Tag Archive | afternoon tea

Strings Intercontintental – summer afternoon tea

Here’s a write-up of an afternoon tea I did 18 months ago – I am only now trying to catch up on a backlog of afternoon teas which I’ve yet to post about. My blogging hiatus has been for a number of reasons but mostly it comes down to lack of time. Other priorities have take over which eat into blogging time – mostly work and swim training. Over the last couple of years I really ramped up my swim mileage training for marathon swims and channel swims etc. This meant most of my time when not at work was spent swimming. Any free time was taken up with sleep, bludging (ie Netflix – which I cancelled last year), and catching up with friends etc and trying to maintain a social life. Anyway, here is my attempt to try and get back on the blogging horse.

The afternoon tea scene in Tokyo has really exploded the last couple of years. So many places now offer it – hotels, restaurants and cafes. It used to be limited to just a few select hotels. But now hotels are offering seasonal teas so they are getting more varied and fancier, and with the changing menus with each season and sometimes monthly (!) – they now how to get customers to keep coming back.

So let’s rewind back to the summer of 2016 – the Strings Intercontinental hotel in Shinagawa was a hotel that I had not yet been to for afternoon tea so I jumped on the chance when they released a summer afternoon tea. Their offering was a summer kakigori (“shaved ice”) afternoon tea in a tiered round bowl vase.

The afternoon tea wasn’t overly special. It was light on the savoury bites and too heavy on the desserts. There were just a couple of h’ordeauvres (ie a sandwich and olives).

The rest were all sweets and only ok at that. Given the seaons, it focused on fruits and citrus flavours. The desserts tier included: a passionfruit macaroon, a passionfruit chocolate bonbon, a lime tart, and few other sweet treats.

As for the scones – a coconut one, and an acai one – both of which were new flavours of scones for me and not the standard fare. They were also very typical Japanese ones ie hard and dry. Very unlike Australian scones which are super soft, light, fluffy and buttery. No country does scones like Australia, I tell you.

I liked the servingware though. I’m always drawn to how different venues serve their afternoon tea and the presentation. This one come in an interesting tiered spherical bowl.

Each layer/tier of the bowl was unstacked and held food.

The differentiator of this afternoon tea, was the kakigori (shaved ice dessert) – a popular Japanese different in summer.

A different experience for afternoon tea – but the quality and taste factor of the food wasn’t quite there.

Nevertheless, another Tokyo venue ticked off the list:

Afternoon tea – Hotel Seiyo Ginza

Occasionally, I get people emailing me who have contacted me though my blog. To date, I have even met some people – total strangers, at that, through my blog. There was a Spanish guy who would write to me asking about open water swimming in Japan. I met up with him twice over the course of my three years in Tokyo.

I then met a girl who lived in Australia and was visiting Tokyo. She was a fellow foodie and we exchange a few emails about recommended eats in Tokyo, and I agreed to meet her for lunch. I haven’t written a blog post about that lunch…yet. I can’t remember if I mentioned it here or not, but the day I met this girl – we ran into Hugh Jackman’s wife – Deborah Lee-Furness. I just missed out on seeing Hugh Jackman. He was in Tokyo filming the new Wolverine movie. It was sooo exciting just to meet his wife! For the record, we had lunch at the Park Hyatt hotel. I still need to write up about that lunch… that was months ago now.

About 2 weeks ago, I got to meet another blog-reader. We had afternoon tea together. She is such a cool girl. We had so much in common. I’m sure in another lifetime we would be best friends, were it not for the fact that she lives in Ecuador! I am totally going to have to go there! We made arrangements to meet at the Hotel Seiyo Ginza. I had chosen it purely on the fact that the hotel is closing down as of May this year, so I had wanted to go there before they close down. We rocked up without a reservation and were given a table immediately. Two afternoon sets were ordered and we chatted the next couple of hours away. Basically trying to tell our whole life stories in a matter of a couple of hours. Carolina is such a cool person – positive energy and vibe with a lot going for. We’re both foodies and fans of afternoon tea and travel. This was only her second afternoon tea experience ever. The afternoon tea here was very classic, traditional – very tame. Not bad, not terrible either. The hotel isn’t going to be around much longer so I figured I’d give it a try. The Seiyo Hotel in Ginza:

From Hotel Seiyo Ginza afternoon tea
From Hotel Seiyo Ginza afternoon tea

The savoury plate’s saving grace was the mini hamburger.

From Hotel Seiyo Ginza afternoon tea
From Hotel Seiyo Ginza afternoon tea

Sweets and cakes:

From Hotel Seiyo Ginza afternoon tea

Scones – plain and choc chip

From Hotel Seiyo Ginza afternoon tea
From Hotel Seiyo Ginza afternoon tea

The afternoon set here comes with a glass of sparkling wine (or juice) plus four beverages of your choice – tea is served by the cup, not by the pot. So I tried four different cups of tea (original blend tea, assam tea, houji cha milk tea, and a mint tea). All in all, not too bad – 5 drinks plus afternoon tea set comes to 5000yen. Maybe not one of the best options for high tea in Tokyo though.

From Hotel Seiyo Ginza afternoon tea
From Hotel Seiyo Ginza afternoon tea
From Hotel Seiyo Ginza afternoon tea

Is it a little bit uncanny, but do we kinda look alike? (Apart from the fact that I wear glasses.)

From Hotel Seiyo Ginza afternoon tea

 

Afternoon Tea in Moscow: The Ritz

I have an overdue afternoon tea experience to write about. Back when I did the Trans-Siberian over the summer holidays, I, of course, found myself in Moscow. And naturally I made it my mission to have afternoon tea in Moscow. Being the overachiever I am, I did not one, but TWO afternoon teas during my three-day stay in Russia’s capital. You’d be surprised that there are a handful of venues that offer afternoon tea in Moscow. I did my research and narrowed it down to two venues, where I would grace my presence. Today’s review is of afternoon tea at the Ritz Hotel, Moscow. Had there been a Four Seasons Hotel in Moscow, I would have gone there as part of my Four Seasons Afternoon Tea project, but alas no Four Seasons in Moscow, so the Ritz it was. The Hotel:

From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow
From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow

And for those who don’t read English above, here it is in Russian:

From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow

The hotel is within metres from Red Square (which you can see to the left of the photo):

From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow

The hotel lives up to its brand — sheer opulence. The dictionary defines “ritz” as “ostentatious or pretentious display”. I had the Tsar Tea afternoon tea set in the Lobby Lounge, which includes a glass of champagne which is always welcome.

From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow

The tea selection was impressive. 22 varieties of hot tea and 3 iced tea blends. Teas are mostly supplied by Ronnefeldt tea and also TWG. Yes, a table for one:

From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow

A relaxing cup of tea:

From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow
From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow
From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow

Four different kinds of sugar!

From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow

I was even served strawberries!

From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow

The afternoon tea 3-tiered platter is a serving for two. So even though it was just me, I had to order the set as 2-person portion, which meant that there was double of everything. That’s a lot of food for one person!

From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow
From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow

The spread:

From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow

The food was pretty traditional. Nothing too crazy Russian, I guess.

From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow

The savoury plate was a selection of 5 open finger sandwiches: – cream cheese, smoked salmon and capers – camembert, walnut and sour cream – sour cream and roe – cheese, ham, sour cream and capers – prosciutto, cucumber, sour cream Everything had sour cream. They use sour cream like it’s butter. They do love their sour cream in Russia.

From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow
From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow

Desserts was 2 different flavoured macaroons, a choc cup, some jubes, and a cake. One of the macaroon flavours was mint and basil. A little weird.

From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow
From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow
From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow

And the scones for last:

From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow

And yes, even the scones were served with sour cream! This is a thing in Russia. Sour cream with everything. I love sour cream as much as the next person, but on my scones! Even I have limits. Scones, sour cream and jam is just a weird combination. I actually even had the audacity to ask for fresh cream. They happily obliged and gave me a generous serve of fresh cream.

From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow

Now that’s more like that. Topped with strawberry jam.

From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow
From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow
From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow

Afternoon tea in Moscow. Check.

From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow

Hotel interior:

From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow
From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow
From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow
From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow
From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow
From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow
From Afternoon tea, Ritz Moscow

The Tsars Tea afternoon tea set cost 2500 rubles (portion for 2). So for two people, I think you get to split that cost. It does include a glass of champagne, 3-tier platter of food and unlimited tea. Not recommended if you have an aversion to sour cream!

Hotel Tokyo Palace Afternoon Tea

The Palace Hotel Tokyo right near the Imperial Palace garden precinct and Tokyo Station district opened earlier this year in May. It’s also really close to my office building. I’ve been able to see the hotel being constructed over the last year or so. Since the hotel opened in May, I’ve been meaning to go and check its afternoon tea. Finally got around to getting there last Sunday afternoon. It was a beautiful sunny, warm autumn day. Such a shame I had a bit of a hangover. It was a rather subdued afternoon tea as we’d all been out the night before celebrating a friend’s birthday. I took a stroll through part of the Imperial Palace area. Lots of people out and about enjoying the sunshine. (All photos taken on iPhone and not my SLR this time).

From Palace Hotel afternoon tea

Marunouchi CBD in the background.

From Palace Hotel afternoon tea
From Palace Hotel afternoon tea

The Palace Hotel:

From Palace Hotel afternoon tea
From Palace Hotel afternoon tea
From Palace Hotel afternoon tea
From Palace Hotel afternoon tea
From Palace Hotel afternoon tea
From Palace Hotel afternoon tea

They don’t take reservations on weekends for afternoon tea. Most unfortunate. They only take reservations on weekdays. We arrived at 2pm, and had to wait about 30minutes for a table. The Lounge was quite busy, and weddings were also going on in the hotel. We waited in the hotel lobby until a table was available. We finally got a table for our party of six. Afternoon tea is served in the Palace Lounge (lobby lounge).

From Palace Hotel afternoon tea

The hotel is very new and the interior is nice with lots of natural light. The new polished floors were a little slippery! Wasn’t a huge fan of the ergonomics of the decor. It’s one of those lounges with comfy soft chairs, but with coffee tables built way too low. The Afternoon tea set here is pretty good. It gets bonus points for creativity and it’s serving ware. I kind of like it when places don’t serve afternoon tea on 3-tier platters. This place serves its afternoon tea in a really cool way. Autumn place setting:

From Palace Hotel afternoon tea

The tea set includes unlimited tea of any variety. Yay. I think I tried four different kinds of tea!

From Palace Hotel afternoon tea

Loved the teaware!

From Palace Hotel afternoon tea
From Palace Hotel afternoon tea
From Palace Hotel afternoon tea

The tea selection is very decent. I was suitably impressed. My favourite of the day was a black tea blend called Trois Freres. A good strong tea best served with milk. The genmaicha was a nice tea to end with. Also had the English breakfast (not that good) and the light Ceylon tea which was too light. The way the afternoon tea is served here is really cool. No tiered platters…instead you get a lacquered wooden box! It kind of looks like a jewelery box with little drawers.

From Palace Hotel afternoon tea

Pretty neat, ay.

From Palace Hotel afternoon tea
From Palace Hotel afternoon tea
From Palace Hotel afternoon tea

Each drawer pulls out as an individual box of food, kind of like a bento. One of the slim drawers then serves as a plate.

From Palace Hotel afternoon tea

The top drawer contained the scone.

From Palace Hotel afternoon tea

The scone was pretty awesome. Definitely one of (possibly if not the best) scone I’ve had in Japan. It was definitely less ‘biscuity’ and more softer/fluffier on the inside. It was also square-shaped. I wish there had been two scones to a serve though. Scones should not however be served with honey and apricot jam. Where’s the regular strawberry jam?! And honey has no place on scones. Crumpets however are totally deserving of honey. Oh well. The savoury “drawer” was my favourite.

From Palace Hotel afternoon tea

Two portions each of sandwiches, quiche, pork rillette on baguette, and even inari sushi! The quiche was pretty divine. I thought the raisins and dried apricot was a nice touch. The dessert drawer was ok – an assortment of cakes and berries.

From Palace Hotel afternoon tea
From Palace Hotel afternoon tea
From Palace Hotel afternoon tea
From Palace Hotel afternoon tea
From Palace Hotel afternoon tea
From Palace Hotel afternoon tea
From Palace Hotel afternoon tea

And I always save the scone for last. Sadly, sans jam.

From Palace Hotel afternoon tea

Afternoon tea here is standard fare. Not the best and not the worst in Tokyo. Location is convenient though and the food is decent, as is the tea selection. The service however was ridiculously slow! Be prepared to wait 30minutes for each pot of tea. I am not exaggerating. Doesn’t help when the wait staff are shuffling about in kimonos – makes it awkward to carry trays and serve food etc. It is all very pretty though. Afternoon tea (includes unlimited tea) is 3800yen plus tax (about 4100yen). Menu can be viewed on their website.

Turkey travel diary: Afternoon tea in Istanbul – delightfully criminal.

Day 1 cont. (Post 2 of 3) I had just arrived in Istanbul, and after three airplane packaged meals and one free airport meal, I was in need of some real food. The first thing I did when I arrived in Turkey was do an afternoon tea. And yes, on.my.own. When I was in Cairo, Egypt last year, I did an afternoon tea there as well, at the Four Seasons hotel. I made a passing comment on this blog somewhere that I should do an afternoon tea at all the Four Seasons hotels around the world. What a great idea. I’m going to do just that! Henceforth, whenever I’m overseas, I’m going to find me a Four Seasons hotel to partake in afternoon tea at. I’ve already done Egypt, both the Four Seasons hotels in Tokyo, and I can now cross Istanbul, Turkey off the list. The next one will be in Bangkok, Thailand later on this year. I skipped all the million and one things I could have done as a tourist upon my arrival in Istanbul and instead headed straight for the Four Seasons hotel – only a few stars more than my current hostel lodgings! The previous post was merely just photos I took on my way to finding the hotel. I had until 6pm to get myself in before afternoon tea ended, and it was already nearing 5pm. I should mention that the coolest thing ever about the Four Seasons hotel in Istanbul (Sultanahmet district) is that it used to be an old jail during the Ottoman Empire! So cool, it’s positively criminal! The jail was revamped into a hotel back in the early 90s and only opened in 1996. (There is also another Four Seasons hotel in Istanbul on the Bosphorus side). I gotta admit, the hotel was really easy to find because it looked like a giant square fortress. They’ve done a great job of decking it out into an opulent hotel though. It’s colour too, very distinguishing – a Colonel Mustard hue. Due to the fact that it used to be a jail , the architecture of this hotel is very unique – four perimeter walls, an inner courtyard and watchguard turrets. It would be really cool to stay in a room there, sharing quarters where a criminal once lived. Huge novelty factor. In fact, Google Maps still lists the hotel as Sultanahmet Jail (Point A)! What a great venue to do afternoon tea – at a former prison, now a Four Seasons hotel.

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

Afternoon tea is in the lobby lounge which has 3 separate seating areas – Here:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

Here:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

And here:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

I settled on the latter – a covered patio area. There was more natural light, garden views, and it’s where all the other people were seated. I’m sure the hotel staff thought that I was weird, sitting on my own ordering afternoon tea on a Saturday afternoon. Crazy lady, they probably thought, one of those people whom you’ll find dead in a house full of cats. Seriously, that won’t be me! (Thou doth protest too much I say). Here are some photos once inside the former-prison hotel.

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

On the menu were two offerings – traditional afternoon or Turkish tea set. It was tempting to opt for the Turkish one just for something different and a bit more local, but I wanted to stick with the traditional one. The scones won me over. I even splurged and went the Royal option, which included a glass of champagne sparkling wine. Hell, why not. I was on holidays after all. And I had a week of swimming ahead so I could indulge a little without the guilt. I was sure as hell I’d be burning it all off soon enough. I sat myself down and got settled in for an afternoon tea on my own.

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

The afternoon tea setting was very traditional, classic English rose. Very un-Turkish, but pretty nevertheless.

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

The huge pot of tea came complete with a tea candle warmer. Bless! That totally made my day.

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

The signature Four Seasons emblem/logo:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

The afternoon tea set offered perfect portions for one. Three savoury morsels, four sweet treats, and a scone, with a huge pot of tea (enough for about 5 cups of tea). Tea selection was limited, but so long as they had English breakfast tea, I didn’t really care. Tea for One:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

Savouries:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

And sweets and scones:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

First up on the menu was a turkey, tomato and gherkin sandwich. Eating turkey in Turkey. Check.

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

Followed by a Turkish bruschetta of sorts:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

And smoked salmon and caper open finger sandwich:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

And then onto the sweet stuff:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

Here is the parade of the assorted cakes:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

And I always save the scones for last.

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

A tea party for one. I’m such a loser!

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

On the wall behind me were some of the old prison locks. Pretty cool. If these walls could talk, ay. Imagine the secrets and crimes that these walls held.

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

Afternoon tea was very reasonable. Turkey is still a relatively cheap country to travel through. Not a part of the EU so you’re not subject to Euros. The Afternoon tea was only 40 Turkish lira (60 with the champagne).

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

I then took myself on a little tour of the hotel, as you do. It’s not a particularly tall building – only 3 or 4 levels high but I went and checked out the views from the Terrace Bar. This is definitely a nice spot to grab a drink. Views of the Blue Mosque, haghia Sophia and even water views of the Sea of Marmara.

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

Terrace Bar:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

Surrounding fortress walls:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

Views of some of Istanbul’s top tourist attractions:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

Quite the luxurious hotel. Didn’t get to see the sleeping quarters, but it would be fun to stay a night there in an old jail! I imagine the rooms would be pretty plush.

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

Afternoon tea in Istanbul – accomplished.The one and only afternoon tea I did during my two-week holiday in Turkey. Had wanted to fit in one more at another venue, but alas, did not have time. I’m glad I prioritised it on my first day in Istanbul! A criminally delightful venue! Complete album link. Hotel details.

Conrad Tokyo Afternoon Tea: French fizz and mini morsels

If you want to attract ladies to an event, I have two words that will do the trick: “Unlimited champagne”. Well, make that three words: “Unlimited sparkling wine” – coz let’s face it, it did not come specifically from the Champagne region. The folks at the Conrad Hotel, Tokyo, know how to get bums on seats at their Twenty-Eight Bar and Lounge. If the 2 x Michelin star Gordan Ramsay restaurants at the Conrad Hotel (part of the Hilton chain) aren’t enough to attract people, then their Afternoon Tea set with 2 hours of unlimited french fizz/champers/”I can’t believe it’s not champagne”/sparkling wine, certainly will. I had no trouble recruiting fellow tea lovers for September’s Champagne Afternoon tea – 8 people in attendance!

So Sunday afternoon was spent at the Conrad Hotel at their Bar and Lounge – called “Twenty Eight”. And guess what level it’s on? If you guessed level 28, you’d be right! I had originally wanted to do this venue back in August on the weekend that I went to Bvlgari, but they were booked out, hence I arranged to go to Bvlgari instead. So I booked a month in advance for this one. The Afternoon Tea is called “American Classic” and the food was amazing! So darn cute. Everything was mini. And nothing is cooler than miniature food…except for giant oversized food. And to top it off, for a limited time there is a champagne offer which half of us took up on – 2 hours of unlimited Chandon to accompany the afternoon tea. Yes, please! I’m going to launch straight into the food. Another venue that does a modern take on afternoon tea – they’ve done away with the three-tiered platters here. Instead, mini food is presented on a flat glass platter. And the mini food was soooo cute. We oohed and aahed over it. You’d have thought it was a baby shower. No one ate for a good 15 minutes as we happily admired the food and snapped away. Each platter held two servings. I’ve heard of super size me…but this was super shrink me.

From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo

How cute and awesome is mini food. There’s not enough mini food in this world, I say. Proof that good things come in small packages.

From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo

Savouries, sweets and scones all on the one tray, so beautifully presented. Talk about so much fun with food.

From Conrad Tokyo

I’m rather obsessed with this mini food.

From Conrad Tokyo

Food for little people = fun.

From Conrad Tokyo

Can. Not. Get. Enough. Photos. Of. This.

From Conrad Tokyo

We were in for a fun afternoon. Mini morsels of delectable food, washed down with unlimited glasses of Champers!

From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo

The way to a woman’s heart (or at least mine) is champagne and cute mini food (or giant food). And the food not only looked good but was pretty darn delicious too! It was so hard to pick and choose what to eat first and save for last. My ritual is to eat the savouries first – of which there were three on this occasion. This was the walnut bread with Iberico ham scented with truffles. OMG. So tasty. Love nuts. Love bread. Does that make me carb crazy. And Iberico ham is a really famous, amazing, tasty ham. And it did not disappoint. Sooo good. This was definitely one of my favourites.

From Conrad Tokyo

I think the highlight of the day was the mini burger (slider for you American readers). Mini burgers are so the food of du jour. We were all rather besotted with this burger. It was a perfect miniature burger. God bless burgerlings.

From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo

I couldn’t resist doing a cheesy burger pose! (Clearly, I have no shame.) What can I say, I’m lovin’ it. This is one very happy meal.

From Conrad Tokyo

And inside was juicy. Mini sliders have a tendency to be on the drier side but this surprisingly juicy and not dry. It also had a tasty harisa aioli for extra flavour. The burger was another winner.

From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo

Yum. Yum. It was interesting to see what everyone was saving for last. Someone was clearly saving the mini burger for the end. The last burger standing:

From Conrad Tokyo

Next I had the brie cheese on cranberry bread sandwich. I thought that I would love this, but I didn’t.

From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo

I then moved onto the sweets next. There were a lot of desserts in this afternoon tea, and normally it’s my least-favourite tier. But everything on this plate was awesome and I loved the desserts portion of this particular afternoon tea. Desserts were their forte here. And I appreciate that it took skills to make everything in miniature. There was a lime marshmallow which was very limey – nice and tart, yet sweet and marshmallowy too.

From Conrad Tokyo

This was followed by more miniature food – a tiny devil’s chocolate fudge cake.

From Conrad Tokyo

And then a miniature cupcake. This was really yummy. A pistachio and cherry cupcake. Cupcakes are pretty small to begin with but this about a quarter of a size of a full cupcake.

From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo

It was sad to see the platters dwindle down as the mini morsels were slowly picked off and devoured.

From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo

Getting smaller…

From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo

So next I tried the New York cheesecake. Personally, I’m not a huge cheesecake fan in general. The only cheesecake I really love is my mum’s cheesecake which she always makes for birthdays and special occasions. It’s a favourite at family and relo gatherings. Anyway, this was the cheesecake – still good nevertheless.

From Conrad Tokyo

Now normally I always…always save the scones for last. I never deviate from this ritual. But I did on this occasion. There were two scones – a plain one and a mango and coconut scone. It was a face-off between the lemon meringue pie or the scones. The lemon meringue pie won! Yes, lemon meringue pie was on offer. Awesome. Especially since just a couple of weekends ago I had been in pursuit of lemon meringue pie. And the only thing better than lemon meringue pie is MINI lemon meringue pie!

From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo

So I broke with tradition and ate the scones next. I just can’t get decent scones in Japan. They are dry, hard, American ‘biscuits’. I preferred the plain one over the mango and coconut one.

From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo

And then down to the last lemon pie standing:

From Conrad Tokyo

I had saved it for last. And it was pretty divine, and so cute to look at!

From Conrad Tokyo

Check out the detail to the mini meringue peaks.

From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo

It was yummy. It was actually way better than the other lemon pie that I had bought. There was such a tiny layer of the lemon curd, but it was so incredibly tarty and awesome. The only downside was the pastry on this pie. It was too flakey. It had been made with puff pastry rather than being a shortcrust pie pastry. Still bliss.

From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo

And then the whole platter was empty. What a sad moment.

From Conrad Tokyo

You might recall that I’ve mentioned before in other tea reviews that it would be nice if they gave us fresh plates. Essentially we are eating savoury foods, scones, and desserts all off the same plate. Today was a prime example of needing fresh plates. Here’s what happens when you eat randomly (this is why I save the scones for last). Someone had obviously saved the mini hamburger for last but was left with a jam-smeared plate. Any afternoon tea venue that offers fresh plates will definitely earn brownie points with me, so as to AVOID the below travesty:

From Conrad Tokyo

I really enjoyed the afternoon tea arrangement here – glass platters of mini food. I noticed that for other guests there in groups of twos – had different glass platters – they were glass platters that were in a staircase arrangement. I was a little jealous of their servingware. Super cool. I zoomed in a random person’s afternoon tea set. You can kind of see in this photo, what I mean:

From Conrad Tokyo

Here are some photos of the Twenty Eight Bar and Lounge. Plenty of natural light streaming in from the tall glass windows.

From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo

Seats by the window only seat two people, but there are great water views over Tokyo Bay.

From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo

It was a lovely afternoon tea enjoyed with a great bunch of friends, including a couple of newbies to high tea. Eight has been my record number of attendees in Tokyo. Our little high tea societea obligatory group shot:

From Conrad Tokyo

I highly rate the food here. Service was only a ok. Views are nice too – over the water. The French fizz offer – always a welcome bonus. Oh, I nearly forgot to talk about the tea. Only three teas are on offer here – Assam, Darjeeling and Ceylon. Nothing special. But for those who declined the champagne option, they went through a couple of pots of tea. Everyone chooses a tea and then you need to stick to it. No tea sampling here. Also coffee on offer as well. Once you’ve selected your tea for the afternoon – it’s as much tea as you like (unlimited refills). I went with the ceylon tea. I’m a little ashamed to say that I did not even drink a whole cup of tea. Was too busy drinking the french fizz!!! The Afternoon Tea – American Classic – was really good here. I thoroughly enjoyed the food.

From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo

The Afternoon Tea set on its own (food platter plus tea/coffee) is 3950yen (tax included). For the 2 hour free-flowing sparkling wine offer in conjunction with the Afternoon Tea set is 6000yen. Pretty good value, I say. For an extra 2000yen you can easily down 5-6 glasses of Chandon comfortably. More, if you’re really keen to get bang for your buck. (NB: That the sparkling wine offer is only valid at certain times of the year. Check with the hotel. It ends at the end of September…which is why we went when we did). The afternoon tea here is like the amuse bouche version of afternoon tea – and my bouche was amused. Touché mon amie.

From Conrad Tokyo

I liked that you can totally relax here and take your time. There is no ushering you out the door in a hurry. Afternoon tea is on offer from 2:30pm, so we booked for right on that time. I was running late, so we probably didn’t start until about 3pm. The unlimited sparkling wine is valid for two hours, and then after that you can stay and continue to have as much tea as you like. Most people left at about 6pm, but I stayed back with a couple of the other girls, and we probably didn’t leave until about 7-7.30pm. It got dark, so I was able to take some night shots of the Lounge in Bar mode.

From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo

Night view:

From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo

I do love a champagne afternoon tea.

From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo

The Conrad Hotel is a very nice hotel. Modern and contemporary design. I liked it.

From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo
From Conrad Tokyo

I won’t be doing another afternoon tea for a little while now, which is why I indulged up (not that I need an excuse). For a least another 4-6 weeks. No more teas in September because the next few weekends are taken up with a run race, an ows race and little long weekend trip. And then off overseas for two weeks. The Conrad Hotel, Tokyo is located at Shiodome/Shinbashi area near HamaRikyu Japanese Gardens. From the subway you’ll need to alight at Shiodome station. The hotel is connected to the Shiodome exit. Shiodome station is the most convenient access. If coming by JR, alight at Shinbashi station. I got lost coming from this station. And it took me over 15 minutes to get there, although it should have taken way less than that. It can be a little confusing…so allow a little extra time. Hotel website, afternoon tea menu, info etc can be found here.

The Ritz on the House: World of Tea in Tokyo

It brings me great joy and pleasure to write today’s blog post. Today’s write-up is a labour of love. So, you know how I have this rather humble blog of mine, and you know how much I love high teas (well, tea and food in general) … well, I have had the rather extreme good fortune of partaking in the World of Tea experience at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Tokyo as an invited guest! You might recall that back in May to usher in my (30th! Gasp!) birthday, I had a rather tiny soiree (with some fellow gastronomes) at one of the creme de la creme extravagant high tea experiences at the Ritz Carlton in Tokyo – the highest place to do High Tea in Tokyo (on level 45).

Correct me if I am wrong, but I do believe it may also be the highest place to do Afternoon Tea in the World! So after writing that particular blog post and review of the High Tea at the Ritz, the Executive Assistant Manager of Food and Beverage who oversees the dining establishments at the Ritz in Tokyo read my blog, and got in touch with me. I had no idea why he wanted to get in contact with me. So naturally, my imagination went wild. Perhaps a job offer as a food photographer (one can dream), or perhaps he wanted to give me a tea warmer (which I had raved about). As it turned out, much to my delight, he was extending an invitation to me (along with Tami and Kaori) to attend as special guests to the World of Tea experience! Wow. Talk about incredibly amazing.

A free afternoon tea at the Ritz! Now there’s seven words that I like very much. He also wrote me some kind words about that blog post: I quote: “Dear Aleisha, Greetings from The Ritz-Carlton! I have read your blog regarding the High Afternoon Tea experience at our Lobby Lounge. Thank you very much for your honest description of the time spent with us. I enjoyed your subtle sense of humour as well as your attention to details while creating the blog.” —- I was extremely flattered. He had me at: “I have read your blog”. (I don’t think many people I meet could say that to me! My blog has a very small readership.) I won’t get too carried away on this point…must bring myself down a notch. They probably have Google Alerts set-up everytime the word “Tokyo Ritz” appears on the internet. He then went on to say in the email: “Your tea time story brought so much joy to our Lobby Lounge Team! Therefore I would be more than honored if you accept my invitation for our World of Tea. Please feel free to ask your two friends Tami and Kaori to come as well. This is our Lobby Lounge monthly special event in which we partner with different tea company every time in order to create unique and memorable moments for our guests.”

Wow. How exciting. And how unbelievable! This stuff only happens in the movies! This was better than winning the lottery! And then my alarm went off…and this was all just a dream. No, just kidding!!! Seriously all of this happened!!!!

The World of Tea experience happens at the Ritz hotel for three days exclusively every month. Each month they feature different tea suppliers/brands and offer a customized afternoon tea menu (usually based on a theme) with an assortment of tea pairings from that particular tea supplier. In the past they have had Taylors of Harrogate, and Leafull, to name just a couple. Even though I was invited back in May, I decided to take up the offer this month. August’s World Of Tea Experience was presented by Lupicia (a well known tea brand) with the theme being ‘Ryou’ meaning ‘Cool’ – ideal for summer with a focus on iced-tea blends. With a couple of month’s notice, my friends and I had arranged time off from work to partake in this World of Tea experience at the Ritz as special guests. The Ritz on the House!

From World of Tea: The Ritz

Upon arrival, I simply said my name and was ushered immediately to our seats (by the window, I might add). Window seating – always a plus! Me: “Hi. My name is Aleisha.” Them: “Right this way”. (So this is how the other half live! I could get used to this.) We got lovely window seating with great views over Tokyo (it helps to be on the 45th floor).

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

We sat and perused the World of Tea special menu (which I took home as a keepsake. Might have to frame it or laminate or something).

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

The table was exquisitely set up.

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

There was a tea course which involved samples of six different teas (all from Lupicia)! What I loved about it, was that each tea was served in a different tea cup/beverage vessel! The Welcome Tea was an Oolong tea served in a champagne glass. (This was a chilled tea). I was half-expecting this to taste sweet.

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

Mustn’t forget the bird’s eye view of the tea. Look at the clarity of the tea.

From World of Tea: The Ritz

The First Tea was Sencha (a deep-steamed green tea) served in a chawan which I forgot to take a photo of! My only saving grace is that you can see the cup that it was served in, in this photo. It’s the little Japanese cup to the right of the photo (with the little lid on it).

From World of Tea: The Ritz

The Second Tea was a Bocha (a roasted tea) served in a really cool cup and saucer. The saucer was hollowed out to fit the cup perfectly (ぴったり). No mixing and matching cups and saucers with this one! We checked the bottom of the cup and saw that it was made by Lupicia, so me thinks, you can probably purchase them from a Lupicia store.

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

The ‘Tea for Break” – the ‘intermission tea’ was Gyokuro – another iced-tea. They alternated between hot teas and iced-teas. It was served in a little egg-cup-like shot glass.

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

The Third Tea was a Japanese black tea (hot).

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

And the Encore Tea (I love how they called it an ‘Encore’ tea!) was a matcha tea (a traditional rich Japanese green tea) which was chilled and served on the rocks (i.e. with ice).

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

An interesting selection of Japanese teas both chilled (perfect for summer) as well as hot teas. All the teas presented on this occasion are all from with Japan. The tea menu came with a description blurb of each tea which was very thoughtful. The teas are served as progression throughout the meal, and not served all at once.

From World of Tea: The Ritz

If any of these teas take your fancy then check out Lupicia in Australia, Japan, the US. Don’t you just love how that an anagram for ‘tea’ is ‘eat’ (and ‘ate’) which brings me nicely to the part where we talk about the food (transition…subtle). There was an entree of cutlass fish which I think was part of the savoury tier.

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

The flavour was a little too subtle for my liking. It could have done with a bit more flavour. Time for the piece de resistance. The magnum opus. The three tiers of epicuriosity.

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

Here was the savoury tier which included some delicious sushi! This platter was so visually appealing. Fresh and vibrant colours. Even the photos look edible!

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

First, you must eat with your eyes, as beautifully captured on my SLR Nikon D5000 (you’re welcome). Hence, an overload of photos. The sweets tier:

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

And then the scones, with the beautifully quinelled (curled scoop) of cream:

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

And lest we forget the jam and preserve condiments.

From World of Tea: The Ritz

Once the tiered platter is brought out, no one is allowed to eat until I’ve taken no less than 200 photos of it, which takes a good 10-15 minutes. Then we’re allowed to eat. (I apologize to anyone who eats with me.) My ritual then is to bring each food portion down onto my serving plate, followed by another photo session, but at least this time I’m not preventing other people from eating. I always start with the savoury plate. Such clean presentation. Such awesome food photography skills (I am typing this one-handed whilst I toot my own horn with the other) 🙂

From World of Tea: The Ritz

How skillful was this corn shinjo. The outer layer of the corn kernels have been delicately placed around the seafood cake to make it look like a slice of corn cob! Food art.

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

The food menu was very Japanese-influenced. Sushi, sweet potatoes, rice noodles (which just quietly, something was amiss with).

From World of Tea: The Ritz

I love the clarity of the rice granules in this next shot:

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

Following the savoury treats is the sweet delights. Remember: Savour then Devour.

From World of Tea: The Ritz

I arrange each onto my plate, like so:

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

Same plate, different angles!

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

This was the rose flavoured white peach tartlet which was delicious.

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

There was also a yuzu chocolate macaroon. Love chocolate. Love yuzu. I couldn’t get enough photos of this! I am rather obsessed with looking at macaroons. I could look at them all day and take photos of them all day. I like looking at them more than I like eating them. I’m actually not a huge fan of them…still eat them nevertheless. (Just thought of an awesome idea. I am going to change my computer screen wallpaper at work to a macaroon display). Look here and here (two Google image searches, different spelling – ‘macaroons’ and ‘macrons’.) I took about thirty photos of this macaroon. I will spare you all thirty. Here are just a handful.

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

The art of restraint is one I have not yet mastered when it comes to food. I always save the scones for last.

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

Keeping in mind that the theme of this tea was ‘Cool’ – it was only fitting that the menu was fresh, vibrant, light, colourful, refreshing and very さっぱりした。 I found that the assortment of Japanese teas was very cleansing. And to prove that I am not being paid or ‘influenced’ by the Ritz to write a glowing review – I will say the following that could have been enhanced: – more staff, faster service (this was mentioned in my first review of the Ritz). – fresh plates to be brought out for each tier. Now, I don’t know of any hotel or tea venue that does this. But I think this would be a really nice touch and I would commend any hotel that does this. At every afternoon/high tea that I’ve done, you have only one small serving plate that you use as you work your way through the three tiers. It would be preferable to have fresh plates so that after I’ve eaten my savoury morsels, I am then not eating off the same plate that has cakes on it next. Not necessary. But nice. I think such a gesture would make a five-star place stand out from the rest of the pack. Relaxing, eating, drinking – no better way to spend a Friday afternoon, courtesy of the Ritz.

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

Three very lucky gals enjoying a World of Tea right here in Tokyo!

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

Live pianist as well to provide some ambient sounds.

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

Halfway during our afternoon tea, the manager who had extended the invitation to us, came over to introduce himself. It was lovely to meet him in person. Each month they try to do outdo themselves coming up with better and more creative World of Tea experiences from all across the globe. And various tea suppliers/tea brands are coming on board to showcase their tea line. I’m sure there is something to suit every taste. You should keep an eye on their events calendar to find out which ones pique your interest. Afternoon Tea at the Ritz is very popular and they have carved themselves a nice little niche in this market. They offer a regular afternoon tea which can be enjoyed on weekends. They also have the more extravagant Ritz high tea (which I indulged in for my birthday). There’s also the monthly World of Tea experience which changes every month. They also have a children’s Teddy Bear afternoon tea just for the kiddies! What’s more, is that you can also do a Ladies Afternoon Tea luncheon (more a lunch than an afternoon tea.) Check their calendar for specials. Current offer is: 4th lady is free in a group of 4, that is, four for the price of three.) I am fan of the artworks which adorn the Lobby Lounge inside the Ritz hotel. I have since discovered that the artist is Sam Francis. (You’re welcome). The World of Tea experience is generally held once a month over three consecutive days on the last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of the month (best to check via their website for dates etc). Each month has a different theme, presented by a different tea supplier with a totally different menu. Teas from all around the world are presented. So you won’t expect the same thing twice. You can, however, guarantee that it will be creative and unique. Given that they’re on a weekday, it’s not something that I would normally be able to experience. Having worked overtime during this week doing additional computer training at work, I was able to take a few hours off work to attend this tea (in lieu of overtime pay). Judging by the crowd in the Lobby Lounge, it seems that this is quite popular amongst ladies of leisure. So this is how the other half live. I even saw one lady partaking in afternoon tea on her own. Kudos to her (*virtual high five* – *tap chest twice peace sign*). One of my other friends told me that she did afternoon tea alone when she was in the UK where at the Jane Austin teahouse you can order the Mr Darcy afternoon tea set. (Me squealing with joy on the inside). ‘Awe’ and then ‘some’. That just went straight onto my bucketlist!

From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz
From World of Tea: The Ritz

Housewives with wealthy husbands that can afford to do tea on a weekday (as you do), whilst the rest of us peasants have to work for a living. Where do I find me one of these rich husbands so I can do tea at the Ritz on a weekday every month?! World of Tea experience costs 6000yen per person. I am extremely grateful to have been able to partake in this courtesy of The Ritz. Thank you to Mr Cernia and his team at the Lobby Lounge at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, Tokyo for the generosity shown to myself and two friends. We truly appreciate it. It was a wonderful, unforgettable experience! As a collector of memories and experiences…this one rates up there! Disclaimer: This review (as with all my reviews) are simply in my humble opinion, and are written purely as a hobby. I am not a professional food critic or writer (although am happy to do so if you have an offer!). I don’t recommend that you just start a blog just to get yourself a free meal. I write and blog about food and High Teas in particular purely as a hobby without any intention of profiting from it. For me, I am passionate about tea, about food, about food photography and Japan (hence this High Tea Project). Keep in mind that I have done over 16 high teas in Tokyo alone (over a period of 18 months), and over 20 high teas combined around the world, and this was the first time I have ever been given such a “gift”. My High Tea Project takes a toll on the wallet and the waistline. Yes, it’s a health hazard. It is just a hobby. But a hobby that I love. I have also reviewed well over 200 dining establishments throughout Japan on this blog and this is the first time I have ever “gained” something from it. Also be mindful of the fact that I also first went to the Ritz for afternoon tea on my own dime. You can read about that here. So this particular occasion was a fortuitous blessing and certainly not an expectation (although happy to take any offers if other 5-star hotels would like to follow suit!). Warning: Shameless spruiking/plugging. As an amateur food photographer, I would love to take photos of your food. Food is the only currency required. That’s right, no cash, just food, for my services. If you would like to enjoy High Tea at the Ritz check out their website. The hotel is located in Midtown (Roppongi). Complete photo album slideshow (this was the culled version and it has 132 photos. The full album contained 168 photos and that was after I trashed all the dud shots. This blog post has taken me over 3 hours to put together with text, images and links. It’s 4.30pm on Saturday arvo and I’m still in my PJs!) More photos of the Ritz can be found in my other post. Please feel free to leave a comment!

 

Bvlgari: Box Afternoon Tea Set

I wouldn’t know fashion if it slapped me across the face.. But I do know and love my food. On Sunday afternoon I found myself amongst the labels district in Ginza – the likes of Chanel, Coach, Cartier, and Louis Vuitton. This month’s afternoon tea was at Bvlgari. Ha, and you thought they only sold bags (or watches, or whatever it is that they sell)! This particular afternoon tea venue warranted in taking the SLR camera out for the day, so enjoy the glossy HD pics. My first preference for this month’s afternoon was at a hotel (they name of which will remain undisclosed at this point in time), but, alas, they were all booked out when I tried booking about two weeks ago. So back to the spreadsheet to find an alternative venue. I decided on Bvlgari. In addition to their fashion label, they own hotel, resorts and dining establishments around the world. They have a few different restaurants around Tokyo. I got confused and had originally made reservations for afternoon tea at the Bvlgari café in Omotesando. I realised that wasn’t what I wanted. And what I wanted was at Bvlgari il Bar in Ginza, so I asked to change my reservation. The afternoon tea at Bvlgari is at il Bar in Ginza (and not the café in Omotesando – counterintuitive, I know), so that’s where you’ll need to go. So I asked to switch my reservation venue. Now, il Bar does not take reservations, but they kindly let me do so on this occasion because I technically had an existing reservation. Bvlgari service – impressive. And it got better. On the main fashion label road in Ginza just down on the next corner from the Ginza Apple Store, you’ll find Bvlgari on the corner. Turn down the side street and there’s a separate entrance to gain access to the Bvlgari restaurant and Bar. We made our way to level 10 where you’ll find the Bar. Greeting service was excellent. And we were ushered to our (presumably Italian-leather) seats.

From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari

I had been really looking forward to the Afternoon Tea at Bvlgari. I had seen pictures and I was suitably impressed. The drawcard here is the presentation and gourmet food – Italian influenced. My favourite cuisine. The Afternoon Tea here isn’t served on three tiers. It’s served in little boxes. Way cool! Our reservation was for 2pm, so our little posse sat down to check out the menu,. We all got a bit worried because afternoon tea wasn’t on the menu! Oh no, had I mistaken the venue again? Should we have gone to the cafe in Omotesando? Was I at the wrong Bvlgari place? The only thing on the menu was brunch. We asked for the afternoon tea menu and discovered that afternoon tea doesn’t start until 3pm. Ahhh. Bvlgari exceptional service to the rescue again. They allowed us to order it early, and told us it would take about 25 minutes to prepare for the four of us. No problem at all. An opportune moment to order cocktails whilst we wait. Make that a Cosmopolitan.

From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari

Group photo with fellow gastronomads. (I would be the rather tanned-looking gal)

From Bvlgari

Not long after our cocktails were brought out, our Afternoon Tea boxes arrived. Wow. Speedy service. And the Afternoon Tea boxes were amazing! Ingenius. So clever and creative. And the food was divine. Gotta love the Italians for their love of food.

From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari

The first box was the savoury appetizers.

From Bvlgari

Delectable morsels of food. Totally sapid (my new word for the day).

From Bvlgari

Mini capsicum stuffed with a risotto, cheese wrapped in smoked salmon, a zucchini and Italian meat sandwich, pancetta and a mini hamburger was a great way to ease into the afternoon.

From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari

This mini hamburger was so tasty from such a tiny little thing. Anything miniature is cool. A fleck of gold to touch. It ain’t Italian without some bling!

From Bvlgari

The second box was like our own little bread box! With a scone, croissant, quiche and a biscotti.

From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari

Desserts – another delightful treasure chest of sweets.

From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari

There was the tiramisu macron…

From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari

Because it was difficult to take photos of the food inside the boxes, you’ll notice that I was balancing the food on the edge of the boxes. (Yep, unleashing the inner food stylist in me.) In the beautiful egg-shaped shot glass was a passionfruit and banana cream pannacotta with white chocolate on top. So smoothly delicious. And the remaining square was for the condiments. Cream and jam for the scone and croissant. A jam trolley was brought out to us, and we were able to choose our jams from a selection. – honey, apricot jam, strawberry jam, or chocolate. We were then handed a small bowl of our selected jam to complete the set.

From Bvlgari

Each of the four squares (boxes) make up one big square. Such playful presentation. Oh, and the boxes were stackable.

From Bvlgari

It made for one very crowded table.

From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari

The food was amazing. Uber delicious. Beautifully portioned and presented. Belissimo. There is a nice selection of teas and coffees to choose from. I was suitably impressed by the selection – the usual favourites made their appearance (Afternoon tea blend, Assam, Darjeeling, herbal teas) along with some unusual blends too. Or coffee/hot chocolate if you prefer. I chose the Imperial Orange Pekoe Tea (which is a type of Ceylon UVA blend, I think).

From Bvlgari

No room on the table for our teapots so they had them lined up on a counter. The teapots offered quite the generous serving, which they will top up with hot water refills. (No tea sampling, but that was fine by me.) Tea supplier if you’re interested was Qi Botanical (Canada).

From Bvlgari

Oversized tea strainer…loved it.

From Bvlgari

The one flaw, the only flaw that caught my discerning eye was the packet sugar. They went to such lengths in quality everywhere else but the sugar must have been overlooked. They plonked down a container of packet sugar. You’d think they’d use sugar cubes or sugar granules. I don’t take sugar with my tea but still this was a small detail which stood out (in my eyes) amongst the decadence of everything else. (There’s a photo in the slideshow below). Can’t forget the obligatory photo of the scone with jam and cream.

From Bvlgari

The thing I saved for last was the Bvlgari Bvlgari signature chocolate token. Made with shochu and matsutake (a famous Japanese mushroom…I guess kinda like a truffle perhaps). It was super rich. I struggled to get through it. This single chocolate alone sells for about 1000yen (around 10buks).

From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari

The Afternoon Tea Box Set at il Bar (Bvlgari in Ginza) is superbly priced for excellent quality food and impressive service at 3600yen. (A champagne option is also available at champagne prices). Cocktails ranged from 1500-2500 yen. Generous serves. A great place for a leisurely decadent afternoon tea. We spent about 4 hours here. Let’s just say that the Bvlgari Box Afternoon Tea Set ticked all my boxes – great location (the heart of Ginza), delicious food (compliments to the chef), wonderful services (super attentive, polite, all English speaking too right down from the email reservation to even taking our orders and explaining the dishes in English – really considerate gesture even though they didn’t need to. There were 2 Japanese amongst us, plus me (Japanese competent)), and exceptional value. They totally deserved the little inadequate thank-you email I sent them. Here are some photos of the atmosphere and decor at il Bar. Even though it’s a Bar, by day it functions more as a cafe-lounge. They do a Brunch Box Set which I am also keen to try. It was crowded pretty much the whole time we were there. I took most of these photos once a lot of people had left. At night, it’s more a bar. They do drinks, cocktails, as well as dinner.

From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari

View over Ginza….

From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari

Glasses (one of every shape) on the Bar counter. I thought this was cool.

From Bvlgari

They don’t take reservations at il Bar….so good luck in getting a spot. Afternoon tea menu is from 3pm – 6pm. Brunch available during the daytime. On the floor below is the Bvlgari il ristorante. Impressive. Here are some shots looking down into the dining area from the Bar.

From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari

The Bvlgari building in Ginza – shop on street level.

From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari
From Bvlgari

Bvlgari Tokyo restaurants website can be found here. Afternoon Tea is offered at il Bar. You can download the menu sample there. If the il Bar Afternoon Tea Box set is too much, you can try the smaller version at their cafe in Omotesando. It consists of one of the small box squares only rather than the full set. It includes tea and coffee. Don’t get confused between the Ginza and the Omotesando venues. You can read the Bvlgari il Bar reviews on Tabelog as well (Japanese). Bvlgari il Bar in Ginza is in the heart of Ginza. Closest station exit is Ginza subway line, Ginza station – exit 12. It’s right next door to the Matsuya department store, opposite Chanel. From il Bar, we could see across into the Chanel restaurant. Who knew that all these high fashion labels did food as well. That restaurant looked fancy too. My tagline for this afternoon tea would be: “Bvlgari Afternoon Tea: Food over Fashion.” Really, I must stop outdoing myself on finding outstanding places to do afternoon tea in Tokyo. Enjoy the complete photo slideshow.

(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.

High Tea at the ANA Intercontinental Hotel, Tokyo

Another Sunday, another high tea in Tokyo. I’ve been going at a rate of one per month. This time we headed to the ANA Intercontinental hotel in Akasaka (accessible from the Nanboku metro line) Spending a few hours in an luxury air-conditioned hotel eating cakes and sweets with a cup of tea is a perfect way to escape the heat and humidity of Tokyo in June. Skye and I each brought a friend to join us for a ladies afternoon tea – spreading the love one cuppa tea at a time. The ANA Intercontinental hotel serves afternoon tea between the hours of 2-5pm in the Atrium Lounge, although you can lounge about for as long as you like. It was surprisingly very busy. There are a choice of two afternoon sets – the bread set or the sweets set. We all decided on the sweets set. As usual, there are an assortment of teas to choose from, with free hot water refills. Most places that offer afternoon tea should give you pot refills. The biggest disappointment with this venue for afternoon tea was the absence of scones!! The height of rudeness. How blasphemous to exclude the humble scone from an afternoon tea. The scones are the best part. Big points lost right there. It was still a lovely set though. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the sandwich. It was just the one sandwich but it was triple-decked so the salmon mixed with the ham wasn’t really to my liking. Much prefer when the sandwich fillings are on separate sandwiches. Oh well. As lovely as it was, it wasn’t a very “traditional” afternoon tea (no scones!). The sets are 2950yen per person (3 tiered platter plus tea) plus tax. If you make an advance reservation for the weekend, you will get 10% off the bill. It cost us 3000yen per person with the discount. The Peninsula Hotel and St Christophers Garden remain my two favourite places to date in Tokyo for high tea. But there are still many more places to review. All the details for afternoon tea at the ANA Intercontinental hotel can be found here