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