My mom came to visit us in Shanghai last year and absolutely fell in love with the beautiful old buildings lining the Bund. We walked into the lobbies and soaked up the 1930’s style of the restored hotels and banks. This year I thought it would be fun to treat her to afternoon tea at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, one of the most historic and prestigious hotels in the city. Afternoon tea is served daily in the Jasmine Lounge, just as it was when the Cathay Hotel first introduced European high tea to Shanghai decades ago. Though the Fairmont has undergone multi-million dollar renovations to become a sophisticated and modern luxury hotel, the Art Deco styling and soft yellow lighting make you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time.
Tea service began soon after we were shown to our chic seating area, cleverly arranged to provide a sense of intimacy despite the full house. We each received our own plate of four tea sandwiches, though every other plate was meant for sharing. Luckily there were two – or in case of the scones, four – of everything so we didn’t have to fight over who got what. The only difficult decision was which tea to order from the several dozen on the menu.
Of the four savory bites, two were clear winners: the cucumber on sourdough bread and the ham and cheese quiche. Both were moist and very flavorful. The other two, smoked salmon on rye and egg salad on a multi-grain roll, suffered a bit from dry bread.
The herbaceous scones, still hot from the oven, were served with velvety-smooth butter and a tangy candied orange marmalade. We were very pleased to each get two helpings!
The beautifully-presented three-tier dessert tray was the star of the show. We started at the top and worked our way down through each delicious layer. Highlights included the light-yet-rich chocolate cupcakes with creamy vanilla frosting, cups of luscious blueberry pudding, chocolate-accented raspberry macaroons and dishes of sinfully good coconut custard. The only two missteps were the plain shortbread cookies and the blueberry tarts on the top tray. The crust of the tart was a little too dry and the cookies were in need of some chocolate ganache. But then again, I think most things would benefit from some chocolate ganache.