For the indecisive, Above & Beyond’s afternoon tea satisfies dumpling cravings as well as one’s insatiable appetite for proper sweet desserts.
When in Rome, act as a Roman. When in Hong Kong, how can one bypass the idea of an afternoon tea indulging in traditional Cantonese dim sum fare and the sweeter delights of French-style desserts? The best of East and West meets in this way at Hong Kong’s Above and Beyond, a luxurious, swanky Cantonese restaurant in its own right.
Available on the weekends, afternoon tea at Hotel Icon’s Above and Beyond is served three-tiered style, with a Chinese flair. If you are able to get together a group of about five or six afternoon tea lovers, do try to organise with the maitre d’ for the semi-private dining area that affords an exclusive space and uninterrupted views of the Hong Kong Island skyline. Aside from this dining area, other smaller groups of afternoon tea lovers are accommodated in the restaurant itself. The tea menu was somewhat limited to four types of Chinese tea (two types of oolong and green tea, and a tea known as “sweet memories”), and four types of Western tea (being English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Chamomile and Verbena Mint). Table setting was nothing different — plain, white.
On our visit, the first course of the afternoon tea were dim sum fare. There were three types of steamed items, which included siu mai dumplings with a dash of black truffle, a saffron-orange coloured dumpling filled with Chinese mushroom and pumpkin, and a gua bao sandwiching smoked duck. The steamed items arrived in a bamboo steamer that one would typically encounter during a normal dim sum sitting. Of the four fried items presented on a separate white ceramic platter, there was a crispy taro cake, pastry puff with pate and pineapple, a tempura-like prawn nibble, and a baked pastry with a heart of crab meat.
Unlike the Intercontinental’s all-round Chinese afternoon tea, Above and Beyond diverged from a Cantonese narration and straight into French sweets. There were eight desserts, which in our opinion, surpassed the savoury component of the afternoon tea. As a palate cleanser, we first sampled the “Chilled Jelly with Lychee and Osmanthus,” a shallow cold dish with sweet lychee syrup. The “Strawberry Olive Cream Roll” was essentially a Swiss Roll, with a softer, more cloud-like, texture characteristic of Chinese bakery items (vis-a-vis Western baked treats). We were unable to discern any olive essence though. The rather Alice-in-Wonderland-esque “Raspberry Lemon Cheese Ball” was a favourite of these Dessert Correspondents. Here, an orb of cheesecake mousse was glaced with a red gelee, dotted with gold beads and silver foil leaf. The “Sesame Tuile” was a partial ode to the city itself, sesame being a favourite afternoon nibble of the local Cantonese populace. At Above and Beyond, it was layered with chestnut cream and topped with a juicy raspberry. The “Chestnut Creme Brulee” mirrored the tragedy of other creme brulees that we have sampled over the last year in Hong Kong — more weak-bodied cream than anything else. While the top was caramelized, there was no glassy layer of brulee to crack through. We ended with the two chocolate treats, a rich “Chocolate Jasmine Cake” and a “Chocolate Truffle” stick.
Compared to other dim sum institutions in Hong Kong, the savoury component of Above and Beyond’s Dim Sum Afternoon Tea offering was somewhat forgettable, aggravated by the fact that they were served several degrees below lukewarm, making us contemplate that they had been sitting in the kitchen for some time. The sweets were significantly better, with the highlights as noted above. On our visit, the service was not quite up to the standard that one would come to expect from a restaurant of Above and Beyond’s fine-dining ilk — overwhelmingly oblivious and inefficient. However, one should, to some extent, overlook these aspects. The big picture is this: Above and Beyond’s afternoon tea offering is perfect for the indecisive — satisfying both dumpling cravings as well as those with an insatiable appetite for proper sweet treats not usually found at the end of a more traditional dim sum dining experience. The breathtaking setting indeed, compensated for the other detractors experienced.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: Above and Beyond, Hotel Icon, 17 Science Museum Road, Kowloon / Tsim Sha Tsui East, Hong Kong
- ☑ Budget: $$$ (HKD $488 for two persons).
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: Afternoon tea.
- ☑ Must-eat: The sweets.
- ☑ The short and sweet story: For the indecisive, Above & Beyond’s afternoon tea satisfies dumpling cravings as well as one’s insatiable appetite for proper sweet desserts.