One of my guilty pleasures is taking high tea in a luxury hotel. There’s something about getting dressed up and heading out to enjoy oneself midday like a fin de siècle lady of leisure. The tradition of afternoon tea began in 1865 at the Langham in London and continues to this day. While I have yet to partake of the original, I recently visited the Langham’s sister property in Hong Kong for a truly sophisticated spread. The gleaming marble lobby feels like a European villa replete with vaulted gold-trimmed ceilings and crystal chandeliers. Pedestal vases are filled with countless lilies and roses while glass artwork by Dale Chihuly adds a modern twist. The elegance continues into the adjacent Palm Court where red velvet chairs surround glass tables dressed with gold linens.
The customary three-tiered tray was brought out the minute my tea was poured, initiating the stellar service I would receive for the duration of my stay. Guests have a choice between two sets: Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast. The former features fruity concoctions such as raspberry brioche and a profiterole with green apple while the latter, which I opted for, is a chocolate extravaganza. Both are paired with the same selection of dainty tea sandwiches.
Embracing the fairy-tale theme, I started at the base of the tower and climbed up in search of my edible prince charming. I was hard-pressed to choose a favorite among the savory bites on the bottom plate. Both the chicken and foie gras wrap and the quail scotch egg topped with a plump sun-dried tomato were rich and creamy, with pleasing umami notes that lingered long after being consumed. The wagyu beef sandwich with cucumbers, caramelized onions and black truffle butter was worthy of a kiss, not surprising giving the roster of ingredients. I enjoyed the meaty texture of the smoked salmon roll, which tasted subtly of the ocean, despite the earthiness of the mushrooms, horseradish cream and candied beets. Even the simple egg salad sandwich was elevated with caviar and organic bread. The only one I thought not worth waking from its slumber was the crab-filled crepe. The sweet jumbo lump crab meat should have been the star, but was overpowered by the generous topping of sprouts.
Bridging the gap between the savory and sweet items, the buttery scones had a heavy crumb perfect for soaking up the slightly salty clotted cream and sweet strawberry preserves. I found the accompanying rose jelly a little cloying, but I appreciated having more than one option.
The sweet treats filling out the middle tier were fantastically chocolaty and as tasty as they were gorgeous. The chocolate chip cupcake with creamy hazelnut frosting and a gold fondant sphere packed a ton of flavor in a petite package. Might this be my prince? I would have to keep tasting to know for sure. The dark chocolate tart filled with vanilla cream was perfectly balanced and satisfyingly toothsome. I found the chocolate three ways challenging to eat, though this was easily solved by taking it apart and relishing each layer individually.
The spectacular creations on the top plate were almost too pretty to eat. The chocolate raspberry delight didn’t quite live up to its name, as the tangy fruit overpowered the gentler cocoa tones. Normally not a fan of white chocolate, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the white chocolate and chestnut cream with apricots. The flavors worked beautifully together, as did the varying textures. In the end it was a luxurious afternoon and I lived happily ever after.