Archive | January 2011

(Marunouchi) Four Seasons in one day: Best afternoon tea in Tokyo

I died and went to high tea heaven! On Earth, they call it the Four Seasons. I’ve done afternoon tea before at the Four Seasons in Cairo, Egypt. Was a totally different experience to the one I just experienced in Tokyo. Wouldn’t it be great to try afternoon tea all around the world at the Four Seasons hotel! There are two Four Seasons Hotel in Tokyo. One at Marunouchi (Tokyo station) and another at Chinzan-so. I’ve been wanting to do a man-ly afternoon tea for a while now, that is, an afternoon tea with some guys, what I like to call “Masculini-Tea”. Typically afternoon tea is viewed as a girly thing to do, but really, it’s something that can be enjoyed by guys too.

I decided to organize a tea event with my team from work. In my little department at work, there are four of us, plus our manager. I am the only female. We had originally planned for our get-together as a little bonenkai last December, but ended up postponing it to a shinnenkai. One of our team members couldn’t make it. In addition to the 4 of us, the EA to the MP came along (just for a pot of tea before heading off early) and a former employee. My work colleagues are awesome for agreeing to do an afternoon tea. I thought there would be resistance, but there were totally up for it, and I dare say, even excited about. I decided on the Four Seasons at Marunouchi for a few reasons. It was close to where we work, so everyone could get there using their teiki and hopefully not get lost getting there, also it was a venue which I thought would be the most appropriate for guys (no florally china, no three-tired platters etc), and we also happened to get a discount of 25% (a special offer to employees at our law firm).

Move over the Peninsula, I think this might be the best place to do afternoon tea in Tokyo. The food here was pretty darn good! So gourmet, so delectable and filling! It was more like an amuse bouche degustation. I was so excited to be there. I had been looking forward to this one for ages. Let me start from the beginning. The afternoon tea takes place at the Ekki Bar and Grill. Reservations highly recommended. The place was pretty much booked out.

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

The set on offer was the Winter Afternoon Set. I got mine with the glass of champagne.

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea
From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

Then our platters of food were brought out to us. There was so much food. What I loved about it here, is that they do a very modern take on afternoon tea. Here you won’t find a traditional afternoon tea. There are no sandwiches and no three-tiered platters. Instead there is an assortment of delightful, delicious savoury goodies which are brought out to us on trays and plates. Let me take on you the culinary journey that is afternoon tea at the Four Seasons. Feast your eyes on this:

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea
From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea
From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea
From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea
From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

There was the mini Wagyu burger (wagyu – need I see more. It did lack a little something though):

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

Delicious melted cheese and ham toasted panfried sandwich with truffle oil (yummy):

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

The snow crab croquette which was scrumdidilyumptious. A shame it was so small. :

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

Mini salmon tart. So good. Again, it was a shame it was that small.

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

The teriyaki chicken wrap (was a little bland):

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

These savoury treats kicked arse over regular cucumber and salmon sandwiches anyday!

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea
From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

Already starting to get full, there were the sweets to get through. An amazing assortment of sweet treats on offer.

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea
From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea
From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

There was the pistachio macaroon:

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea
From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

A sweet called the White Dome:

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

Fruitcake:

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

The cassis marshmallow:

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

Panna cotta:

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

And churros (whoever would have thought churros for afternoon tea. Not sure how Victorian royalty would feel about that. But how awesome are churros. Anything deep fried and coated in sugar is a definite winner). There was even a dip for the churros!:

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

Total bliss:

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

I do have to admit though, that the sweets probably looked better than they tasted, but all still very edible and filling. At some point during all this eating and indulgence, they also brought the scones out. These are served separately, and come out warm. There were 2 different types of scones, served clotted cream, and our individual strawberry jam jars. Surprisingly, a lot of afternoon tea venues I’ve been to don’t serve strawberry jam. They serve other jams like raspberry or cherry and I am always disappointed. Strawberry jam is the BEST, so I was in my element here. The strawberry jam had real whole strawberries in it. Everything here was pretty amazing. The ultimate place for afternoon tea.

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea
From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea
From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea
From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

It was a struggle to get through this feast. Another huge bonus point here is the very impressive tea selection. Most tea venues will offer about 6-10 different teas. Here there are a whopping 23 teas to choose from, as well as coffees and hot chocolates – all of which you can try as many different beverages as you like, and as much as you like. I went through 3 pots of tea and a hot chocolate. The teas were very standard in taste, but the variety on offer was commendable. I had my regular favourites – Assam and English Breakfast tea.

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea
From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

Also ordered the hot chocolate made with 66% cocoa -perfect because it wasn’t too sweet. Just enough bitterness. The hot chocolate is served with “condiments” which turned out to be a mini platter of marshmallows, chocolate curl balls and cream.

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea
From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea
From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea
From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

A pot of tea on its own (without ordering the afternoon tea) will set you back 1500yen which is steep. It is definitely worthwhile to get the afternoon tea set. The teapots hold generous servings of tea – 3 cups per pot. And the pot are tea plungers, which are really cool. No need for the strainer. Check out the very extensive tea and beverage menu here (all nomihoudai). There is a tea to please everyone – black teas, chinese tea, Japanese tea, herbal teas, iced teas, and coffees as well. I do love how they also list who their tea suppliers are:

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea
From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

Ended the afternoon with lemongrass and peppermint tea. I have recently discovered lemongrass tea and I love it. It’s hard to buy in Japan though. The only problem with peppermint tea blends, is that the peppermint is always so overpowering and drowns out all the other flavours. Still, a nice tea to cap off the afternoon, and aid digestion.

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

Exotic honeys from Hungary and France too, to sweeten the herbal teas or served on scones. (we had to ask what these were):

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

I really liked the detail in the sugar cube arrangement (like a chess board):

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

On the seventh floor of the building, it offers views but not very exciting scenery. It mostly looks over the maze that is Tokyo station and the railtracks below, and nearby office building towers.

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea
From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea
From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

The interior is pleasant enough. Modern, clean. Full of ladies, apart from our table of men. It’s a shame that the afternoon tea takes place in a main dining restaurant rather than a nice lounge with plush comfortable sofas. However the design is simple, contemporary and sophisticated unlike other Four Seasons’ hotels which can be extremely ornate and traditional.

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea
From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea
From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea
From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

Service here was very good, although you do have to constantly flag them down. Winter afternoon tea menu:

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

Price for afternoon tea at Ekki is 3900yen. With champagne it is 4900yen. 10% service charge will be added as well. With a 25% discount though, this made it excellent value. For about 4000yen, I had all that gourmet food, plus a glass of champagne plus as much tea and hot drinks as I liked. Excellent value, even without the discount. Well worth paying for and definitely one of the better afternoon teas available in Tokyo. Another bonus here, is that being the Four Seasons hotel, they change their afternoon menu every season, with some of the treats being a staple all-year round! It looks like I might have to make it a thing to visit in every season. I am pretty sure the mini wagyu burger though is standard all year round though. They also offer limited afternoon tea for special occasions such as Valentines’ Day and Christmas. I checked out their upcoming Valentines afternoon tea – it includes a lot more chocolate and strawberries and even chocolate fondue! Will also have to try the Four Seasons afternoon tea at Chinzan-so. From what I can gather, it is more traditional. Floral teaware, 3-tiered platters. Whilst the Marunouchi hotel has a more modern Western feel, the Chinzan-so is more Japanese and traditional. I’ve heard there’s a garden there too. This place perhaps tops all the other venues in Tokyo for afternoon tea. It definitely wins, in terms of food quality, originality and creativity, value, and extensive tea selection. Will perhaps need to re-visit my ranking sheet and re-assess. For now, it is definitely in the top 5 afternoon tea venues in Tokyo. Seating session is 2.5hours, but I didn’t see people getting ushered out at 5pm on the dot. I found that 2.5 hours was just perfect though, because everything was so satisfying and so filling. My work colleagues were awesome sports for partaking in afternoon tea. It was nice to spend a cold winter’s afternoon together. I think they enjoyed it. After all that food, I was glad I had arrived on an empty stomach and had swum 2km that morning to appreciate it all.

From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea
From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea
From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea
From Four Seasons, Marunouchi: Afternoon Tea

Four Seasons at Marunouchi afternoon tea at Ekki Bar and Grill. Details at their website.

Scenes from Dahab

I’ve got the travel bug again. I love traveling and going overseas. I keep thinking and planning for my next trip. Destination: Not sure yet. Tossing a few around in my head. Am hoping to make a few overseas trips this year. Have decided to live vicariously through some of my photos of past holidays. I never did get around to finishing posting up photos of my Egypt (and Israel and Jordan) trip. During my time in Egypt, I spent a fair bit of time in the Sinai/Red Sea region, in a resort town called Dahab (better than Sharm El Sheikh). Dahab means ‘Gold’. Was a gem of a place to relax and snorkel.

Here are some scenes from Dahab:

From Scenes from Dahab

One of the (three) hostels I stayed at:

From Scenes from Dahab

View from balcony:

From Scenes from Dahab

Now this is what I call a banana sundae:

From Scenes from Dahab

At the markets:

From Scenes from Dahab
From Scenes from Dahab
From Scenes from Dahab
From Scenes from Dahab
From Scenes from Dahab
From Scenes from Dahab
From Scenes from Dahab
From Scenes from Dahab

The Red Sea:

From Scenes from Dahab
From Scenes from Dahab

The Red Sea/Sinai region is famous for partaking in water sports such as snorkeling and diving. Dahab despite being ridiculously hot (37-40 degrees celcius in summer) it’s also very windy, which also makes it a windsurfers’ paradise.

New Year, more tea

Another year, another afternoon tea party. A shinnenkai Tea Party.

From Tea at Hotel Okura
From Tea at Hotel Okura

So I did another afternoon tea over the weekend, and I must say it was very easy to rank this one. Quite simply, because it went straight to the very bottom of my list of afternoon teas in Tokyo. The venue in question – Hotel Okura. It promised to be such a nice experience. Disappointment it delivered.

From Tea at Hotel Okura

It’s not situated in a convenient location. The hotel is in the boring Toranomon embassy district, a 10min walk from the closest subway station. I got lost getting there and ended up close to 30min late because I couldn’t figure out how to get there. Entrance into the hotel is a little confusing too. They have a hotel annex – the South Wing, so be sure to go to the right hotel building. Entrance was hidden by a carpark. Not a visibly-labelled hotel.

From Tea at Hotel Okura
From Tea at Hotel Okura
From Tea at Hotel Okura

As for the hotel itself. It’s very 70s. From the decor, right down to the 70’s dressed bellhops out the front of the hotel. Afternoon tea takes place in the Orchid Room, where needless to say, orchids adorn the table. Table setting is very pretty and florally. The Orchid Room is a dining room with a buffet set up in the middle for the lunch crowd. Felt a little odd to be doing afternoon tea in the middle of a buffet room. Most hotels usually offer tea in the cafe/lounge bar. No view to speak of either.

From Tea at Hotel Okura

The whole afternoon tea experience was very disappointing. I don’t know where to begin. Don’t let these glossy photos fool you. Sandwiches were really plain, bland and dare I say even, quite disgusting. Way too much butter. More butter than filling. And very ordinary. I declined to eat all my sandwiches.

From Tea at Hotel Okura
From Tea at Hotel Okura

The scones were ok. More like biscuits (in the American sense, that they were very very dry). Scones to Australians should be big, round, and buttery fluffy.

From Tea at Hotel Okura
From Tea at Hotel Okura
From Tea at Hotel Okura

Cakes were also very 普通.

From Tea at Hotel Okura

Food on the whole was a little skimpy here compared to other places. The 不味い sandwiches were plentiful, but only two cakes. Most places tend to be quite generous on the dessert side. As for the tea, the selection was standard. The usual Ceylon, Assam, Earl Grey, English Breakfast and a couple of other herbal blends. However, you can only choose one choice of tea. So no tea sampling. They do however, give you fresh pot refills of your selected tea. With our group of six, we each chose a different tea, that way we could each sample eachother’s tea.

From Tea at Hotel Okura

Time session ended promptly at 5pm without warning except when we were given our bills and ushered promptly out. Because the afternoon tea is in the main buffet dining room, dinner service needs to be prepared. My standard criteria for an afternoon tea session is 3 hours – minimum.

From Tea at Hotel Okura

Save your 3200yen, which is what tea at the Orchid Room will set you back. Complete photo album here