The mere mention of the Waldorf Astoria evokes a sense of exclusivity, elegance and grandeur. With only 20 hotels worldwide, this legendary brand is able to maintain an impeccable degree of service. Their aim is to be the standard by which all other hotels are measured. So it should be no surprise that the Waldorf Astoria is ranked as the number one hotel in Shanghai by TripAdvisor. Located along the historic Bund, the landmark hotel is housed in what once was the Shanghai Club, the most exclusive gentleman’s club of the 1920s.
In the Salon de Ville, where members of the Shanghai Club would read the morning paper, guests can now indulge in the ultimate luxury of the Red Velvet Afternoon Tea. The space is intimate, with seating for just 42 guests. As a harpist strummed elegantly in the background, the quietly efficient waitstaff served tea from gleaming silver pots. We were first brought a plate of warm appetizers which consisted of a smoked salmon roll, bacon quiche and curried chicken puff. Once we had finished them, we were asked if we would like seconds. While all three were delicious, my friend and I both went for another quiche without hesitation.
Next we were presented with our tower of finger sandwiches and desserts. We started with the savory bites on the bottom tray and worked our way up. The snacks included potato salad wrapped up in a sliver of cucumber, egg salad in a mini baguette, smoked salmon with cream cheese on rye, tomato with herbed mayo on whole wheat and ham with horseradish on toasted white bread. Again we were asked if we would like another serving of anything. My friend wanted more of the smoked salmon while I couldn’t wait to have an extra ham with horseradish. I guess we didn’t explain our choices well because we were brought a new plate with all five, which we happily ate.
The middle plate contained an interesting assortment of treats. The chocolate cake was surprisingly our least favorite of the day. The scones were crumbly and moist and went perfectly with the fresh strawberry jam and clotted cream. The puff was light as air and filled with a heavenly hazelnut cream. But our favorites were the two fruit tarts, of which we also had a second serving. My friend preferred the sweetness of the strawberry pie while I loved the tartness of the cognac-soaked orange version.
The top tray housed decadent sweets including their signature red velvet cupcake. Instead of artificial food coloring, the deep red hue is achieved with the use of beet juice. It was decidedly different, though not unpleasant. The bird’s nest of chestnut paste was very sweet while the cream-filled bun, macaroon and green tea cake were a little bland. The vanilla custard, with its gold-tipped strawberry and dollop of meringue, was very enjoyable. The cheesecake, our favorite from this tray, was rich and wonderful. We didn’t have an extra helping as we were quite full by this point. But on the next visit I will be sure to leave room.