Indulge in seasonally changing chocolate delights in a venue that puts the “high” in “high tea,” to be precise… 103 levels above the sea.
Reporting from HK, these Dessert Correspondents have come across what must be one of the most beautiful restaurant settings ever. We do mean, e-v-e-r. Exactly one hundred and three floors above sea level, the views are everything and more at the Ritz Carlton’s Cafe 103 in Hong Kong. The stunning architecture — the use of brilliantly long window panes that capture all the light available on a wintry afternoon, and the soaring ceilings that utterly distract from the “dining in a hotel” grimace — is a backdrop that perhaps surpasses the afternoon tea offered at Cafe 103. Make sure that you request a balcony table.
The afternoon tea was served on plain white dining ware, with tea coming from an extensive menu, from which we selected an aromatic, ginger and honey tea to counter the chocolate heaviness. However, a true chocaholic will be sure to order the hot chocolate perhaps, in lieu of the more docile tea. The food itself came presented as a “Chocolate Library” book that the wait staff reveal to show an almost Chinoiserie-style shelf of sweet and savoury nibbles.
With the greatest honesty, the savouries were somewhat underwhelming in both number and taste. On our visit, three savouries comprised the entire savoury menu. There was a “Chestnut and turkey mousse spinach bread roulade,” a “mille feuille” of shrimp salad, map syrup and lemon bread, and a tartlet encasing red currant, chestnut powder and duck foie gras. Fancy ingredients undoubtedly, but not particularly fabulous taste.
The sweet irresistibles were the higlight of the afternoon at Cafe 103 — there were seven, beautifully crafted chocolate and chestnut themed, miniature desserts. The first to be sampled was the “Orange Chestnut Choco Trifle,” presented in characteristic layers of citric mousse and chocolate chestnut mousse in a small shot glass. It was topped with crunchy honeycomb for textural contrast.
The second sweet irresistible to be sampled was the “Chestnut Chocolate Cheesecake,” well-flavoury creamy cheesecake with a decent of chestnut cream on its surface. One of our favourite items of the afternoon.
The third sweet irresistible was the “Chestnut Chocolate Comfit Cake,” akin to a indulgent opera cake, where the chocolate dominated the chestnut presence. Imagine this ten times the size as a birthday or celebration cake…a-m-a-z-i-n-g.
The “Chestnut Chocolate Swiss Roll” was next, a light intermission where chocolate sponge cake on a digestive biscuit base enclosed an even swirl of savoury chestnut spread. A lid of tempered dark chocolate and a juicy cranberry cluster sat on top.
We gulped down the next two items in quick succession in order to put us into a chocolate stupor – a “Chocolate Macaron” which was a little softer than we usually prefer, but nonetheless well-flavoured, and a “Chestnut Chocolate Tart” that was all chocolate, no chestnut, but seriously good.
And to end, we cleansed our chocolate-coated tongues with the “Chestnut Pave,” a simple, marbled tea cake.
A few months in Hong Kong and our verdict is this: on the cheap end of the food scene, there are your “local” noodle and dumpling joints. There is a sliver of a “mid market”, which is overwhelmed by a “higher end” mish-mash of imports. There’s no doubt that you can find the United Nations of cuisines in Hong Kong, everything and anything is available, the question is how much you are willing to pay for it. When it comes to the universal joy of chocolate, you can find chocolate from Australia, UK, the US and niche brands from continental Europe. What is rarer is homegrown talent having the courage to flaunt itself. So it’s actually a breath of fresh air that when taking tea at the Ritz Carlton, one is able to see the influence of Asia (i.e. the chestnut obsession) fuse with Western dessert-making techniques. Overlooking the parsimonious savouries, it is the warm service and the seasonally changing chocolate delights at the Ritz Carlton that defines the “high” in “high tea.”
- Dessert adventure checklist
- Dessert destination: The Ritz Carlton, International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong.
- Budget: $$$ ($328 HKD pp, excluding service charge)
- Sweet irresistibles: Chocolate-themed High Tea.
- Must-eat: Chocolate-themed High Tea.
- The short and sweet story: Indulge in seasonally changing chocolate delights in a venue that puts the “high” in “high tea,” to be precise… 103 levels above the sea.