A lepidoptophilic afternoon tea where appearance dominates over taste and substance.
Mrs B’s Bakery is probably the most well-known cake bakery in Hong Kong, specializing in creating couture cakes the likes of which grace wedding magazines and table tops. Think magnificently elaborate fondant art and other embellishments, particularly a signature butterfly mark. Aside from the Soho location, there are three smaller cakery locations — in TST’s Harbour City, Tai Hang and Admiralty’s Pacific place respectively, which offer afternoon tea on a daily, no-bookings, basis.
C’est le B cafe at Pacific Place is located a little away from the main thoroughfare of the shopping centre. It’s decked out in a rather avant garde style — a blend of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland sensibility fused with 1970s retro psychedelicism. Neon tones with black and white, cottage-style tea pot lights suspended above austere minimalist black chairs. Overall, a festival of clashing colours and textures. C’est le B’s afternoon tea is served in a three-tier style, with savouries placed at the bottom, followed by mousse pots and then cakes. The table setting is alternatively comprised of monochromatic checkerboard or stripes, with tea pots and tea cups in bold neon colours or pitch black. On our visit, the tea menu was exasperatingly limited, and worse of all, arrived in tea bag form rather than loose leaf. A big no-no.
Without further ado, let’s consider the food component of the afternoon tea. To start, one begins with the bottom tier. There was large potsticker (panfried dumpling) which seemed a little out of place. It was served several degrees less than lukewarm, which is never a satisfying temperature at which to serve food. A limp, spring roll-type nibble was wrapped like a bon-bon, but yielded no unforgettable memory of itself. The one highlight of three savoury bites was the sandwich, comprising an interestingly layered tower of smoked salon, cucumber and cream cheese, gruyere cheese, egg and tomato and ham.
Seated on a bed of smarties chocolate, the second tier of C’est le B’s afternoon tea featured three plastic cups of something that we dare say hoped to resemble cream or mousse or custard of some sort. We blame it on the utter lack of proper fresh full cream milk in this part of the world — custard and cream-based desserts mean certain disappointment in Hong Kong. C’est le B’s renditions were no exception to this. The three cream cups were disappointingly weak-bodied, barely set, watery. The saving grace of the “Berry Delight” was the layer of berry jelly at the bottom of the cup, likewise the caramel crunch of the “Panna Cotta” and the solitary shard of honeycomb on the top of the “Caramel Toffee Chocolate” Cup.
The three cakes of the top tier of the afternoon tea was the best component of the afternoon tea, but by no means, memorable. The “Vanilla Cheesecake” was of the lighter, airier version typical of a Japanese cheesecake, rather than a denser, Western-style. The “Sunshine” cake definitely brought a smile to our faces, a prettily crafted cylinder betopped with an exquisite fondant flower.Appearance aside, taste was borderline bland, too subtle for our palate. The “Blessing in Disguise” was the better of the three cakes, a richer, more boldly-flavoured carrot cake, layered with cream cheese as well as a sweet berry glaze.
On separate visits, we have been able to sample a range of Mrs B’s other dessert treats, including her cake cylinders (pictured below), other individual cakes similar to the ones feature in this reviewed afternoon tea, as well as slices of her signature large cakes, including the below-pictured, intoxicating “Lolly Bag” cake. They all are sure to win award for appearance….taste however…
Mrs B’s cakes are like the shop’s butterfly mascot. Mesmerisingly and strikingly beautiful, one-of-a-kind. Fleetingly so. Eat a butterfly and we dare think it might be an experience that would disintegrate and dissipate all awe that one previously held with respect to its appearance. Likewise, afternoon tea at Mrs B’s and its C’est le B offshoots. Perhaps the food will satisfy the local populace who are generally known to have a sensitive palate, unaccustomed to bold flavours. But for these Dessert Correspondents, Mrs B’s proves that however striking outer appearance, a lack of inner depth and substance cannot be overcome. Afternoon tea at C’est le B is rather, c’est le dommage.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: Mrs B’s Bakery (39 Gough Street, Central); C’est Le B Cakery and Cafe (Shop 202, Pacific Place Shopping Centre, 88 Queensway, Admiralty; and two other locations).
- ☑ Budget: $$-$$$ (HKD$ 380 for two persons).
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: Cake.Afternoon Tea.
- ☑ Must-eat: Signature large cakes.
- ☑ The short and sweet story: A lepidoptophilic afternoon tea where appearance dominates over taste and substance.