Sunday 31 March 2013

Happy Easter! Easter Afternoon Tea 2012 @ The Lounge, Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong

Happy Easter to my dear readers! :D I hope you are enjoying the holiday as much I am. What I really like about Easter is that, unlike Christmas or Chinese New Year, you can enjoy the long holiday without the obligation to attend parties or gatherings. But a coin has two sides - if you are neither a Christian/Catholic, nor a child who is crazy about egg hunt, you may be left to wonder what you can do to share the festive joy. Instead of the classic option of overdosing yourself with Cadbury Mini Eggs, what about having an Easter afternoon tea? Yes, tea is for EVERY occasion!! ;)

Last year I went to The Lounge of Four Seasons for their Easter afternoon tea and truly enjoyed it! The Lounge is one of my top 5 favourite tea places in HK, though I don't go there very often because of its somewhat annoying no-reservation policy. Still, it is much better than the ridiculously overrated Peninsula, which requires you to queue up like an idiot until you get assigned a table (which usually happens after an hour of waiting). The FS way is, when The Lounge is full and you want a table, they take your name and phone number. Then you can shop around freely in IFC, until they call and let you know that a table is available. That's service, if not humanity!

I am not sure if they are still doing it, but when I visited The Lounge for regular tea set some years ago, they served us extra pastries in addition to our tea set! What a lovely touch. During Easter, an Easter inspired dessert buffet is included in the price of tea set. I have to show you the pictures I took last year! Btw I know the cassis macaron tower in this pic didn't look so great because it's half-empty, but that's what I saw because I only managed to get a table after waiting for 45 minutes...

On the buffet table - flower chocolate cookies! 

Blueberry and vanilla Easter eggs with a molten berry-flavour core :9

Bunnies!!! Cute but the royal icing tasted of raw egg white... 

Mini cupcakes: flower power!

This little carrot was eye-catching but it tasted like play-doh. The crunchy cookie base of the cheesecake should be the real highlight!

Soft and sweet strawberry cake pops. Tempting!

Of course, one cannot call it an Easter afternoon tea without the much-loved chocolate eggs...

... and Easter staple hot cross bun! It's my first hot cross bun but perhaps it's my last too. I never like things with dried fruits and spices much...

I named this plate "Easter Egg Hunt in Blooming Garden". ;P The desserts were actually a bit hit-and-miss and I will blame the extensive use of icing decorations. But since I am a sucker for cute things, I was happy whenever I looked at my plate!! :P

Assortment of pastries - they were okay but not exceptional. I only remembered that the roasted pecan and vanilla profiteroles were the best because I ate at least 2 of them. Creamy profiterole is one of my favourite desserts; when I was an exchange student, I would always show up for dinner in college refectory when profiterole was on the menu. ;)

Spearmint marinated spring berries: a refreshing must-have after tasting so much sweets

I felt sorry to the tea set because I had little room for it after sampling the dessert buffet. While the set we had on the day wasn't the best (the menu changed frequently and I had tasted better tea sets at FS before), it was decent by any standard. 

Top tier: sweets. I don't remember what they were but the general impression was that they were too sweet. A slight disappointment I must say... perhaps it's because my taste buds had been assaulted by enough sweetness! 

Middle tier: savouries. They were superbly made with fresh ingredients. From the tangy curry puffs to egg-cellent truffled egg open sandwiches, every savoury item was made to perfection. FS should consider including sandwiches on their buffet table! 

Bottom tier: scones. They were so enormous that we had trouble finishing them and had to take 2 of them home in the end! They were a wee bit harder than expected, but that's not a big problem and I wasn't sure if it's because I didn't eat them right away. Anyway, the scones were nice, especially when being eaten with lots of apricot jam and clotted cream!

Ambience: A

Service: B+ (waiting staff were friendly. I only hope they would allow people to make reservation for tea some day!)

Food: B++ (the Easter tea was not bad but you know, I expected something impressively splendid because it's FS! But anyway I would give the food a slightly higher rating because of the lovely presentation :P)

Overall remarks: If it's food that you are after, it may be better to visit The Lounge on non-festive occasions - it's understandable that the quality of food may be compromised to some extent when they put so much thoughts in decorating the festive desserts. But if you want some fun in Easter, FS's Easter tea is your best bet because you will not find such adorable food elsewhere. Their Easter tea 2013 seems to be even more creative, which will definitely brighten your day despite the gloomy weather. Check out the pictures here! ;)

The Lounge (website)
Lobby Level, 8 Finance Street, Central, Hong Kong
Easter Afternoon Tea 2013: 2:30-5:30pm, 29 March to April 1
$328 per person

Sunday 17 March 2013

Taipei Special: Japanese Afternoon Tea @ Toutouan

I am so fond of afternoon tea that it is always part of my itinerary no matter where I go. I am truly grateful that sweet-toothed Hellish likes afternoon tea more than most men (even gay men :P) do, and he is always too lazy to plan anything, so he is happy to go along with whatever tea adventure I propose. ;) 

We went to Taiwan with our families 2 months ago and as usual, I reserved 2 afternoons for tea. Like HK, there's an explosion of afternoon teas in Taiwan in recent years. The choices in Taipei are staggeringly abundant, from authentic traditional tea sets in posh hotels to desperate emulations with merely fruits and cookies on tiered china stands. As the obsession with afternoon tea continues to grow in Taiwan at an infectious rate, tea sets can now be found virtually everywhere - even in Japanese restaurant! 

Toutouan is a modern Japanese fine dining restaurant that has taken the lead in offering afternoon tea set. It is located in a sleepy neighbourhood in Daan District. 

Inside Toutouan

We were excited when the waitress showed us the tea menu!

This is really cool isn't it? :)  

Hellish and I ordered a tea set for 2 persons. There's no need to share the food as it came as 2 individual tea sets,  each of which was elegantly presented in a wooden bento box. 

The tea set was essentially an edible Japanese courtyard garden! I knew I should spend some time admiring its beauty, but it was so mouth-watering that I grabbed my chopsticks and started eating right away... :9

Top tier: savouries (more or less) including tsukudani, grilled chicken, roasted chestnut, egg roll, pork patty, squid ball, etc... I wouldn't say the food was amazing, but it was good enough to make me happy and want more!

Bottom tier: sweets. A variety of ingredients, colours, textures, and cooking style, were used to give unique character to each little piece of sweet.There were dried strawberry and apple pieces, caramelized walnut, red bean mochi, sweet potato yokan, and a few items which I could not really label. If only the waitress could give us a bit of introduction to what we were having! Though I didn't really care as long as the food was yummy. :P

We weren't served our matcha until we wolfed down the whole tea set... which I couldn't understand why. Matcha is the best companion to Japanese sweets because its bitterness can mellow the latter's extreme sweetness. There's a pretty layer of foam in my bowl of matcha which reflected the whisking skills of the person who prepared the tea. I remember how hard I had practised in a Japanese tea class before I could make a foam that was only half as dense as this one. :0 For those who think matcha is an acquired taste, Toutouan offers genmaicha or sencha which gently cleanses and refreshes the palate. 

Ambience: A-

Service: B (Service could have been more attentive, but I was quite impressed by their kid-friendly attitude.  They gave my young nephew an origami ball as a gift!)

Food: B++ (A tea set for 2 cost only 1088 TWD, i.e. ~284 HKD! There's no way you can find tea sets of similar quality at this price in HK!)

Overall remarks: A recommendable place for afternoon tea lovers who 1) want to stay away from fattening cream, 2) want something different for a change and 3) wish to share their love for tea with their boyfriends/husbands (who typically shudder at the thought of having cakes on floral patterned stand in pink tearoom). 

Toutouan 燈燈庵 (website)
20, Lane 81, Dunhua South Road Section 2, Taipei City, Taiwan 
*The restaurant is currently renewing their afternoon tea menu, so tea set is temporarily unavailable. Keep an eye on their official site or Facebook page for future updates!