|Art Afternoon Tea, Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur|
Hand Sen Hau and Monica Tindall
I seem to have slipped back into time… A bygone epoch where the standards of luxury were heavily scrutinised and dictated by progenitors of class such as Alva Vanderbilt, John Jacob Astor IV, Coco Chanel, Auguste Escoffier, and of course, the king of hoteliers of which the Ritz-Carlton inherits its name from, César Ritz. The sumptuous setting predates the jet-set era of the 50s, when air-travel was an audacious exhibition of wealth, and the euphoric swing years of the late 30s, when much of Manhattan congregated in the swanky Savoy Ballroom, dancing it out to high-octane performances by the likes of Benny Goodman and Count Basie.
Instead, what I’ve found at the Ritz-Carlton is a vestige of early twentieth-century luxury ocean liners cruising the seas, leaving trails of their glittering effervescence as shipping companies try to eclipse each other through the construction of bigger, faster, and classier liners. Despite my attempted exercise in ostentatiousness as evident in my clothing ensemble (I actually arrived with a pocket watch whose chain could be seen dangling from the button of my vest), I couldn’t even one-up the maître d’hôtel who greeted me in a princely gold sherwani with matching turban in crimson and amber trimmings… I almost felt that I should be the obsequious valet attending to him!
|Lobby Lounge Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur|
Aside from my regal attendant, much of the hotel, leading up to the lobby lounge where afternoon tea is served, projected a muted extravagance evidenced in the Queen Anne-styled furniture, dimly lit Victorian table lamps, and lush carpeting. As I studied my surroundings, I noticed the integration of local art displayed throughout the lounge, infusing a touch of curated modernity into the elegant parlour. My host, Deborah Bomstein, explained that the artworks are part of a temporary exhibition showcasing local talent, some of whose paintings are printed on thin slices of chocolate served with pastries.
|One of the Artworks|
|Beautiful Bites Adorned with Chocolate Printed with Artworks from the Exhibition|
As I sat at my table, I detected a faint floral scent perfuming the area, unsure if it emanated from a concealed diffuser or simply from the fragrant tea selection rolling towards me on a wooden tea trolley. I had thirty different teas (grouped in four varietals: black, fruity, herbal, and green) to choose from, some of which were labelled most amusingly such as the Royal Gunpowder, which I so desperately wanted to try just because it sounded explosive. It was pleasurable being able to examine the scent profile of the tea leaves in mini tubes before deciding on what to drink. In spite of my initial inclination towards the Royal Gunpowder, I was coerced by my waiter to have the Morgentau, which promised a citrus zest absent in the former.
|A Wide Selection of Tea|
The Morgentau didn’t disappoint. Its bitterness was balanced by a sweetness I associate with mangoes and pepped up by a subdued lemon flavour. The drink was refreshing and incredibly light; an elixir that dispels stress at each sip. Maybe it’s merely environmental psychology, but the entire process of drinking tea at the Ritz-Carlton seemed to require a practised restraint whereby I felt the compulsion to rest my teacup on my pinkie before allowing it to gently clink on the saucer every time I put it down… Oh what the discovery of the tableware being imported bone china could do to you.
|Art Afternoon Tea, Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur|
Alas, what afternoon tea would be complete without colourful savouries and pastries displayed daintily on a tiered tray? I dashed for the raisin scones served with miniature Bonne Maman jams and they tasted absolutely fabulous. The scones were crumbly outside, fluffy inside, and tasted as if they came right out of the oven minutes before. The size of the quiche lorraine was just right, though a little salty for my preference. The chicken pie was decent, but my favourites off the savoury platter were the bite-sized sandwiches, which stimulated my palate.
|Raisin and Plain Scones with Jam and Cream|
I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into the sweet treats at the peak, so I attacked the lemon éclair first. The burst of citrus erupting in my mouth was unforgettable and as quickly came, that moment of pure sublimity vanishes faster than cotton candy, without the annoyance from sugar chunks stuck between your teeth. The cheesecake was pleasant, soft, and comes with a crumbly base. Although my heart remains with ridiculously dense cheesecakes, I appreciate how velvety this one tasted.
It’s always difficult to rate a good chocolate tart because of their popularity in restaurants. The one I’ve had here, however, was just right: had they chose to serve it in a larger size, I wouldn’t have been able to finish it. The macarons were unpretentious and proved their worth through a rich caramel filling, which gave the confection an agreeable chewiness not present in many others I’ve tried. Finally, the red velvet cupcake was the perfect finish to my sugary afternoon. For the longest time, I’ve been assaulted by red velvet cakes that were too sweet for my taste. I’m glad to announce that this one has successfully charmed me. The cream cheese icing did not overwhelm the moist cake, and I consumed it gratifyingly in three bites.
|Red Velvet Cupcake|
The Ritz-Carlton conveys sophistication and elegance beyond its structure and furniture: it exhibits these even in its food presentation and wonderfully proportioned flavours. As with a lavish location as this, attention to detail remains the core doctrine of the hotel, so one thing’s for certain: prepare to be impressed. Heck, I’ve left this place for a while now and I still can’t get over the tea trolley along with the exquisite accoutrements!
Reasons to visit: The cozy yet sybaritic setting; the wonderful array of tea available; the flamboyant display of savouries and pastries served on delicate china.
The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur
168 Jalan Imbi,
55100 Kuala Lumpur
+603 2142 8000
Traditional English Afternoon Tea (RM78)
Monday – Saturday; 3PM – 5PM
The Art Afternoon Tea runs until the end of June, but the regular afternoon tea runs all year.