Back on the afternoon tea trail – and one of my favourite teatime old faithfuls is the Tiffin Afternoon Tea at Palm Court in The Langham, Hong Kong. For truly old-school Hong Kong dwellers, you may know the building better as the former Great Eagle Hotel; it was rebranded as The Langham Hong Kong in 2003, modelled after the historic Langham Hotel in London… which, of course, is legendary for its afternoon tea, so I really wouldn’t expect anything less!
Although the contents of The Langham Hong Kong’s cake stand aren’t anything too ground-breaking, the Tiffin Afternoon Tea does have a lot of other great things going for it – super pretty crockery, a really relaxed loungey vibe and frequent promotions to keep things interesting, including their current collaboration with French patisserie, Paul Lafayet.
One of the things I appreciate about The Langham’s Tiffin Tea is that it’s one of the few around town where the sweets aren’t allowed to hog the limelight like some irritating child star that won’t leave the stage. You know I love my desserts even more than most people but with so many afternoon teas in Hong Kong now total sugar overloads, I welcomed the nice variety of sandwiches here with open arms… or should that be jaws?!
Best of the bunch was the Wagyu beef, black truffle butter and cucumber sandwich; full-sized, I’m sure this would have been rich enough to induce gout in seconds, but in its teatime shrunken version, it was just the right dose of meaty, salty and delicious. The de rigeur smoked salmon sandwich was given a welcome extra punch thanks to some horseradish cream, whilst the crepe roll with avocado and crabmeat was a nice contrast to all of the above by channelling light, fresh summer picnics in one ladylike bite.
Paul Lafayet have taken care of all the sweets for this tea set – and largely, very successfully too! I’ll actually start with the one disappointment – their macarons, which I found too dense and chewy, whilst the flavours for that day (chocolate and rose) were just too sweet. Perhaps some tarter fruit flavours might have been better?
That aside, I all out loved their chocolate craquelin; I actually started rationing this throughout the rest of my meal as I didn’t want the experience to end – a sinfully rich, dark, gooey chocolate cake, with a crunchy crackling base. The very antithesis to a rose macaron in fact! Meanwhile, the other sweets (blueberry cheesecake and a strawberry tart) were also good, and the injection of some fresh fruit was a welcome addition to the set.
I’ve had Paul Lafayet’s crème brulee before and it’s easily one of the most consistent in Hong Kong (where you are often served liquid custard, a curdled sponge or some equally unappetising variant on the two). That all-important crack-through-caramelised-crust was joyously present, whilst I loved the strong but natural taste of vanilla that ran throughout – a sweet, clean, lovely and refined dessert.
Whilst The Langham’s scones themselves were good (dense, buttery), there was something weird going on with the cream; I think it had been left out a little too long and consequently turned unappealingly claggy, although the very accommodating waiters changed it as soon as we mentioned it.
So if you need proof that high-quality hotel afternoon tea does exist outside HK Island, a relaxed teatime in the cushy surroundings of The Langham Hong Kong should do the trick. Given the often-crazy hustle and bustle of Tsim Sha Tsui, Palm Court’s hushed interiors offer a welcome respite from the Mainlander madness… and what better respite than one that involves chocolate cake and flower-printed crockery?
Paul Lafayet Tiffin Afternoon Tea costs $308 per person or $518 for two people, and runs until mid-September 2014
Palm Court, The Langham Hong Kong, 8 Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, +852 2375 1133
Note: this meal was by invitation