In a city swarming with afternoon teas, there are a couple of stone cold (or rather, scone cold hehe) classics that rarely disappoint – The Mandarin Oriental, The Four Seasons, The Peninsula… and I think it’s about time that I added The Intercontinental Hong Kong to the list.
Whilst many hotel teas here boast pretty sweet views of the city thanks to their lofty heights (à la The Ritz-Carlton or The Upper House’s Café Gray Deluxe), The Intercontinental’s might just be my new favourite based on sheer spectacle alone. The laidback surrounds of the Lobby Lounge essentially give you front row seats to the best show Hong Kong has to offer – our magnificent harbour skyline, laid out for all to see via a giant wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. It’s like you’re sitting on the ocean. As far as tea settings go, you can’t get much better… oh, until the sun sets and then you get to see Hong Kong’s glittering skyline by night instead.
With that view, The Intercon could serve me tap water and gruel and I’d probably still be making a return booking. Thankfully, they do a whole lot better than that – and their afternoon tea set is definitely up there with Hong Kong’s stronger offerings.
The food gods must have been smiling down on me, as I managed to snag an invite to their seasonal Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse Tea Set, which runs until the end of January 2015. Chocolate and afternoon tea? This couldn’t be more up my street unless it came with a bacon sarnie on the side singing Disney songs.
Alain Ducasse’s cuisine is already represented at The Intercon via their Michelin-starred restaurant Spoon but now thanks to this tea set, you can get your choppers around Ducasse’s famed artisanal chocolates for the first time in Hong Kong. After tasting them, I soon understood why his chocolates have the reputation they do – these little slabs of ganache were just divine; velvety soft, rich but refined squares of heaven with an almost fruity lingering finish. In fact, popping one into my mouth made me want to break out into the chorus of Maria McKee’s Show Me Heaven (circa that cheesy 90s Cadbury’s advert).
The chocolate mousse was similarly intense and wonderful, and every bit as smooth as a James Bond pick-up line – even if it was slightly too intense to finish given I still needed room for the tea set’s other treats. And trust me, there are plenty of those, because what I really like about The Intercon’s tea set is that it’s made for humans rather than Borrowers – namely, that each item hasn’t been run through a shrink ray before arrival at your table. All the savouries and sweets are generously sized, meaning you no longer have to get out your penknife out to attempt precision sharing of pint-sized pastries.
Ducasse’s chocolate has also been integrated into two of the set’s pastries, with my vote going to the dark chocolate with crispy macarons over the chocolate praline with banana and passion fruit (I’m not a fan of most chocolate-fruit combos). Again, the chocolate is gooey, rich, heady and intense – the kind of stuff that wins women’s hearts and soothes a few broken ones too – and the contrast of textures between thick gooey chocolate and crunchy macaron is on point.
Unexpectedly for this hardened chocoholic however, my favourite dessert turned out to be the cranberry and cherry cheesecake. There are so many mediocre cheesecakes to be found in tea sets here, that to eat a genuinely good one – light and fluffy but full of tangy rich flavour – was a most delicious surprise.
The savouries were a little more hit and miss. I loved the Boston lobster and avocado on endive – it was nice to see a substantial (in tea set terms!) amount of lobster, and the meat was sweet, tender and exactly the kind of light refreshment needed to balance out the desserts. Similarly, the salmon tartare sandwich was perfect, full of smoky flavour and generously stuffed to the hilt with fish. Sadly, I don’t like foie gras so didn’t partake in the foie gras custard, whilst I found the yoghurt and lemongrass bread roll a bit of a strange concept, unsuccessfully straddling the savoury/sweet line.
But of course, don’t forget the scones – ‘tis the season and all, so there are some gingerbread ones in addition to the usual plain and raisin varieties. Just the smell alone is scrumptious, instantly transporting you to all the best bits of Christmas minus the annoying carols and feigned looks of delight at rubbish presents; they were perhaps a tad denser than your average scone but it was worth it for the sheer deliciousness. The cream here is also the real deal – Devonshire clotted cream to be exact – whilst The Intercon’s very lovely and rather unusual Earl Grey tea jelly is beautifully fragrant and infused with a delicate tea flavour.
I do have some bad news though – you can’t book The Intercontinental Hong Kong’s afternoon tea, which means you have to just turn up on the day and hope for the best. But hellooooo… you saw that view right? And even if you miss out on Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse, fear not as The Intercon is always mixing up their afternoon tea with new items. Based on this set, I reckon you’re in for a treat whatever the season.
The Intercontinental Hong Kong’s Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse Tea Set runs until 31 January 2015. It costs $588 for two people on weekdays and $608 for two on weekends and public holidays.
The Lobby Lounge, The Intercontinental Hong Kong, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, +852 2721 1211
Note: this meal was by invitation