High Tea at the Peninsula Hotel

26 Jan

My Great Aunty Joan used to live in Hong Kong, in the days where the British ruled and residents would take “high tea” in the afternoon. In a card she gave to my mum and aunty before they left, saying “don’t open this until you’re on the plane”, she had given us some money to have high tea at Hong Kong’s Peninsula Hotel – one of, if not the most famous Hong Kong high tea establishments.

We “frocked up”, as much as we could with my mum and aunty having travelled for three weeks in China and me bringing a carry-on bag to Hong Kong and arrived at the grand hotel around 1.35pm on Saturday afternoon. We’d been told to come a bit early (it opens at 2pm) to ensure we wouldn’t be standing in line for hours, and it was lucky we did. The “Pen”, as I feel I can now call it, has its high tea in the lobby – a grand big room with ornate ceilings and a quartet playing violin, flute, piano and double bass from a balcony above the diners.

 

We were ushered to a table by a waiter in a white coat, and offered a choice of teas to have with our high tea. Tea was poured for us from what seemed like silver teapots, and we sipped from the cups, which were not, I was disappointed to see, fine bone china or anything very ornate. High tea arrived on a three-tier platter, the top layer had sweet cakes – egg tarts, raspberry mouse, banana cake, macaroons and passionfruit curd tartlets. The middle layer was a savoury selection of mushroom quiche, sausage rolls, salmon rollettes and of course, cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off. The bottom layer held the hot raisin scones, which came with berry jam and clotted cream.


We sat looking at it for a while, and decided to begin with the savoury section. Did I mention our breakfast that morning had consisted of a banana and a few pieces of pineapple, and we hadn’t had lunch? We were fairly hungry. I’d never eaten a proper cucumber sandwich before and was expecting it to be a bit plain. But cucumber, cream cheese and dill made for a delicious combination, as did the mushroom in the quiche. It felt surreal to eat scones with jam and cream in these luxurious surrounds, while thinking that my Aunty Joan would have done the same thing around 50 years ago. The sweet cakes at the top were a mixture of flavours and textures – we particularly liked the passionfruit curd tartlets, and the macaroons were crispy on the outside and had beautiful sticky fillings inside. Of course the egg tarts were good – we were in Hong Kong! We sat there until we’d had the waiters refill our teapot enough times that there was no tea  being poured any more, and took our leave. It was a beautiful thing to do, and gave us a little idea how Aunty Joan would have lived while in Hong Kong.

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