Sakura Afternoon Tea at Chinzan-so (Four Seasons hotel)

It’s been a while since I have done a high tea write-up. A couple of weekends ago, I did a spring-themed sakura (cherryblossom) afternoon tea at the Four Seasons Hotel – Chinzan-so.. There are two Four Seasons Hotel in Tokyo – one at Marunouchi (which I have done before) and another at Chinzan-so. Chinzan-so is actually a Japanese garden in Tokyo, near Edogawabashi. In the precinct of the Chinzan-so Japanese garden is the Four Seasons hotel, as well as Chinzan-so dining function centre. As I discovered, it’s a very popular place for weddings. I must have seen at least half a dozen weddings there. We had planned on doing this particular afternoon tea for a while now but decided to postpone it in light of the events that had taken place in Japan over the last month. My past high tea reviews – I usually critique them, and I will continue to do so. A little part of me feels a little guilty to be critiquing the service and quality of afternoon tea when so many people are suffering right now. But I don’t want to change what I have done in the past. I’m still in Japan, where I have been for the last several years, and I will continue to not only enjoy what this country offers but also to continue to help where I can in rebuilding Tohoku. …so without further ado, I shall recall the afternoon tea had on April 9. Weather was unfortunately not so great for hanami, but perfect to be inside enjoying afternoon tea. The Four Seasons Chinzan-so hotel is a very elegant, traditional hotel. It is absolutely palatial. Fit for royalty. Totally different from the Marunouchi Four Seasons. That hotel brand knows how to diversify. They couldn’t have been two more different venues. The downside to this venue, is that they don’t take bookings at all. We got there at 1.30pm and were told it would be about a 90minute wait. So we decided to go for a walk around the Chinzan-so Japanese garden and along the Edogawabashi riverline. After killing an hour, we then went back to the hotel to wait, only to be told we’d have to wait some more. After a total of 3hours, we finally were seated at 4.30pm. Talk about an epic wait. We were starving by this time too. Not impressed by the waiting time nor the service here. Big points lost there. They just kept telling us to wait. After three hours had passed we approached them again. Initially they told us we could have a table but only for an hour. What! A three-hour wait only to be kicked out after an hour. They don’t take bookings nor are their seating sessions. Then they told us we could stay longer for an hour only if we were willing to wait some more first! What! We queried this, and then out of thin air they ushered us into a vacant window seating area with no time limit. 4.30pm, hungry and after waiting for hours, we finally got ourselves seated in for an afternoon tea.

From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea here is in the Le Jardin Lounge, so called because it overlooks the Chinzan-so garden (Jardin is French for ‘Garden’).

From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea
From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea
From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea
From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea

Inside the menu, this was written…

From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea

We opted for the champagne set. We figured we had deserved it. It had been a month of tension and stress in Japan. People stopped enjoying themselves, cooped up inside homes, stressing and in state of fear and gloom. We decided to indulge a little. Nothing says indulgence more than a glass of Moet.

From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea
From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea
From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea
From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea

Looking in…the glass is half-full.

From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea
From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea

And then the piece de resistance – the three-tiered platter of treats arrive.

From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea

Savouries…

From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea

Sweets…

From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea

And scones…

From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea
From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea

The food did not last long.

From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea
From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea
From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea
From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea
From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea

Portions were small but very flavoursome. The food was good, and cherry blossom-themed. Here, you try as many pots of tea as you like, always a major plus.

From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea

Plenty of teas to sample. A very decent selection of exotic, unusual blends.

From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea
From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea
From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea
From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea
From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea

The afternoon tea experience here is very traditional, very classic. Very nice indeed. Waiting time – expect it. Service – ok. Very courteous slow, although service is on the slow side. Food – flavoursome but standard. Not mindblowing but still very good. Atmosphere – plenty of seating, but very busy. Decor is very nice. Value – debatable. The set with champagne is 4950 (4500 + 10% tax). Without champagne is 3500yen from memory, and then add tax to that. Definitely not one of the cheaper afternoon teas on offer in Tokyo, especially when service is not up to par. Still a lovely experience for die-hard tea lovers like myself. Keep in mind unlimited tea and unlimited seating session (when you actually get a seat).

From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea
From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea
From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea
From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea
From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea
From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea

Given our long wait to get in, it was only fair to outstay our welcome. We had wasted half a day trying to get a seat, so we didn’t leave until around 8pm. Given that weren’t seated until 4.30pm and by the time we got through the food and about 4 or 5 pots of tea, we took our time. Crowds had gone home by this time so we leisurely had afternoon tea with an unlimited seating session. We spent seven hours at this hotel and we weren’t even guests of the hotel. We made our way back towards the station through the Chinzan-so garden which was lit up – perfect for taking this photo…

From Chinzan-so Afternoon Tea

Chinzan-so Four Seasons hotel changes their menu with the seasons. No bookings accepted. Take a book and be prepared to wait, or get there really early (which doesn’t really make it an afternoon tea). Access: Alight at Edogawabashi station (via subway). Take exit 1A. You’ll see a riverline walk (Edogawabaashi river park route). Walk along that for about a good 10minutes until you reach the Chinzan-so Japanese gardens (free entry). Walk through the garden precinct, and follow the Four Seasons sign. (When walking along the riverline, continue to walk along it and don’t be tempted to walk up any of the stairs, even though your iPhone map looks like it’s telling you to get up to higher ground. Ignore your iPhone directions.) Chinzan so Japanese Garden – free. Popular wedding photo spot.

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