Tea at Mandarin Oriental

mandarin table

If I could, I would have afternoon tea every Sunday of my life. Warm, flaky scones slathered in mounds of clotted cream and strawberry preserves! Dainty finger sandwiches made from cucumbers and lobster! Gorgeous desserts of all kinds, from cakes and chocolates to panna cottas and creme brulee! And of course, the perfect cup of tea to accompany every last bite. Fabulous! (*____*)

A good friend and I made our way to the Mandarin Oriental on a recent Sunday afternoon to partake in just such a tea, and it was utterly divine. It was actually my first tea at a restaurant in the city, though I’ve been to privately thrown teas here before. The Mandarin Oriental holds its tea Thursdays through Sundays between 2:30 and 4:30 pm in their beautiful Empress Lounge, located right beyond their main foyer and overlooking a garden. The room is gorgeous, with high ceilings, decadent wood paneling, and calming earth tones that match very well with the view outside the floor to ceiling windows.

We arrived about 15 minutes early, but they were nice enough to seat us anyway, while they set up. They do their teas a little differently here, than at other places. Some, like the lovely Secret Garden Tea Company in Vancouver, bring out each course separately. Others, like the Carlyle in New York City, bring out all three courses at once, on tiered plates. At the Mandarin, everything is set up buffet style, and you can go up and help yourself, going back for several rounds in whatever order you want. It’s a tea lover’s dream.

mandarin dessert buffet

This here is the dessert buffet, featuring at least eight different desserts! But I’m getting a little ahead of myself, here. More after the jump:


mandarin tea

We’ll start with the all important item, tea. The menu offered several different kinds of teas from each of the categories: black, green, white and tisane. (By the way, they also let you substitute coffee in lieu of tea if you prefer, and they have a great selection of those, as well. It comes served in an individual French press. You can also get cocktails instead, for a little extra). I decided to go with a traditional black, the Mandarin rose petal tea (“aromatic rose petals and rich China tea leaves with delicate lychee fruit essence and chocolate notes”). It was really flavorful and aromatic. Loved it! Here’s a pic of the tea leaves and rose petals:

mandarin rose tea

Also loved the cast iron pots that it came served in. X) My friend got the “White Lotus,” a delicate white tea with “spiked accents of ginger and lemon myrtle…nuances of spice and citrus.” It had an indescribable flavor that seemed to touch upon a little of everything. Intriguing and delicious.

mandarin honey

You can sweeten your tea with honey or sugar. The sugar sticks were fun to use and pretty, too.

Now on to the food:

mandarin scones

Only one kind of scone was available, but they were nice and flaky. I think the disadvantage to a buffet style is that the scones weren’t at their warm peak condition. Still, quite good, especially when combined with the clotted cream, sweet strawberry preserve and lemon curd.

mandarin sandwiches

Aaah….for me, the highlight of the tea was definitely the sandwich course. On this day, they had 3 different kinds: lobster curry salad, cucumber topped with walnut, and smoked chicken wrap. They were all very tasty! I especially loved the lobster, which was not at all fishy, and the chicken, which had sun dried tomatoes for extra punch.

mandarin buffet

The rest of the scone/sandwich table was more like a dessert buffet, complete with tiers of cupcakes, madeleines, cookies, chocolates galore! They even had a chocolate fountain (which I sadly forgot to photograph), along with strawberries, marshmallows, and rice krispy treats on sticks.

mandarin cupcakes

How cute are these mini cupcakes!?

mandarin madeleine

Guh, these mini madeleines were buttery and delicious! Definitely among the best I’ve ever had.

The desserts!

mandarin creme

Delicious lemon panna cotta and the cinnamon creme brulee. The creme brulee had a great coffee flavored finish!

mandarin panna cotta

I tasted a great deal of coconut in this panna cotta, topped with lychee. It was creamy and delicious! Definitely my favorite of the desserts.

mandarin cakes

I believe this was the passion fruit mousse, though I didn’t taste the tartness of passion fruit, and in front of it is the tiramisu and some kind of vanilla cake with strawberry glaze. To be honest, I didn’t enjoy these as much, though they looked quite pretty. Great tiramisu is not something I come across very often, although it seems to be almost overdone at restaurants. This one had an odd maple-syrupy sweetness to it that I didn’t enjoy very much.

But to end on a happy note, everything else was quite amazing, and my friend declared that this was the best tea she’d had in the city – and she’s been to many of them! Overall, a lovely experience. I left there 2 and half hours and three pots of tea later, quite content and very full. You’d be surprised how these dainty little foods could fill you up.

I’ll leave you with a beautiful view of the room from the outside:

mandarin garden

My friend is putting together her annual Christmas tea here, early next month. I can’t wait to go back! o(^___^)o

*________*

I’m really impressed!
Everything looks delicious and so elegant!

I’ll look forward to the party post!

Thanks, Maye! Not sure I’ll do another post for the party…I guess it’ll depend on whether their menu is very different. I’ve certainly blogged the same place multiple times before! ;D

I love your blog. It was nice meeting you the other night and this makes me really want to go to the Christmas tea.

Thanks Ashlynn! It was lovely meeting you too, and I hope you can make it to the tea. I still haven’t looked at the pictures from Reserve, though I get the feeling they might’ve been too fuzzy to blog.

 

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