Saturday 23 June 2012

Refreshed from the Archive: Macaron Afternoon Tea @ Rendezvous, Sofitel Macau At Ponte 16

The "I Love Macarons Room Package" that was all the rage last year has returned to Sofitel Macau! I really enjoyed the Macaron Afternoon Tea included in the package. Check out this review I wrote in 2011 and see if you would love to give it a try this year! 

Sofitel Macau at Ponte 16 is usually where I stay when I visit Macau because of its reasonable room rate. The hotel is pretty decent on the whole, though I always find its uber-ornate yet brash interior a huge put-off (but to be fair, which new hotel in Macau isn't like that??). The decoration of Rendezvous, the lounge where afternoon tea is served, is basically a hotchpotch of dazzling gold, sparkling crystal, shiny mirrors and glossy satin. Just looking at this picture is enough to make my eyes ache... 

As part of the Macaron Afternoon Tea promotion, a macaron tree at the entrance of Rendezvous greeted every guest. :) 

The macaron tea set arrived within 20 seconds after the order was placed. Props to the staff for their efficiency! But it took me a painfully long time before I could get a satisfactory shot of the tea set. The spiral tea stand was neat (though it would look nicer if it's not made of plastic) but it certainly posed a challenge to photographers...

Starting from the bottom tier: Macarons with panna cotta (mango, strawberry, mint and aloe vera), passionfruit(?) macarons

Also on the bottom tier: salmon macaron (2 pieces), goat cheese macaron, foie gras macaron

Moving up the spiral: wasabi macarons, chocolate macarons

Towards the top: coconut macarons, raspberry custard macarons, macaron cones filled with peanut butter

The little macarons on ascending tiers formed a rainbow staircase. :) Not only they were nice to look at, they were also made to near-perfection (perfection = Pierre Hermé macarons). The delicate shells were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, an indication of the chefs' skillfulness. Apart from the goat cheese macarons, which tasted exactly like a piece of damp and mouldy rag, all the macarons were delicious. It was interesting that the chefs had replaced traditional sandwiches with savoury macarons - a variation that added fun and surpsise to the tea set. The salmon and foie gras macarons were just wonderful! The former was filled with a velvety, creamy paste of salmon, while the latter was loaded with a rich foie gras pate with a hint of figs. Who would have imagined the fragile, bite-sized macarons to be bursting with such intense flavours? ;) Relative to the savoury macarons, the sweet macarons tasted more conventional but they were no less scrumptious. There were also some creative touches to the sweets, best illustrated by the passionfruit macaron that came with a dropper filled with juice (or liqueur?). Give the dropper a light squeeze and enjoy the macaron brimming with juiciness. Oh, don't worry about leakage as the bottom of the macaron was sealed by a layer of white chocolate. Clever, huh? ;)

Besides the high-quality macarons, I was also wowed by the tea served with the tea set. In addition to a wide range of Ronnefeldt tea, Rendezvous stocks almost the full range of Tea Forté iced tea! Even more amazing is that they serve the iced tea in Tea Forté's original Tea-Over-Ice brewing pitchers! I've always wanted a set because the stacked design is so cool. Tea is first steeped hot in the upper pitcher and then chilled in the lower pitcher filled with ice cubes. I ordered an iced white ginger pear, which was sweet like honey and mildly spicy. It's my new found favourite!

In one of the corners of the lounge, there's a station where a pastry chef created made-to-order macarons (at an extra cost, about MOP65 per half a dozen). It's a fun idea, but the piping bags didn't look very appetizing. And I couldn't help wondering how they would dispose of all those macaron shells by the end of the afternoon - the shells were obviously exposed in the air for hours and they were in such abundance that it would be impossible to sell them all. I became a bit concerned by the freshness of my macaron tea set... I could only say that at least they tasted fresh. :o When you dine out, you just don't want to know too much about what's going on in the kitchen... 

The macaron station had brought me some unease, but only BEFORE I received this beautiful gift. It's a box of chocolate and vanilla macarons, included in the room package! And I was happy again. Hehe... :P

Ambience: C 
Service: B++ (for being efficient and so patient with some of the mannerless Mainland customers!)
Food: A- (I would have given them an A had I not seen the macaron counter...)
Overall remarks: Though Rendezvous might not be the most pleasant place for tea and I had some doubts over the freshness of their macarons, the macarons were top-notch taste-wise (and did appear fresh!). The chefs had put so much thoughts into the tea set that although it consisted of nothing but macarons, the great variety of flavours and inventive touches had kept the tea experience exciting from the start to the end. You will find this tea set a pure bliss, especially if your genotype is XX! ;)

Rendezvous (website)
1/F, Sofitel Macau At Ponte 16, Rua do Visconde Paco de Arcos, Macau
*I love Macarons Room Package available from now to July 31 2012
From HKD1600 per room per night, including Macaron Afternoon Tea for 2 and other benefits. See details here

Thursday 21 June 2012

Diamond Jubilee Royal Afternoon Tea @ Clipper Lounge, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong

How did you feel while you were watching the national celebration of The Queen's Diamond Jubilee 2 weeks ago? 

I was envious. Not only because the Brits got a 4-day long weekend, but more because they have a fashionable yet grandmotherly queen (who was also once OUR queen!! Aargh...) whose anniversary of accession is worth celebrating. Whereas we have no real public holiday in June this year and our so-called motherland is ruled by a bunch of poker-faced old men. Hmm... :(

I decided to manage my bitterness through getting involved in the Diamond Jubilee celebration - there's nothing to envy if you become part of it, isn't it? ;) I knew I had found the perfect way to celebrate when I learnt about the royal afternoon tea set designed by Uwe Opocensky. You may have known Chef Opocensky for his acclaimed culinary magic at The Krug Room, but did you know he had cooked for the Queen and Prince Philip's 50th anniversary dinner? This time, he takes a break from molecular gastronomy and employs more conventional cooking methods to offer guests a truly British tea experience. When Chef Opocensky meets traditional food, you know that modern twists are in store! 

Getting accessorized for the celebration! :D

Throughout the period of royal afternoon tea, Clipper Lounge doubles as a tea lounge and gallery. Exhibits on display are no ordinary stuff - they are artworks by the Prince of Wales, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, as well as photographs by Lord Snowdon.

To be frank, the exhibits are not displayed in a viewer-friendly manner. They are all small in size and mounted on walls next to the tea tables, so it's not easy to get a good look of them once the seats are filled. Thankfully, with this beautiful catalogue, everyone can admire the Royal Collection of Art comfortably in his/her own sofa. :)

*Drum rolling* Diamond Jubilee Royal Afternoon Tea, proudly presented by MOHK!! *Applause*

Top tier (clockwise from top): Royal Victoria sponge, mini Eton mess, millionaire's shortbread, Battenberg cake, fairy cake

Middle tier (clockwise from top): Mini Yorkshire pudding, roast beef, horseradish, watercress; Welsh leek tart; grilled York ham and Montgomery cheddar; salmon Wellington

Bottom tier (clockwise from top): Rhug Estate coronation chicken, poached Scottish salmon, mini organic pork pie, English cucumber and cream cheese

Organic Welsh egg with caviar

Mini cherry trifle

Oolong (Formosa-Taiwan): malty and nutty

The tea set was just as pretty as promised... BUT something was wrong. There's only 1 piece of everything, and the middle and bottom tiers were hideously spacious... how could it be a tea set for 2??? Yet the waiter politely confirmed us that it was. :0 :0 :0 We were obviously not the only people in shock. We saw waiters busy assuring every table that the tea set was truly of the right portion. What disgruntled guests (like us) could only do was glancing at their neighbours' tables and taking comfort in the fact that their tea sets were equally mini. What a disgrace to the Diamond Jubilee...!  :( 

We grumpily started with the Welsh egg with caviar because it's the only item that came as a pair.  We stopped complaining as soon as we swallowed a spoonful of the warm egg because IT TASTED SO GOOD. The egg was smoother than baby skin, and the pinch of caviar gave a bit of oomph to the eggy mass. Pacified and satisfied, we moved on to the mini cherry trifle. It was then we became mad again -  how can they expect 2 persons to share this dessert in a single glass?? And it's not something you would like to share because sherry-marinated cherries plus cream is a combination to die for!

The pastries and savouries are all British favourites. If you like chocolate and caramel as much as I do, a fight with your friend over the millionaire's shortbread is inevitable. It's a sandwich of luscious chocolate, creamy caramel and buttery biscuit... just typing all these is enough to trigger my salivation reflex! :9 The mini Eton mess had a perfectly crunchy meringue layer, and the rest of the cakes were so feather-light that they simply dissolved in my mouth

The savouries were all rather delicious, though there were a few misses like the oily leek tart and forgettable cucumber sandwich. The most regal of all was the coronation chicken, invented back in 1953 for the coronation banquet of The Queen. Chef Opocensky has given this historical recipe a new life by giving it a complete makeover, with great results! Taste-wise, however, even the blue-blooded coronation chicken was no match to the poached salmon and salmon Wellington, which were so juicy and scrummy!! 

Any tea set in Clipper Lounge would be incomplete with its much adored scones and rose petal jam. The scones were lovely as always - crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Plus they were so huge that they gave me the perfect excuse to use up the jam (and ask for refill :P)! In case you were wondering what the tiny scone was, that's my prized little Q-pot ring which wanted a picture with the big stars of Clipper Lounge. ;) 

Ambience: B+ (I always find Clipper Lounge a bit too noisy for English afternoon tea!)
Service: A-
Food: B+ (Food was yummy, but marks massively deducted for the incredibly small tea set for 2!)
Overall remarks: The thoughtfully designed tea set was as British as it could be, and everything echoed the Diamond Jubilee theme. Food was dazzling in terms of presentation and taste, but this was also why I found the size of the tea set an unforgivable problem! I'd rather pay more for a larger set than having just a bite of everything. Although the skimpy tea set would have embarrassed The Queen, it's admittedly THE quintessentially British way to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee!

Clipper Lounge (website)
Mezzanine Floor, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road, Central, Hong Kong
Afternoon tea: 3:00-6:00pm (Mon - Sat), 3:30-6:00pm (Sun)
* Diamond Jubilee Royal Afternoon Tea available from now to 1 July 2012.
$288 per person, $488 per 2 persons

Monday 11 June 2012

A brand new start

Photo courtesy: Yummy Supper

After almost 10 years, I finally bid farewell to Xanga. 

In terms of functionality, this old buddy hasn't changed much over the past decade... which unfortunately is a crime of gigantic proportion in the Age of Web 2.0. In spite of this stagnancy, I do feel that Xanga is no longer the Xanga that I used to love. 

One of its major changes is the massive insertion of ads in non-premium blogs. It's all very understandable - given Xanga's ad-supported revenue model - though I must admit that I was more than a little shocked to see the banner ad of the movie "3D Sex and Zen" (= 3D 肉蒲團)  appearing on my Xanga site last year. Parents who have just learnt that their teenage kids are engaging in compensated dating shall be able to understand my feelings. :0

Offering Friends Lock is probably Xanga's fatal mistake. It absolutely annoys me whenever I find out that  my subscribers have locked their sites, which means that they can see my site but I can't view theirs (I can send them friend requests in the hope of gaining access to their sites, but I don't really want to do this to total strangers). Blogging is about sharing; if you are not ready to share, why bother to blog? (remember macro_patrick's famous comment, "If you want privacy, you should not write in Xanga" :P). Xanga has become a much less  lively community when people are keeping their doors shut.

So here I am, on Blogger! Hopefully this will be a more exciting and interesting space for my inner narcissist. I have even renamed my blog (don't you love it?? ;P) to signify the new start. I will transfer some of my tea review entries from Xanga to here later on. 

Though I have left Xanga, I still hope it can survive in the mercilessly competitive world of Internet. Maybe one day, it will give me the reasons to return.

New blog entries on the way! Stay tuned! :)