... sorry, just not my idea of tastefulness) 

Service: B- (We thought the tea trolley was only a symbolic term as the waiter did not show it to us, but we saw the trolley, which was fully loaded with small pots of tea leaves, when we left! :0)

Food: C+

Overall remarks: With a price tag of $500 per 2 persons (it was well over $600 including the cost of special tea for 2 persons and 10% service charge), VIEW62's tea set is easily one of the most costly tea sets in HK. I definitely expected it to be extraordinarily good, considering that it's even more expensive than the tea sets offered by The Repulse Bay, Ritz-Carlton, Mandarin Oriental, etc. To my dismay, it was the biggest disappointment of the year. When I went to the restaurant I was prepared to be amazed,but I didn't expect the amazement to come from their courage to charge such an extortionate price for such a mediocre tea set. I believe they really want to make their tea set special, or they would not have curated DAVIDsTEA for the tea trolley. Perhaps they just need a bit more time? Though I am not sure if I would take the risk to give their tea set a second chance... 

VIEW62 by Paco Roncero (website)
62/F, Hopewell Centre, 183 Queen's Road East, Wanchai, Hong Kong 
Afternoon tea: 3:00 - 5:00pm daily
$500 for 2 persons

Friday 2 November 2012

Ceylon Tea Set @ teakha

I know, I know, this is already the third time I write about teakha. To prevent any misguided suspicion, I have to declare that this blog is NOT affiliated to teakha in any way, and I do not know its owner Nana or staff personally. I must confess that I am a big fan of this little gem though, so I never get tired of blogging about it! :)

Some days ago Hellish and I booked a travel package to Ceylon Tea Trails through SIA Holidays. The package, which was marketed as a "tea-tasting holiday package", came with vouchers for TWG Tea (HK), Another Fine Day and teakha so as to ensure that we would be drinking tea in Sri Lanka, HK, and even in our dreams. I loved the vouchers, or to be more exact, I desperately needed them... because I was broke after purchasing the luxurious holiday package... :0

In the evening before our pilgrimage to the home of Ceylon tea, we visited teakha as we thought its relaxing atmosphere could put us in the mood for holiday. Weekdays is a great time to visit teakha as it is notoriously busy on weekends. The only problem is that you will need to hurry there after work because it closes at 7:00pm. Be prepared for a dizzying run up Ladder Street! 

When we reached teakha it was almost 6:30pm, yet the ladies in the kitchen were still pretty busy.

There were 2 teakha vouchers in our holiday package. EACH voucher entitled us to 2 free Ceylon tea sets (worth of $100). Nana was pretty generous wasn't she? 

The Ceylon tea set consists of a scone and a cup of Celyon tea. The whole cafe was filled with a toasty, sweet aroma when the scones came out of the oven. Rhapsodic reviews of teakha's scones can be found all over the web; I can testify that they are not paid reviews because their scones are really really good! I used to think Smith & Hsu in Taiwan made the best scones in the world, but now I am not so sure. It's actually hard to make a comparison because teakha's scones are rather unconventional. They have an interesting texture which resembles that of chewy cookies, only more crumbly. You can find crunchiness and softness in the same bite! God knows how many painstaking experiments have been done to work out this perfect scone recipe. I guess I like teakha's scones better than ordinary ones because they are moister and softer. It should also be noted that their scones are meant to be eaten without cream or jam - the scone itself is sufficiently buttery, and whatever is inside (we had fig and roselle) is flavourful enough to render any jam unnecessary. We especially loved the roselle scone! 

And the tea. Full-bodied and smooth, it carried milk really well. It was only slightly sweetened so we could appreciate the well rounded fruity taste of fine Ceylon tea. There aren't many places in HK that take tea-brewing as seriously as teakha does. I enjoyed my cuppa with the latest issue of Monocle. I do apologize for the offensive pretentiousness, haha... ;) 

Tea can be found in every corner of teakha. Love these little details :)

We definitely need more cafes like teakha - you know, a cafe that has its own character and puts thoughts into its food - in HK. We will most certainly be back! :)

teakha (website)
Shop B, 18 Tai Ping Shan Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Opening hours: 11:00am-7:00pm (Wed - Sun)

Sunday 7 October 2012


Sunday morning with homemade Rilakkuma macarons and a cup of Darjeeling. :)

Sunday 23 September 2012

Afternoon Tea Class @ Rachel's Kitchen

It was a day worth celebrating: I had completed all the coursework and supervision requirement of my sex therapy course! In other words, I was finally done with all the Saturday classes and supervision sessions, reports and books! I desperately needed something fun and indulgent to honour my regained freedom! When it comes to celebration, is there anything better than a grand round of afternoon tea?? :) 

YES THERE IS - which is learning how to create an afternoon tea set before enjoying it! 

Thanks to Vivian, I had the chance to visit Rachel's Kitchen for this very unique tea experience. Hidden in a grubby industrial building, the existence of this pretty cooking studio seemed totally surreal to me.

I sincerely advise everyone to arrive at least 15 minutes earlier for class, cos you will spend the first 5 minutes oohing and aahing at the rustic design of the place, and the next 10 minutes taking pictures of every corner (maybe even the washroom, no kidding)! Yes, Rachel's Kitchen is such a spellbinding place. :)

The cooking studio doubles as a shop selling chic kitchenware and cooking ingredients. The products were so tastefully displayed that I had some trouble distinguishing them from the decorative kitchenware collected by owner Rachel Yau. 

Loveramics' products for sale :) 

I wish I had a cupboard like this!

Girly kitchen must-haves: pedestal cake stand with glass dome, porcelain teaware and most importantly, flowers :) 

Cutlery, teapots and glassware in vintage style

Look at this wooden communal table! The quintessential accent piece for a country-style kitchen!

My camera battery was already running low before Rachel gave each of us a neatly printed set of recipes and gathered everyone to the large kitchen table. Rachel first talked a bit about the history of afternoon tea, then formally began the class by teaching us the recipe of strawberry rose jam. Making this jam was a lot easier than I had thought - basically, you only had to cook strawberries, lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar and  rose oil together - the hardest part turned out to be fighting the urge to eat the French strawberries, which filled the kitchen with a candy sweet aroma as they cooked. :9

We girls were so in love with the Le Creuset casserole that we couldn't keep our eyes off it! Our class was in fact a special collaboration between Le Creuset and Rachel's Kitchen, so many items  used in the class were by the French cookware manufacturer. Le Creuset cookware, which boasts a palette of gorgeous hues, can make even princessy Kong girls burn with the desire to cook! I promise to cook regularly if someone is kind enough to buy me a full set of LC cookware in coastal blue... haha :P 

Next we were shown how to make macaron shells. Macarons are tiny but making the perfect shells (i.e  all shells are of the same size and perfectly round, with a smooth top and a "crown" at the base) is an art that requires lots of skills and practice. I was glad that our class was mainly demonstrative, so that this daunting task was handled by Rachel and her assistants. :P

Macaron shells rising in the oven... :)

After sending the macaron shells into the oven, we finally had the chance to cook by ourselves. I paired up with a classmate and made scones for the very first time in my life. The ingredients had been prepared for us; all we needed to do was to mix everything, fold the dough, and cut out the scones. Not too difficult even for people with little baking experience. The 6 scones at the bottom of this pic were my babies, fresh from the oven and piping hot! :)

After the practical, Rachel went on to demonstrate the preparation of other sweets and sandwich fillings. Although Rachel looked kinda cool, she was actually a good teacher who explained everything clearly and patiently. Near the end of the class, we were asked to do the final touches, namely filling macarons, decorating sweets, making sandwiches, and finally, arranging everything nicely on the beautiful Le Creuset Strawberry Tea Cake Stand.

Despite my limited input, I experienced a great sense of achievement when the tea set was finally ready. Shown here was the portion for 2 persons. It didn't look too different from what you get in a 5-star hotel, did it? ;)

Sweets (clockwise from top): chocolate mini cakes, lemon tarts, strawberry rose macarons

Sandwiches: egg mayonnaise, Spanish ham, smoked salmon, mango and chicken salad

Fig scones with homemade strawberry rose jam and cream

After 3 hours that felt like eternity, I was able to enjoy my tea set with a pot of Earl Grey at last! The tea set was not perfect - the scones were in fact quite a disaster. They were crumbly but tasted totally flat and unbuttery :( The recipe needed more butter I think! Notwithstanding this unforgivable problem,  I loved the tea set because everything else was delicious. The sandwiches were big, filling and yummy. The macarons had a rather rough appearance, but like any other homemade food, they tasted much better than they looked. The shells were crispy and chewy, and that rosy, creamy filling was unforgettably fragrant. And who would have expected the humble-looking chocolate cake to be a knockout? It had that half-souffle-half-brownie texture of molten chocolate cake, and a dense, moist core filled with jam (Rachel had used the strawberry rose jam I think... it went so well with everything!). The classmate who paired up with me was probably shocked by how ravenous I was, so that he told me to finish the whole tea set after eating only 1/4 of it...  :P 

I went home with a full stomach, a goodie bag of leftovers (the tea set was really huge), a set of recipes, tonnes of lovely pictures and memories of an enjoyable afternoon. True, the class was expensive, but it was all worth it. :) 

Rachel's Kitchen (website)
Room 1301, 13/F, Hoi Yuen Industrial Building, Hoi Yuen Road, Kwun Tong
Afternoon tea class: $580 per person including cooking demonstration, a bit of practical and an afternoon tea set

Sunday 9 September 2012

MingCha x teakha Tea Pairing Class

Finally visited teakha in Sheung Wan in late August. It has recently started an interesting series of tea pairing classes with MingCha. I was interested in joining the class, yet given the suffocating hotness in HK I had been reluctant to move my lazy ass to Tai Ping Shan Street... until I received Eric's invitation. I decided that an evening in a charming little cafe with my good friends might be what I needed in the face of endless work. 

I was sweaty all over after a walk from Sheung Wan MTR Station to teakha in the roasting weather. When I pushed teakha's glass door open, it was like I had entered another world. The turquoise and whitewashed walls gave the petit cafe a fresh and clean feeling. The wooden communal table and open kitchen imparted casualness to the place, creating a welcoming atmosphere that made every guest feel like home. 

Class began as soon as all the 10 participants had arrived. It was led by Tea Master Vivian Mak, a sweet, energetic lady who is also the founder of local tea brand MingCha. In an animated manner she gave us a basic introduction to the types and manufacturing process of tea, which prepared us for subsequent tea tasting. The small class size made interaction easy - everyone was free to ask questions or share his/her tea-drinking experience. This had certainly made the class more interesting and informative. :)

As the theme of our class was black tea, we were given 4 kinds of black tea to taste. To facilitate comparison, Vivian used a standardized brewing time of 1 minute for each tea. Shown above are the dry leaves of Lapsang Souchong, sourced by MingCha from Wuyi, China. With its unique smoky aroma that results from smoke-drying over pinewood, it's an unforgettable tea for sure... but I really can't say I like this liquid version of bacon. Vivian said Lapsang Souchong was highly sought-after by Western but not Asian tea drinkers, perhaps because Westerners were accustomed to beverages of strong taste (e.g. whiskey). This seemed very true in our class: our Caucasian classmates loved it unanimously while the rest of us thought the taste was too overpowering. :P 

This is another black tea by MingCha: Tanyang Golden Rim from Fujian, China. Can you see the golden rim of the leaves? :) It is a robust black tea with hints of fruitiness. I thought it was pretty decent. :)

Owner of teakha, Nana, shared with us two black teas in her collection. This is Khongea Assam Tea from India. The tea leaves were finely cut as they were CTC-processed (CTC = crush, tear and curl). Vivian told us that because of the large surface area of the leaves, CTC teas infused quickly and required only a short brewing time. No wonder this tea became bitter after brewing for only a minute! 

Finally, we had Forest Black Tea from Taichung, Taiwan. It's lighter than the other 3 teas, slightly sweet but very fragrant, and it has a floral undercurrent. It's definitely my favourite of the day. 

After we had tasted all the teas, we were served a freshly baked apple pie. We were supposed to pair it with the 4 teas by ourselves and see which combination was the best. But since it was already after 7pm, mindful tea pairing had become a mission impossible to us.  Without much hesitation we shoved the tea cups aside and wolfed down the pies right away! :P Sorry, Vivian... but the pie was just TOO delicious! The crumbly topping was buttery and crispy, and there were lots of fruits in the hot pie. The fact that Eric (who hates desserts with fruits) had finished the whole pie quietly was a solid proof of how marvellous it was! ;)

Hungry as we were, how could we be satisfied by the apple pie alone? (At that point, we had completely forgotten about tea tasting!!) Fortunately there was homemade ginger ice cream to appease our growling stomachs. The ice cream was rich and very smooth - unlike cheap homemade ice cream that often contains small pieces of ice - which went really well with the crunchy ginger cookies. The balance of sweetness and spiciness was perfect. I must say that I was thoroughly impressed by teakha's desserts!

Each of us was also served a glass of Indian Chai, one of teakha's speciality teas. I like to have chai with lots of sugar, but teakha's version is largely unsweetened. It's too spicy for my liking, but if you are looking for authentic masala chai it will definitely be your cup of tea. 

Overall, the tea pairing class was a fun experience... although we didn't really spend much time pairing the desserts with tea (obviously the extraordinarily delicious desserts were to blame :P), it was great to try different kinds of tea under guidance and have some seriously scrummy desserts! Just 2 humble suggestions for Nana's and Vivian's consideration: 1) distilled water, instead of water infused with lemon, should be used for palate-cleansing during tea tasting; 2) snacks can be provided to guests before tea tasting so that they do not have to drink tea on an empty stomach. Indeed, when people are less hungry it may be easier to engage them in tea pairing. ;P 

Last but not least - thanks Eric for the invitation. It's wonderful to have friends who love food around me! :D

teakha (website)
Shop B, 18 Tai Ping Shan Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Opening hours: 11:00am-7:00pm (Wed - Sun)
* Visit teakha's Facebook page to get updates about upcoming classes and activities!

MingCha (website)
12D Wah Ha Factory Building, 8 Shipyard Lane, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong
* Visit MingCha's Facebook page for more updated info about the company!