Afternoon high tea has always been somewhat of a special affair for me. Perhaps pandering to that self-indulgent tai-tai side of me, I've always had a soft spot for high teas. You know, it's an excuse to act all high class and all for us normal human beings and feel a touch more cultured and special than any normal day… okay, but I digress.
So imagine my delight when I heard about Conrad Centennial's Afternoon High Tea service at an affordable $24 per person. (Hey, it's hotel high tea okay) Another occasion to raise the pinkies drinking tea from expensive china, over scones and cream. Sounded like a way to spend an afternoon for me.
First impressions count — was expecting somewhat of a buffet service of sorts, but the unpretentious looking Lobby Lounge looked… well, like its namesake. Generously plush and well-furnished with plenty of warm woods, the place looked cosy and unpretentious. Translation: If you are looking for glitzy gold utensils and black marble flooring with starched white tablecloths, please head to TWG, thank you. Pretty good first impression (even with some live piano music later on!).
Service was utterly professional and polite, and wonderfully un-intrusive. Perfect for those top-secret business bitching sessions about your competitor with your client.
I started off with the Caribbean Summer tea. They use Ronnefeldt teas here, the same kind that they use at Shangri-La. A little bit over-the-top fruity for me to fully enjoy the tea, but I guess it's okay if you go crazy with the sugar cubes. Didn't like the sour aftertaste (I know, it happens with quite a few fruit teas). And yes, teas and brewed coffee are free flow when you order it with the set.
Still, it could be worse. While I went happy with the petit fours (chocolates! pralines! cookies! diabetic nightmare!) like a little kid at the candy store, the three-tier tea platter came. I swear a part of the inner tai tai in me died a bit. A small part, for I'm a sucker for all things traditional and glitzy. Well, I sure preferred this to a kitschy buffet.
|Clockwise from centre: Mini Smoked Salmon Bagel, Chive & Egg Mayo with Caviar Sandwich, Some unknown tuna sandwich with red onion, English Cucumber sandwich and Aged Cheddar & Pickled Onion Sandwich|
I tried the "Mini Smoked Salmon Bagel with Cream Cheese and Capers" sandwich first. Smoked salmon was alright, but I didn't taste anything remotely related to cream cheese or capers. They were pretty much non-existent, which left me nothing but the cold, hard bagel to accompany the cold smoked salmon. Not a good start. Still, I kept my hopes up.
The "Aged Cheddar and Pickled Onion" sandwich fared better. The pickled onion had a nice marmalade sweetness to it, but could be tangier with more onion accent. The aged cheddar tasted like… brie or camembert cheese. None of that sharpness of cheddar, but whatever. It tasted decent, even on the hard bread that was left out in the open for the past two days.
You couldn't go wrong with a refreshing English Cucumber Sandwich, and this one didn't disappoint. Nice, getting there.
I think however, for the sandwiches, I liked the Egg & Chive Mayonnaise with Caviar sandwich the best. Well, they didn't go wrong with the egg mayo (actually, you couldn't get this wrong very much) and the white bread was decently soft and the caviar exploded with flavour in my mouth pretty well. Excellent, and on to the next tier.
So the pastries were negotiated, and the Green Tea Mousse Biscotti was negotiated first. This was probably one of my favourites for the day — it was light and fragrant, almost like a mix of pandan and kaya, and the mousse was sweet, smooth and creamy. The biscotti (really? looked like a pecan) was sufficiently caramelised to add the nice zing and texture contrast to this tea delight as well.
The butterfly cake was another hit, except for the raspberry which I thought was redundant. Not being a fan of raspberries, I did appreciate the soft pound-cake like texture and sweetness of the cake, filled with light chocolate (I'm not sure on this one) cream.
The Chocolate Royal Crunch was excellent as well. I think it had this praline based which complemented the rich, smooth chocolate wonderfully. Decadence, this one. Expectations were high for the top-tier now.
Sadly though, the top tier disappointed me. The orange, strawberry and sago swirl tasted like a fruit juice spiked with cough syrup, the apricot moelleux (I don't think it was a moelleux, I googled it and it doesn't look anything like it, I think it's more like a carrot cake of sorts) was nothing to shout about and the Mini Raspberry Lemon Tartlet didn't work for me because I hate raspberries.
And there was the slightly deflated, but freshly baked souffle. Which was, I think, coffee-flavoured. Nothing to write home about other than it being quite moist (for a souffle).
I took the opportunity to change teas to a Vanille, a lovely Assam tea with bourbon, vanilla and orange accents. A much nicer accompaniment to the whole experience, full-bodied, nothing to sharp, but wonderfully fragrant and upliftingly sweet. I regretted not ordering it earlier.
Oh, the scones. They were forgettable too. The jam was way too sweet, and the scones didn't smell or taste buttery fresh. I was pretty sure that I've tasted better scones out there. But by the time we were through negotiating everything, we were too full to care.
Or maybe that was just the plan.
But in summary — the ambience, service and some of the hits made this a decent high tea overall, with the loving company I had in Kenji & Xin Li. The tea was good, and somehow, I didn't feel rushed or pretending that everything had to be perfect, like a "cultured", "atas" and somewhat "uppity" experience typical of these hotel high teas.
Not the best yes. But at least it didn't try too hard to pretend like it was either.
Lobby Lounge, Conrad Centennial Singapore
2 Temasek Boulevard
Reservations: +65 6334 8888
Afternoon Tea From 3PM - 6PM Daily.