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)