February 11, 2009
Afternoon tea around the world
Something I like to do when I travel is try the local version of a traditional British afternoon tea. Usually this is found in countries that have a history of British occupation, but not always. One of my favorite versions is at The Peninsula in Hong Kong. Held in the hotel’s elegant lobby, the menu is traditional—tea sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, pastries. And the trio playing live classical music is a wonderful touch.
I also love tea at the Raffles in Singapore. The setting in the Tiffin Room is evocative, with its original teak tables, ceiling fans and white-jacketed waiters. The tea itself is traditional, but they use mascarpone instead of clotted cream.
One of the best—and most unusual—afternoon teas I’ve ever experienced is the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok’s Thai tea. The idea is the same (scones, sandwiches and sweets) but the ingredients are indigenous, resulting in delicious and unique concoctions such as pandanus leaf and sun-dried banana scones, lime chili prawn sandwiches, and pumpkin custard. (They also serve a more traditional tea for less adventurous eaters.)
Of course, I enjoy afternoon tea in its source country as well, and whenever I’m in London I make sure to fit a tea into my schedule. My usual venue of choice is the St. James restaurant at Fortnum & Mason, as shopping in their wonderful food hall tends to make me very hungry, and their Welsh rarebit (offered on their high tea menu later in the day) is to die for. Another favorite is Claridge’s, considered by many to be the quintessential English tea experience. I also love tea in the conservatory at The Lanesborough. I make a point of having afternoon tea whenever I’m staying at either of these beautiful hotels. There is nothing better after a long day of touring and shopping than to sit down to a delicious and soothing afternoon tea, and then be able to go upstairs to your room!