Nibbling our way through a strawberry field of a high tea that takes us far away from Hong Kong’s steam-pot summer.
It’s summer in Hong Kong, and my goodness, what a summer it is turning out to be. For these Dessert Correspondents who have spent over two decades or so growing up in the dry, very short summer spells of Melbourne, summer in Hong Kong is akin to being simultaneously wrapped in plastic wrap, stuck in a high-powered sauna and exposed to a protracted intense UV shower. In Australia, an “indoor summer” is relatively unheard of (not to mention, most disapproved), but in Hong Kong, relief must be had and may be found in the air-conditioned oasis of shopping centres and hotels. Of the latter, these Dessert Correspondents welcomed summer with a fruity colourful high tea at Island Shangri La. Afternoon tea at Island Shangri Law takes place in either the spacious, airy Lobby Lounge under the gaze of hotel guests walking by and checking in and out, or the more intimate, no-windows, wood-closet that is the hotel’s patisserie boutique, Island Gourmet. We opted for the former, wanting to bathe in the sunlit day (albeit behind the shield of air-conditioning and glass windows).
The afternoon tea was served on a three-tiered glass framework, with the bottom tier holding the savouries and the two top tiers featuring the sweet nibbles. Tea was limited in range. However, we were able to overlook this disappointment because of the pretty floral dinnerware and the weighty plated silver tea set, touches that are all-too-often overlooked by many establishments/venues serving afternoon tea.
The savoury items adopted the strawberry theme via the use of blush-pink tones from salmon, prosciutto, prawns and tuna rolled, layered, sandwiched and topping bread-based creations. Some were bejewelled with crescent slices of strawberries, or smeared with strawberry jam. All were clearly freshly prepared, and served as light starters to the afternoon tea.
Without a doubt, the most important part of any high tea has to be the little desserts. Shangri La did not fail in this aspect, with two tiers of six sweet nibbles certainly being the highlight of the afternoon tea. The first to be sampled was a strawberry-shaped sponge cake enclosing a cloud-like centre of light cream and strawberry pieces, followed by a slighty dwarved, strawberry madeleine. A little heavier in texture and mouthfeel were the strawberry cheesecake sitting on a pastry circle and cloaked in a light matcha chocolate velvet spray, and the eclair-shaped profiterole. We then proceeded to sample the berry chocolate tartlet, the indulgent chocolate brownie layered with strawberry cream, and bites of a macaron and chocolate finger biscuit. Overall, each and every sweet nibble was fabulously vibrantly flavoured, and also thoughtfully executed, keeping the strawberry theme very close in mind.
Swathed in cream and strawberry jam, the scones served to anchor the end of the afternoon tea at Shangri La. Soft, without any messy dry crumble, just the way we like it.
An airy yet intimate venue, not crowded, not claustrophobic, not too casual yet not too hush hush? Tick. Savouries that are not simply limp, boring ribbon sandwiches? Tick. Deserts that are not utterly uninspired slabs sliced off a mass-produced cake or slice? Tick. Due consideration given to the dining ware and tea setting used? Tick. Polite, efficient, observant service staff? Tick. Permits reservations, rather than acting like a militant war time rations provider? Tick. Afternoon tea at Shangri La may not receive as much press or hype as other establishments in Hong Kong but for that we are thankful because it is now our little secret for one of the most perfect afternoon tea experiences to be had.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: Island Shangri La, Pacific Place, Supreme Court Road, Hong Kong.
- ☑ Budget: $$$ (HKD$ 258 pp, or $448 for 2 persons).
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: Afternoon Tea.
- ☑ Must-eat: Strawberry-shaped sponge cake.
- ☑ The short and sweet story: Nibbling our way through a strawberry field of a high tea that takes us far away from Hong Kong’s steam-pot summer.