On my second day in Hong Kong I awoke to the drumming of torrential rain. In an instant my hopes and dreams of spending the day traversing the Dragon's back trail to Shek O beach were dashed. But when you have but a few short days to explore a town, explore you must so I grabbed my umbrella and formulated a plan B that mostly featured indoors activities. I had already been eyeing up the famous High Tea at The Lobby at The Peninsula Hotel, and what better way to pass a rainy afternoon than to gorge ones self on tiny cakes and live 'hotel lobby' (classical) music?
Located on Salisbury Rd in Kowloon, it was an easy ride on the MTR to get there from Hong Kong. I arrived a little early not knowing that tea is not served until 2pm. I took a turn about the impressively ornate lobby and first floor which is home to two restaurants and many high end boutiques. I indulged in a spot of window shopping ( stared longingly) at Hermes and Harry Winston to fill in some time but soon realised a queue was forming for the High Tea so I got myself in line quick before it got too big. If, like me, you loathe queues then I suggest turning up a bit earlier than 2pm as I don't believe they take reservations. Once tea service commenced I was seated quite promptly and the service was excellent from the get go however, unbeknown to me initially, I was given a menu with the first and most important page missing. I had come for the fancy three tiered array of high tea essentials but found no such item on offer and so I rather disappointedly ordered a dish of tiny cucumber and salmon sandwiches. If I have to choose between sweet and savoury, savoury usually wins but I was very sad to miss out on the variety, however ordering each dish individually would be enough food for 10 people and would have well exceeded my budget.
There was an extensive array of teas to choose from as well as some fancy coffees. Eager for an authentically East meets West Hong Kong high tea experience, I went for a fragrant Chinese Jasmine Green to accompany my very English tiny sandwiches. They arrived quickly and were elegantly presented on Tiffany chinaware however it wasn't long before I realised that most of the neighbouring tables were being presented with the very thing I had come for. I asked my waiter for another look at the menu and this time it included the acclaimed Peninsula Classic AfternoonTea. For HK$358 for one or HK$628 for two you'll enjoy a selection of more delicious tiny sandwiches, savouries, freshly baked scones with Devonshire clotted cream and homemade preserves and petit four style sweets than you can comfortably eat ( but is all so delicious you will keep eating anyway). For an additional HK$180 you can indulge in a glass of Deutz Peninsula, Brut Champagne.
When I explained to my waiter that the first menu had been missing the front page he was more than happy to adjust my order and within 5 minutes he arrived with the missing two tiers of my high tea experience and all was well in my world once again. After all, I was treating myself to a fancy High Tea and I firmly believe in moderation paired with occasional indulgences and that when you do indulge, you have to do it right and not by halves. Chef Andy Cheng clearly doesn't do things by halves either as I was pleased to discover. Every item was made with love and care, the sandwiches were fresh with balanced, delicate flavours, the scones just right and each little dessert was unique, treating the taste buds to variety in sweetness, zest and texture.
The standard of services remained high throughout my visit and the waiter was kind enough to offer me some news papers to read since I was alone. In spite of the growing queue I was not made to feel rushed in order to turn the table over quickly. High Tea in a hotel can sometimes seem like one of those things the guide books or tourist pamphlets are paid to recommend but then the experience doesn't deliver the value you're promised, but I was curious to try for myself and I am pleased I did. Normally I am more excited to try different local foods and find hidden gems down laneways when I travel but I was pleasantly surprised by my experience at The Lobby. It was fun to try something different and the staff made sure the experience was world class from start to finish. I have a newfound curiosity to compare it with some of London's best High Tea experiences and I'm sure London will present me with just the kind of weather that will make me want to rug up up indoors and eat cake.