English afternoon tea sans the airplane ride
Is there any better way to spend an afternoon in Shanghai than with a decadent tea set? Maybe not.
In welcoming the arrival of cold weather and the holiday season, treat yourself to a quintessential English afternoon tea experience at the newly opened Harrods Tea Rooms inside the historic Cha House at the edge of HKRI Taikoo Hui.
Harrods, the world's leading department store, has been welcoming guests to enjoy its afternoon tea since 1911, when the Georgian restaurant opened on the fourth floor of its Knightsbridge store in London. A century has passed and this fine tradition has found its way to Shanghai, but in an innovative, contemporary way.
Housed on the first floor of Cha House, the interior of Harrods Tea Rooms celebrates the history of the building, the city of Shanghai and tie both with Harrods heritage as an English brand that began selling tea. The color palette is inspired by the stone floors with their distinctive burgundy red, beige and seaweed green geometric tiles, as well as the dark tones of the carved timber stairs and windows. Bespoke Murano lights and back-lit crystal panels show a custom design of tea leaves and the plant from which they're harvested. A big rug features a floral design of magnolias, the symbol of Shanghai. There's also a curated selection of antique English tea caddies on display that show the history of English afternoon tea.
The afternoon tea set specially created for the local market features a flavorful spread of treats, and every detail has been meticulously perfected to ensure the ultimate experience. Before the pretty array of delicate finger sandwiches and freshly baked scones are served, you're asked to choose from free-flowing coffee or a wide variety of teas that remain a core part of Harrods' heritage. For those not so well versed in tea culture, fear not, as there's a tea flavor spectrum to help you navigate the menu and make your decision based on where the tea sits among four main flavor profiles – sweet, woody, astringent and floral. For first-time visitors, pick a pot from the signature and special blends such as the renowned No. 14 English Breakfast or No. 49 Blend 1849 that was originally made in honor of Harrods' 150th anniversary.
I was served a palate cleanser of honey bubble, bergamot and Harrods Earl Grey granita, as well as Madagascar vanilla ice cream that had my taste buds reset for the main event.
The sandwich selection certainly looked interesting, having been given a Chinese twist. Local flavors such as Sichuan pepper were creatively added to the cucumber sandwich with mascarpone cream.
However, the classic, freshly baked scones and signature patisserie selection tickled my teatime fancy and satisfied my sweet tooth. Harrods' custard cream biscuit is a true indulgence, made with butter sable pastry, vanilla sponge and, of course, cream custard, complete with an elaborate baroque design stamped onto it. And the experience is never complete without freshly baked plain and fruit scones, served with thick and rich clotted cream and Harrods jam.
Harrods Tea Rooms currently only offers afternoon tea sets priced at 488 yuan per person and 888 yuan for two. You can reserve afternoon tea through the WeChat mini program 哈罗德茶室.
Opening hours: 12am-6pm
Address: 1/F, Cha House, 420 Weihai Rd
Average price: 530 yuan (US$83.23)