A fashion themed afternoon tea that is unlikely to make headlines.
Hello readers, these Dessert Correspondents continue to break our rules and fail to correspond on our promised weekly basis. We do apologise. We write from Hong Kong and continue our series of summer dessert escapades from a summer that knows no ends. This summer, one of those “high tea establishments” on the Island side, the Mandarin Oriental’s Clipper Lounge, is hosting a special fashion-themed afternoon tea and artwork exhibition in celebration with the recent launch of “Chloé Attitudes“, apparently the first book on the history of this fashion house from 1952 up to the present day. Having fallen in love with fashion-themed high teas such as London’s Pret-a-portea at the so-very-posh Berkeley, the Churchill’s Sex and the City Part-Tea and Melbourne’s annual L’heure du The organized by the lovely Francophile Le Style, these Dessert Correspondents simply could not, not go to Clipper Lounge’s interpretation of a fashion-themed high tea. The Clipper Lounge is located one floor above ground level, and is essentially an upper-level enclosure looking downwards on the ground-level lobby. Aside from the grand crystal lighting that cascades like a glittery waterfall at eye-level, the Clipper Lounge is not a place for the incredible skyscraper skyline. The ambience of the lounge is unmistakable hotel.
The Chloé Afternoon Tea’s dining ware was plain white, terribly uninspiring for a “fashion” themed afternoon tea. One highlight was the variety of teas available and their being served in weighty stainless steel pots. Turning to the food, interestingly, scones were served first (instead of the traditional ribbon sandwiches). Fresh and warm, there were two varieties (plain and raisin-studded). They were a little hard and too crumbly for our personal preference. A subtly flavoured rose-petal strawberry jam was presented with what tasted like salted butter, definitely not the “clotted cream” that the menu alleged.
We saved our stomach spaces for the three-tier, which was reversed in order, with savouries crowning the arrangement and the sweets at the bottom. There were three types of sandwiches (salmon and cream cheese on pumperknickle, ham and pungent mustard, and cucumber wrapping white bread that enclosed egg mayonnaise), and two types of savouries (a tiny quiche and what seemed like a hybrid between a frittata and jaffle-sandwich).
The desserts were the definite highlight of the Clipper Lounge’s Chloé Afternoon Tea. The two berry-based cakes, one which was a cassis and muscovado mousse cake with a pop of raspberry, and the other being a rose-scented strawberry cake, were our two favourites. The ominously black cake comprising of almond milk and black sesame was probably a nod to the local tastes of this island, and may prove divisive among some afternoon tea participants. The little off-white orb embellished with a fondant tied ribbon piqued our curiosity, and was a pleasant, coconut, rum and chocolate layered creation. The “signature” tiramisu square that possessed the Chloé signage was somewhat disappointing, lacking the strong coffee flavour and mascarpone element that we have become accustomed to in tiramisu cakes from Melbourne. Bad Melbourne, you have spoiled our taste buds! As petit-trois end-games, the bottom tier also held one almond cookie, and two tiny tea cake slices of a dry banana cake and a bland honey poppyseed cake. Given that the afternoon tea set was ordered for two persons, one would have thought that these three end bites would have came in twin-sets rather than solitary.
The Clipper Lounge has a long-standing reputation of being one of the grand dames of afternoon tea in Hong Kong. On our visit however, expectations were generally not met. There were a few things that were done differently at Clipper Lounge: flowering tea was served in closed pots rather than glass pots, scones were served first, savouries were decidedly lacklustre, and aside from the desserts, there was not any real thought given to the fashion theme. The most detracting factor had to be however the mentality of squishing extra rows of chairs such that one is at elbows with one’s neighbours, presumably in order to allow for more participants. Such a practice is however not conducive to a pleasant talking environment. If we wanted crowds and noise, we would go to a local tea or noodle shop. Given our particular experience that one Saturday, it may be better to visit the Clipper Lounge when the themed afternoon tea is not offered.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: Clipper Lounge, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 5 Connaught Road Central, Hong Kong Island.
- ☑ Budget: $$$ (HKD$ 278 for one, or $488 for two, plus 10% service).
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: Afternoon Tea.
- ☑ Must-eat: The “Rose Strawberry Cake.”
- ☑ The short and sweet story: A fashion themed afternoon tea that is unlikely to make headlines.