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As much as we like shiny new hotels and seeking out the latest places to lay our heads when we’re traveling, there is something about hotels that have seen the years come and go, withstood trends rushing in and passing just as quickly, and over time been woven into the very fabric of a city.
That’s why we sought out Mandarin Oriental Bangkok recently, one of the city’s oldest luxe hotels, having had its place on the banks of the Chao Phraya River since 1876 – that’s more than a hundred and thirty years of history. Specifically, we headed to the Author’s Lounge, so named in honor of the various literary greats that have walked through the doors of the hotel (from Somerset Maugham to John Le Carré and Joseph Conrad to Barbara Cartland).
Here, inside its whitewashed walls, sitting on white wicker furniture, and among potted palms and bamboo, is a window to a different time, one of steam trunk travel, genteel afternoons spent at leisure between cricket matches (or so we imagine), and of course – taking high tea.
High tea service can be fun, but most of the time it can be stuffy. Really, how many cucumber sandwiches can one person eat? The Westin Sydney has broken the chains of sipping tea with an extended pinky finger with a new take on tradtion, the Mad Hatter Tea.
Full of whimsy, this service is a flagrant nod to Alice in Wonderland and her adventures. Think beyond the 'Eat Me' cakes and move towards a super-chocolatey cake decorated like the Mad Hatter's hat or blueberry macaron 'painted' like the White Rabbit's pocket watch. From sweet to savory, the multi-tiered plates would even make a fan out of the Queen of Hearts.
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We have been spending so much time on cocktail culture (well, it has been a rough few months), we figured we should be a little more balanced with our beverage coverage.
We started a bit by paying some attention to another one of our favorite pasttimes--afternoon tea. That can mean a simple cuppa for some of you--a jolt of caffeine to carry you through the day, or for more leisurely sorts, a more elaborate weekend high-tea filled with all sorts of yummy delights. We want to focus on that one--so much more fun, yes?
Now that chillier climates prevail in many parts of the country, the call for afternoon tea is in full demand and these hotels put out what we think are mighty fine spreads. We’ve seen quite a few people duck in to a hotel around the 4’o clock hour and chill over a demitasse of Darjeeling, a curried-chicken finger sandwich, and a jam-filled tart. We heartily approve.
Just remember, pinkie's up!
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Typically, high tea is an experience we recommend everyone to experience at least once in their life. The pomp and tradition of well-decorated petits fours, delicious finger sandwiches and scones with clotted cream is highly regarded amongst a large segment. This can get a little stuffy sometimes especially if you are not part of said segment. This is where the Hilton Surfers Paradise comes to the rescue with their High Tea with a Twist.
The mere mention of 'high tea' conjures up thoughts of well-healed ladies donning large hats and nibbling on crustless cucumber sandwiches from white gloved fingers. Well, you can throw that image out of the window once we tell you about Fix Cocktail Bar's most unique high tea we have ever been part of. Gloved-hands down.
All of the traditional elements are present; hotel, three-tiers of goodies, and, of course, tea. But like we said--with a twist. The entire menu is themed off of popular cocktails and we're not talking the virgin kinds. Think of mini mojito, vodka martini Jell-O shot or a jellied Bloody Mary served on a cucumber slice; get what we're talking about?
If you couldn’t make it to Marc Jacobs’ New York City fashion show last night, perhaps you can try his tea instead?
MO Bar, at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong has linked with the designer to create an afternoon tea modeled after…a handbag.
We know it’s early in the week and day and the coffee may not have sunk in yet, so we’re going to try and explain this the best we can. “The Lindy” is a handbag from Jacobs’ Fall 2012 collection and the MO’s Exec Sous Chef Sidney Schutte thought it would be cute to bring some elements of the bag's shape, color, and print into the tea presentation—namely the bow and the mini studs.
High Tea has become one of the best litmus tests of how a hotel can impress its guests. Singapore's Raffles Hotel is no different. The entire hotel, a vintage colonial building surrounded by gardens and lush tropical plants, is one of the must-see attractions for visitors. Not only is it the original property of the hotel chain, it is a landmark building for the city.
Lots of planning needs to go into partaking in this tea service. No, we're not talking about which hat to wear or whether the finger sandwiches have crusts or not. Although very important, these thoughts can't happen until you make a booking for high tea. And The Tiffin Room at The Raffles takes reservations no more than three weeks before you want to partake in the pomp and circumstance. Fortunately, we planned ahead for our own tea time. Here's how it went:
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How many US hotels do you know that've reached 125 years of business? Well, The Grand Hotel of Michigan's Mackinac Island is one of 'em, as well as being one of the last surviving wooden construction hotels. Its history is long and tumultuous, but its summers are sunny. This week, we'll take a look around the Victorian property and the features and amenities that have made it a top seasonal destination for the last century-and-a-quarter.
Today: Afternoon Tea at The Grand Hotel
We may have spent nearly all week showing you the nooks and crannies that guests may enjoy at the 125-year-old Grand Hotel, but there is one very large way they welcome non-guests: with traditional afternoon tea.
Mackinac Island has its share of daytrippers and budget travelers just as it has the luxury and season-long visitors. Paying $400/night for the Grand isn't always feasible; for some it's a dream stay to work towards, but in the meantime there's always tea. The Grand Hotel charges non-guests $10 per person and enforces a basic dress code to enter the building, to prevent the place being overrun. While you're there, afternoon tea is only $25 per person (compare to $30+ in Chicago and $36+ in New York).
We've already told you a great way to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee is an elegant high tea at a fancy schmancy London Hotel. Since we assume that a Jubilee party is teaming with royals dressed in haute couture, we can introduce you to the high tea at Palazzo Versace.
Located in Australia's playground, the Gold Coast, the fashion house's hotel is nothing short of extravagant. Situated 'off-the-beaten-track', just north of the heart of Surfers Paradise, the property boasts a dazzling pool, marble lobby and everything Versace. It is a little slice of Donatella in Oz.
It's a special weekend in England this weekend as the country is kicking off the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth's ascension to the throne. Called the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, the celebration will be happening over four days and will involve a series of major events in London including a concert at Buckingham Palace and the Thames River Pageant during which the Queen will lead a giant flotilla of a thousand boats up the river.
Of course, if you're not in town this weekend (and that might be a good thing as it is going to be nuts) you can still celebrate with at a hotel of course--thanks to these Diamond Jubilee-themed afternoon teas at these three hotels:
4.5ft high. Four days to make. Hundreds of sweets stuck onto it: those are the stats for the incredible gingerbread house at the Langham London.
The house has been set up in Palm Court (the tea room), in order to coincide with the Festive Afternoon Tea that the hotel is offering as well as the sconegasmic Bijoux Tea. We popped by last week and - wow. It's incredible. Little wonder everyone is queuing to get their photo taken in front of it.
But it's not just a pretty face - you can actually win an afternoon tea for two if you guess the weight of the gingerbread house. Or rather, the amount of gingerbread used in its construction.
Entries should be rounded to the nearest kg and entered on the Langham's Facebook page by 23 December - so you have a little time.
Initially, it was love at first sight – we’d never seen anything so exquisite. Then, it was reputation – once we heard Britney was a fan, we wanted in as well. So that’s how we ended up trotting along to the Langham London this week, to try the new Stephen Webster Bijoux Tea that launched last month.
First thing to know – book ahead. Weekends can book up to five weeks in advance. Weekdays are a little easier, since there are three sittings. On the day we went, there was space for the 5.30pm sitting. But you don’t want to risk that – book about a week in advance.
Second thing to know: the Bijoux Tea isn’t the only one on offer. There’s also the Wonderland Tea (the standard one, £38) High Tea (£38, served from 5-6.30pm with things like crumpets and fruit cake) and the 1865 Langham High Tea (£40, served from 7-8.30pm, including cold canapés and fruit). The Bijoux Tea is more expensive, at £49pp. So what do you get for your extra cash?
Absurd prettiness, for a start – the tea is a work of art, and you’ll probably feel guilty about destroying it. But hey, it’s there to be demolished.
There are three courses to the tea, as with a normal one: sandwiches, scones, and cakes. But that’s as close to a standard afternoon tea as you get. Instead of smoked salmon and cucumber sandwiches, you get “smoked salmon and cream cheese with cucumber pearls”; instead of chicken, it’s poached quail breast with grapes and violet (yes, violet). The traditional egg sandwich is a duck egg – an actual duck egg – perched on a nub of bread, while there’s also one with lobster and piquillo peppers on a sub roll and a tiny apple-shaped, green icing-covered choux pastry filled with foie grass and apple.
Mmm, afternoon tea. It doesn't have to look good for us to take an interest, but that's always a bonus. Hence we're currently salivating over the Stephen Webster Bijoux Tea at the Langham Hotel London.
Stephen Webster, for those who don't know, is a jewellery artist, so the tea - which has been inspired by his Murder She Wrote collection - is lovely and bright, or, as the Langham says, "celebrates both British fashion and traditional afternoon tea with transgressive design and literary heritage." No diamonds, unfortunately, but you do get shimmering icing and gold cakes.