Sunday 1 December 2013

I am back... almost!

To those who still check out this blog: I AM STILL ALIVE!

Have been extremely busy over the past month as we have moved into a new home. Now the time I spend on commuting is almost a triple of that in the past, so that I am too tired to do anything more intellectual than Facebooking (or maybe reading Kinfolk, my latest obsession. Did you notice the Kinfolk-esque photo above? :P) on weekdays. I am happy that we are finally done with the last bit of home furnishing, which means there will at least be some time for blogging and tea-sipping on weekends again! 

Stay tuned for upcoming entries about my tea adventure in London! ;)

Sunday 25 August 2013

Afternoon Tea @ St Betty + macarons @ Pierre Hermé Paris-Hong Kong

My old pal Alice, a macaron lover, e-mailed me in April and asked where she could get decent maracons after reading my post about macaron afternoon tea in Macau. I am no macaron expert, but it doesn't take one to answer her question. All I needed to tell her was that Pierre Hermé would be opening his first store in HK in a month! If the macarons by The Picasso of Pastry fail to satisfy her, nothing will. ;P

When PH finally opened its door in IFC, we decided to get some macarons there and then catch up with each other over tea at St Betty. Technically speaking it's my first visit to St Betty, as it's called "Betty's Kitschen" and helmed by a different chef when I last visited it with Evil Girls. 


The brainchild of renowned restauranteur Alan Yau, St Betty is a casual European restaurant that is just as chic as its reputed elder siblings Yauatcha and Hakkasan. We found the earth-toned restaurant with full-length windows welcoming and bright. The cheerful waiting staff contributed to the vibrant ambience too. While service could have been slightly more attentive (e.g. the waiters should regularly refill our teapots with water, instead of doing so only when asked), I didn't feel like complaining because the waiters were all quite cute, wahahaha...  :P 

There's one thing that we really couldn't tand - the tablecloth!! When Alice and I were taking pictures of our teas and food, the knife-edge creases of the tablecloth seemed too atrocious to ignore. :( This was the tea that I ordered, BOP seasonal Dimbula from Sri Lanka. It was weaker than I thought and not too special. 

In this picture: CREASE and our tea set!

Top tier: patisserie selection

Middle tier: warm scones, homemade jam & clotted cream

Bottom tier (clockwise from top): crushed avocado, roasted red pepper & chilli jam sandwich; home smoked salmon, pickled cucumber & horseradish sandwich (but the cucumber could only be found on the beef sandwich...?); cheese puff; roast beef, charred red onion & mustard mayonnaise sandwich; tomato salsa, pesto & shaved Parmesan sandwich

Everything in the tea set appeared to be one size smaller than average. There's only 1 glass of yogurt mousse and 1 sandwich of each kind. Under normal circumstances I would start whining like a desperate housewife... not when I knew I would be having PH macarons afterwards though! :9

Reviews on St Betty's tea set are mixed; some people like it, others consider it only average. Alice and I found ourselves in the former group - we thought it's pretty decent. :) The pomegranate-accented creamy mousse on spoon, as well as the bubbly yogurt mousse topped with layers of fruits, suggested that the tea set was designed with style in mind. The 2 different kinds of mousse was solidly good, too, with tartness, sweetness and creaminess all in unison. 

As the rest of the tea set appeared to be quite typical, we did not expect any surprise ahead. That's why we were both wowed by the unassuming but punch-packed canelé. It embodied 3 different textures: the caramelized outermost layer was crispy, body of the crust chewy, and the centre tender. Just like Kinder Surprise, it satisfied 3 wishes at a time! ;) St Betty's scones proved to be different from their prototypical buttery counterparts as well. They were soft and airy, somewhat like English muffin. They seemed so light and innocent that even eating them with slathers of clotted cream sounded like a healthy thing to do! :9

The sandwiches were nice; my favourites were foreseeably salmon (salmon always tops my list of favourites if it's done right - who can say no to peachy slices of fatty goodness?) and piquant tomato salsa. I also liked the cheese puffs, which actually did not have much taste, because they were like a calming oasis for my sugar-overdosed taste buds. :)

Ambience: B++

Service: B+

Food: B+

Overall remarks: If you have got bored of having tea in hotel restaurants, St Betty will be a good choice for a change. The portion is just right for fat-phobic Kong Girls, but do not go empty-stomach if you have normal appetite. :P 

After tea time, it was DESSERT TIME! :D 

Was disappointed that the IFC branch was only selling macaron box sets back then, so we could not pick and mix our favourite flavours. Worse still, none of the sets contained my favourite Ispahan macaron! :( How could they open a branch without even stocking up with their signature flavour!? 

All the grumbles, however, were forgotten as soon as we opened the beautiful box of poetry. The neatly arranged macarons were so colourful, their flavours so playful and creative (e.g. olive oil and vanilla flavour :9)! Ever since my first encounter with PH macarons in Paris, they have become the golden standard of macarons in my heart. So how did PH macarons in HK compare with those in Paris? The jewel-toned pastries were as luscious as I had remembered, but the shells were slightly less crunchy. Perhaps I was inevitably biased after learning that the macarons were flown in from Paris rather than freshly made? Or was my memory of Parisian PH macarons overly rosy? At any rate, as sure as eggs is eggs, PH have the BEST macarons in HK. Yes, their macarons are better than those by Kong Girls' favourite Ladurée, but... *shh* don't tell others about this ok? Let the queue stay at Ladurée so we can continue to enjoy stress-free macaron shopping at PH, hehe... ;)

St Betty (website)
Shop 2075, Podium Level Two, ifc mall, 8 Finance Street, Central, Hong Kong
Afternoon tea: 3:00pm - 6:00pm daily
$398 per 2 persons

Pierre Hermé Paris-Hong Kong (website)
Shop 1019C, ifc mall, 8 Finance Street, Central, Hong Kong
Opening hours: 10:00am - 9:00pm

Saturday 3 August 2013

High Tea Set @ Kindergarten

Hi everyone, it's been a while since my last update! Haven't been in the mood for writing but I haven't stopped having tea... it's time to clear the backlog! ;)

I visited Kindergarten, a tiny cafe in Tai Hang, about 2 weeks ago. While Kindergarten is known for its cozy atmosphere, it's perhaps even more famous for its odd opening hours - it's opened only on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays! Advance booking is absolutely essential. Not sure if this is a planned marketing strategy, but the exclusivity accorded by its extremely short business hours has doubtlessly made it one of the most sought after cafes in HK. 

The storefront is small and so is its signboard... it's quite easy to miss it even when you are in Sun Chun Street. Find your way with Google Maps!

We were seated in a corner close to the entrance. The chairs were like those for primary school kids. As an adult, I could not say the low chair was really comfortable, but it was a sweet idea after all. :)

I was truly excited by the chalks and blackboard on our small table! It seems that the cafe is named Kindergarten because it's a place for our inner children. :)

Details like this made me smile ;)


The wooden interior imparted rustic charm to the cafe; for a moment I thought I was in one of those kissaten in Jiyugaoka. The full house at 5pm certainly said something about its popularity. The popularity backfired, unfortunately. When 15 people were crammed into a 15-square-metre  (approximately) dining area, the result was that Hellish and I were deafened by laughter from the next table and could not hear what each other was saying! The noise completely ruined the laid-back mood of what the cafe had intended to create. :(

Another problem that I couldn't ignore was that they confused high tea with afternoon tea. What they offer as high tea set - sandwiches and pastries on a tiered stand, completed with scones - is obviously an afternoon tea set.  Although this misconception is extremely widespread in HK, I expected Kindergarten to know better as tea set is their signature item. :( Personally I find this afternoon tea vs. high tea differentiation a litmus test to distinguish places that serve tea from proper tea places, or tea-goers from bona fide tea lovers. ;) Flabbergasted that you are merely a tea-goer? Read this so you can proudly declare yourself an educated tea lover afterwards!  

Beverage was not included in our tea set so we had to order our drinks separately. There was a great variety of delicious drinks on the wooden menu. Since I had come to the conclusion that Kindergarten was not a proper tea place, I decided to choose something other than tea. In the end Hellish ordered their famous iced chocolate and I ordered a berry smoothie. The iced chocolate, which came with a scoop of chocolate ice cream, was a real delight that would satisfy even the most hard-core chocoholic's craving! :9

I had pre-ordered the tea set, but it took more than 35 minutes for it to arrive. The slow service was a mystery because there were 3 ladies at the open kitchen and there were only 4 parties in the cafe... 

Top tier: heart-shaped pastries filled with chocolate, strawberry tarts

Middle tier (clockwise from top): chocolate cake, scone and jam, strawberry Napoleon

Open sandwiches at the bottom tier (clockwise from top): crab meat and mayo(?), Parma ham, mushroom and cream cheese(?), ham and cheese, mushroom and mustard, salmon

You would be disappointed, just as we were, to know that the food was only so-so. :( The sandwiches tasted rather bland, which I found unbelievable because they had such appetizing colours! Despite not being more skilled than 地獄廚神 (as in 美女廚房, not in Gordon Ramsay's "Hell's Kitchen" :P), I am confident that I can make better sandwiches... I have nothing against their home-style food, but at least it should be a cut above what I can make at MY home, right??

The pastries were okay at best. The only things that impressed me were the sweet and HUGE strawberries on the tarts. Scones were on the hard side and tasted floury. They obviously had not used enough butter... :(


I haven't told you about the smoothie I ordered - because it arrived even later than the tea set, about 45 minutes after I had placed the order! It was yummy and refreshing, but what took them so long to prepare it??

Ambience: B- (I loved the quirky interior, but we left immediately after we had finished the tea set because we got tired of lip reading...)

Service: B-- (I might be more tolerant of the slow service had the cafe not been so noisy!)

Food: B-- (I almost gave a C+ but I settled on this grade after factoring in the pretty tea stand, smiley sandwich, and doggie food pick :P)

Overall remarks: At the end of the day, I asked myself: is it worth driving all the way to Tai Hang for this tea set? My answer was NO. But if you live nearby, it won't hurt to check it out... just make sure that you go with a lot of friends so you will be the rowdiest party instead of being bothered by noise from other tables!

G/F, 35 Sun Chun Street, Tai Hang, Hong Kong
Afternoon tea:  3 sessions (2:00pm-3:30pm; 3:30pm-5:00pm; 5:00pm-7:00pm) every Sat, Sun and PH 
$178 per 2 persons

Saturday 29 June 2013

Diptyque Moheli Afternoon Tea @ Cafe Gray Deluxe Hong Kong, The Upper House

Had a pretty depressing week and was not in the mood of writing. :( 

But as I was organizing the pictures of my first afternoon tea with Baby Valerie, I found myself smiling and feeling better. Babies are amazing, aren't they? Their every single move is enough to make your heart melt... as long as you are only responsible for playing with them instead of tending to them. :P

(Photo courtesy: Vivian)

We girls were having Diptyque Moheli Afternoon Tea at Cafe Gray Deluxe and were so excited that Ly had brought Baby Valerie along! We took pictures with her and forced Ly to promise that Valerie's very first tea-with-aunties姐姐-pix would appear in Valerie's wedding slideshow in the future, haha... 

Back to business - our Diptyque afternoon tea!

Top tier: curry poached chicken salad tartlet & ginger pear chutney, blackcurrant scones

Middle tier (from left): smoked salmon on bagel toast with salmon caviar & lime cream cheese; egg salad and cucumber finger sandwich; salami and Gruyère cheese pretzel bun with whole grain mustard; roast beef sandwich with pomegranate glaze, pickled red onion, and goat cheese

Middle tier from another angle

Bottom tier (from left): Tonga bean ganache and caramel, mini cinnamon roll with golden raisin, jasmine and rose bavarois on graham crust, coffee macarons; apricot jam linzer, almond milk rice pudding and marinated citrus

A better view of the rice pudding and apricot jam linzer 

(Photo courtesy: Vivian)

How was the food? I'd say that it's generally okay but Baby Valerie was far more interesting than it lor (I did spend more time playing with Valerie than eating!). :P While one normally expects fancy pastries and savouries with layers of flavours in a 5-star hotel, our supposedly Diptyque-inspired tea set was, sorry to say, unimaginative and straightforward. It was disappointing that the tea set had no connection to Diptyque at all... the brand was not even mentioned in the tea set menu! 

The food was so average that there wasn't much worth writing about. There's one thing I always like about Cafe Gray's tea set though, which is the scones! They are big and chunky so you can put lots of jam, cream and honey (honey is such a lovely touch :j) on them. I lurrrrve the sugar granules atop which give the scones an extra bit of crunchiness. There were only a few things that had really gone wrong, such as the stale macaron and the puddle of weird flavours that was named "milk pudding". 

Tea was a nightmare. I appreciate the fact that Cafe Gray have their own tea blends, but they should really hire a better tea master. Last time I had their signature Cafe Gray Tea, which contained roselle and was horribly tart. This time I knew better - I thought - and ordered Flower Blend. Given how the description was worded, I thought there were 2 choices of flower blends, namely either rose petal tea or chamomile and mint tea. I told the waitress that I wanted the rose tea, but in the end I was given a pot of tea which tasted like anything but rose. It was bitter and very herbal, much like Chinese medicinal herbal tea... :0 A waitress confirmed that it was indeed my order, and she added that it was not a pure rose tea. So perhaps Flower Blend was actually a BLEND of rose, chamomile and mint!?? My advice: stick to the classics...  

When we asked for the bill, we were given 3 vouchers for Diptyque Moheli gift set. THREE!? There were 5 of us! We then found out from another waitress that because we ordered 2 x tea set for two persons and 1 x tea set for 1 person, there would only be 3 vouchers. Jesus Christ! Could they not be so miserly? They should have stated clearly in the menu that vouchers are issued according to the number of tea sets instead of number of persons. Not wanting to start a fight for gifts among ourselves, we changed our orders to 5 x tea set for 1 person (the difference was that we had to pay a bit more because tea set for 1 person was $240 while tea set for 2 persons was $420, i.e. $210 per head). The waitress agreed with the arrangement but then she recalculated the bill wrongly... so much hassle before we eventually got our gift - 2 small samples of Eau Moheli eau de toilette - at Diptyque's Pacific Place store!

Ambience: B+

Service: B- (misleading beverage menu, mean voucher policy, wrong bill... enough said)

Food: B- (average food, awful tea)

Overall remarks: Cafe Gray is an acceptable tea place if you know what to expect (and which tea to order). Go for MO Bar (see here or here) if you want a truly amazing branded tea experience! 

The Moheli tea set was hardly impressive, but the afternoon was just as enjoyable with my dear friends and Baby Valerie.  ;) Thanks for organizing, Vivian! 

Cafe Gray Deluxe Hong Kong (website)
Level 49, The Upper House, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Hong Kong
Afternoon tea: 3:30pm-5:00pm daily
* Diptyque Moheli Afternoon Tea is served until 30 June 2013. 
$240 per person, $420 per 2 persons

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Sodashi Afternoon Tea @ MO Bar, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental

When MO Bar started to offer branded tea sets a few years ago, I thought the whole idea was sheer gimmick. The accompanying gift aside, the tea set actually had little to do with the collaborating brand (which was why food in 2 different tea sets could be quite similar - see Chloe Inspired Afternoon Tea and Marc Jacobs Splash Afternoon Tea on my old Xanga blog). My impression however changed following MO Bar's recent production of branded tea sets that were completely unique and true to the spirit of their partnering brands, as exemplified by their wildly popular Jimmy Choo Afternoon Tea. Their culinary team's creativity and skills are formidable. I am now officially a convert who's constantly looking forward to MO Bar's new creations! ;)

MO Bar has just launched another branded afternoon tea with Sodashi, an Australian label that specializes in chemical-free skincare products. To ensure that the tea set will be just as wholesome as Sodashi's products, only natural ingredients are used in its preparation. Hmm, sounds like the perfect kind of detox programme for me! :P

When Hellish and I visited MO Bar last Sunday, we were excited to see that they had stupendously enhanced their weekend dessert buffet (included in the price of afternoon tea set), both in terms of quantity and quality. :9 It was actually hard to decide whether the buffet or the tea set was the main course because both were equally fabulous!

Scream, ladies: there were EIGHT different macaron flavours, including raspberry, chocolate, lemon, Earl Grey, pistachio... the macarons had shells that were marginally thicker than ideal (which always means the macarons by Pierre Hermé :P), but that didn't make them any less tasty. I liked every single flavour! If I have to name a favourite, it would be Earl Grey (orange one in this pic) - such elegant bergamot fragrance! ;) The crème caramel in mini jar was soft like a baby's cheek and very likeable too. 

Ice cream was perhaps the only thing that could rival macarons' unshakable popularity. There were creamy chestnut ice cream, zesty clementine sorbet, and refreshing pear sorbet, all tasted totally natural and fresh (there were even tiny bits of pear in the pear sorbet!). Just a spoonful of each is enough to fly you to cloud nine! ;) 

My other favourites: green tea panna cotta and strawberry trifle + cream puff

More sugary food before our healthy tea experience: apple and basil cocktail, raspberry eclairs, and cakes! There were so much food that we had only sampled half of the dessert buffet when our tea set arrived - 

Savouries (from left): heirloom tomato skewer with artichoke mousse and green olives (remineralization); pita wrapper with green bean, tandoori yogurt, cheese and peppermint (improve digestion); ginger macaroon with goat cheese cream (detox); Tasmanian salmon sour dough with lavender mayonnaise (relaxation); multigrain bread with lemongrass chicken and Thai basil salad (detox)

Sweets (from left): ginger and lemongrass mocktail with green apple (detox); organic chocolate, banana cupcake with virgin olive oil (increase alertness - improve mood); lavender panna cotta with rhubarb compote (relaxation); almond biscuit, strawberry mousse with rose petal (boost skin radiance, calming, hydrating); coated chocolate ganache biscuit with peppermint marshmallow (improve digestion)

Raisin and plain scones with clotted cream and preserves

Looking at the beautifully crafted tea set that was just as healthy as promised, I knew a nourishing spa journey for my stomach was ahead! There's no calorific chocolate cake, artificially coloured macaron, fatty meat, or anything that was half as evil. What showed up on our plates were mostly veggie- or fruit-based nibbles, each carrying a certain health benefit as denoted above. 

The use of fragrant herbs such as lemongrass and mint gave the food a Southeast Asian touch. Once again I was more impressed by the savouries than sweets. The tiny heirloom tomatoes on skewer bore a huge surprise. They were so much juicier and sweeter than those uniformly red tomatoes sold in supermarkets. There was an explosion of flavour once I bit into their bubble-thin skin! Another top pick, pita wrapper, was a little boat loaded with delicious treasures such as cheese, yogurt, and greens. There surely were lots of piquant flavours but they were skillfully harmonized. Our savoury spa was concluded with succulent, glitteringly fresh Tasmanian salmon, leaving us feeling pampered and satisfied. :) 

We rinsed our palate with a small glass of revitalizing ginger mocktail and moved on to the sweet section of our gastronomic journey. We had the bland slightly-too-healthy cupcake and fragrant lavender panna cotta that reminded me of Jurlique handcream, before our notable encounter with strawberry and rose mousse. There was only a tiny rose petal but I swore that the mousse tasted like a whole rose. I reckoned that everybody wanted to kiss me after I had savoured it, because my breath, seriously, smelled of rose! :P

The scones were buttery as always. We had to take some of them home because we didn't want to stuff ourselves with too much food at a time. I was glad that I had ordered peppermint tea, which soothed my stomach and rounded off its detox treatment nicely. 

There's a gift pack containing sample size body lotion and body polish by Sodashi for each guest to take home. The best part? Hellish obviously had no interest in  the gift so his became mine too, wahaha... :P 

Ambience: A- (I think I am getting to like the place more and more... :P)

Service: A

Food: A

Overall remarks: I am not too sure if you will have better digestion or more radiant skin after having the all-natural tea set, but I can assure you that the good food and nice gift set will boost your mood effectively. ;) Do visit MO Bar for tea on weekends as you won't want to miss their wonderful dessert buffet spread!

MO Bar (website)
Lobby, 15 Queen's Road Central, The Landmark, Central, Hong Kong
* Sodashi Afternoon Tea: 3:00pm-5:30pm (Mon-Fri) and 2:30pm-6:00pm (Sat-Sun), available from now to 30 June 2013 
$260 per person (Mon - Fri), $280 per person (Sat - Sun)

Saturday 11 May 2013

Vive Le French May!

It's May again, the time to indulge in French food. I've decided that today I will eat nothing but French food! 

Today begins with a cup of Betjemen & Barton's Une Journée à la Campagne. There will be crêpes for lunch and fine French food for dinner. :) Isn't that awesome? Though the need to do revision for the coming Japanese quiz does in some way ruin the French mood... 

Btw, I must thank Ysaurella, the loveliest French Steepsterite, for swapping teas with me! I sent her some of my Lupicia teas and received a generous amount of French teas (e.g. Mariage Frères, Betjemen & Barton, Dammann Frères) that can never be found in Hong Kong from her in return. Merci beaucoup! Sharing the love for tea with people around the world is one of the most beautiful things in life. :)

(Leave me a message if you are interested in swapping teas with me too!)