Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The Royal Heritage Afternoon Tea and Not-An-Afternoon-Tea at Intercontinental Singapore's Lobby Lounge

Intercontinental Hotel Bugis Lobby Lounge


There are few things that bring M & I more joy, than a really good High Tea. For us it is a cherished ritual, born out of M's soft spot for a good, comforting cup of English Breakfast. My childhood mornings and afternoons were, on the main, spent in school, while weekends were set aside for the whole family. But for an hour or two on a weekday afternoon every few weeks or so when I didn't have any pressing activities to attend, M & I would carve out time to spend together. Sometimes we'd go shopping, or for walks, but ever so often we would decide we needed something a little special, and special always involved tea. 


TWG Afternoon Tea Intercontinental Singapore


Here in Singapore, the idea of a somewhat posh afternoon tea seems like the least contentious aspect of our colonial legacy, and is therefore one that we're quite happy to continue embracing wholeheartedly. We've even added many of our own twists to it, and my abiding love for afternoon tea was cultivated over all manner of iterations on the theme. From local-inspired to whole seafood platters, dim sum teas or the full works, I've tried them all. But it's hard to argue with a really well-done traditional tea, complete with scones and dainty canapĂ©s that seem to disappear all too quickly. 


Coffee Break at Intercontinental Singapore


The rarefied atmosphere of a calm tea room is yet another reason why we like them so much. It's very hard to remain in a state of constant angst in a space where everything is so polite and relaxed. Somehow, you just absorb all those quietly pleasant feelings, and eventually find yourself in a state that's ready for the decidedly indulgent nature of High Tea. In the time it takes the tea to get to the right consistency and temperature, much of your gloominess will have risen, unfurled itself, and dissipated like the steam from your cup. 


Refurbished Heritage Hotels Singapore


M and I have our usual haunts, but we're always on the lookout to try something different, and maybe find some new favourites. So when The Honeycombers sent through their newsletter mentioning the newly revamped Lobby Lounge at Intercontinental Singapore, I was immediately intrigued. We hadn't visited the Intercontinental in so long that I didn't even realize they'd gone and spruced the place up. All my memories of it were marked by the same hazy tint of childhood, with the feeling of the hotel being rather cavernous and cold. The EDM promised it was now "spiffy" and "super swanky" though, so I felt compelled to go and check it out. 

The Lobby Lounge's makeover has indeed done wonders. With their high ceiling and copious amounts of natural light, the large swathes of white create a feeling of airiness. Much of the rich jewel-toned furnishings have a modern-retro flair, while local design touches like Peranakan style tiling adds some pops of colour. Nothing mind-blowing, but extremely effective at creating a sense of comfortable, quiet luxury. 


Intercontinental Singapore High Tea at Bugis


With so many High Tea options in Singapore, it's hard to stand out from the crowd. The Lobby Lounge has gone the route of creating an additional offering for the coffee fiends among us. I know no one else who loves coffee as much as EE does, so it was so nice for her to have that option when she joined us for this one balmy Saturday.


Indulgent Afternoon Tea Singapore


There are also additional niceties of course, like iced tea or coffee mocktails before the main event. These are freshly shaken at two preparation stations in the middle of the floor, so there's a small performative element to the tea that injects life to the lounge. Still, the ambience rarely spikes beyond the level of 'utterly relaxing'. Between the pillowy chaise and the musical trio playing 10 minute sets, I almost slipped into a post-prandial snooze after one too many cakes.  


Traditional Afternoon Tea Central Singapore Bugis


Both the spreads of the Royal Heritage Afternoon Tea and Not-An-Afternoon-Tea (I know, the name is terrible, but what else is there to call it? 'Afternoon Coffee' just sounds like you have a caffeine problem) are beautifully presented on 3-tiered cake stands set off with silvery accents. The only difference between the Tea and Coffee options, is the fact that 'Coffee' includes a number of pastries infused with - what else? - coffee. It almost seems like overkill, but to be absolutely fair to them, the results are quite inspired. Their little tiramisu in a chocolate cup with coffee jelly and a drip vial of coffee syrup was honestly very good.


Intercontinental Singapore Pastries


Unlike some other High Teas, the goodies on these tiers aren't refillable, but you'll leave feeling absolutely stuffed anyway. Sweet or savoury, the offerings here are substantial. I challenge anyone to follow up the gloriously sticky-gooey chocolate apricot bar with the peach melba cheesecake (Sitting pretty atop a circle of almond nougatine) and not feel somewhat overwhelmed. 


Desserts for Coffee Lovers Singapore


The Afternoon Tea selection is not too shabby either, and the only tea-infused gimmick in sight is the rose tea financier. I avoided it, as I generally avoid most financiers, instead lavishing what stomach space remained on the Valrhona Guanaja chocolate religieuse (Not quite as Instagrammable as the one from The Grand Budapest Hotel, but still quite tasty) and the light-as-air mont blanc. 


Savoury Canapes Singapore


Sadly, the cucumber sandwiches were a  disappointment - the edges had begun drying out and tasted rather crusty. Also, they served it with wholemeal, which in my opinion entirely misses the point of cucumber sandwiches. Thankfully, the rest of the savoury selection was better. (It's very hard to go wrong with rosette salami)


Top Afternoon High Teas Singapore


And oh, the scones are quite lovely. Someone comes round with a tray, generously doling out warm crumbly goodness. There are a number of options to choose from: plain ones, raisin studded ones, lemon ones or coffee ones. You could be greedy and have one of each, but you might also have to be rolled out the door afterwards. 


Top Hotels for Best Afternoon Tea Singapore Intercontinental Bugis


As toppings go, the selection is quite traditional. The jam is in fact a house-made wild strawberry preserve, and there's also a mascarpone cheese spread, but most importantly they provide you with some very nice clotted cream. 


Places to go for afternoon tea in Singapore


The Duchy of Cornwall claims that cream must go on a scone first before jam, while in Devon, jam takes precedence: the debate continues to rage on. I claim no allegiance to either side. In this matter, I am an avowed heretic, for I take only cream on my scone. I am not so foolish as to make a cream sandwich out of a scone, but I do insist on a goodly cream to scone ratio, as you can see in the photo above. 


Weekend Afternoon Tea Destinations Singapore Lobby Lounge Intercontinental Bugis


If you're still up for more desserts after gamely eating your way through the tiers, there's crepe suzette available. We ordered two to share, but we recognized soon after that even that was far too much for us to handle. Well, you live and you learn, though this seems like a lesson that never sticks for long.

What cakes we couldn't finish, EE brought back for the kids to polish off, so the carnage wasn't all too bad. As for the rest of us, we went home and napped immediately, waking up groggy and still full but quite pleased with ourselves. All in all, quite a successful afternoon out really. 


And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm feeling the need for a cup of tea...


Photograph worthy High Tea Singapore

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