I do love a good afternoon tea. Perhaps it’s something to do with being British, although it should be noted that this most quintessentially English pursuit is, in fact, far more common in Hong Kong than back in the UK, where it’s strictly the preserve of bridal or baby showers, or else something you might arrange for your Nanna’s 70th birthday. Still – as with driving on the proper side of the road – this is a colonial hangover that I can definitely get on board with.
Of course, one of the many perils of having small children is the fear that if you take them somewhere a bit fancy, (i.e. the sort of place that tends to serve afternoon tea), they’ll trash the joint. Doubly so if there’s a teetering tower of tiny, delicate cakes on fine china plates thrown in the mix, as sugar + threenager = total carnage. However, in the spirit of socialising the wild beasts while also having the opportunity to enjoy some sweet treats that weren’t eaten in a hurry while hidden behind a kitchen door (don’t try to deny it mums, you know what I’m talking about), my good friend Miss J and I gathered our boys and dropped by The Continental, Swire Hotels’ newest eatery, occupying the large glass space above Pacific Place that previously housed Domani.
I’ve visited The Continental a few times since its opening, and continue to be impressed by both the menu, (described as “Anglo-French with a British sensibility”) and the rather lovely décor. The airy, light-filled restaurant makes the most of the large space, with clubby green leather booths that are perfect for imprisoning your child and smart brass fittings – including funky pendant lights that Young Master T-T described as “shiny round spaceships”. Quite. Best of all, if the small fry do escape your clutches, there’s ample room for them to wander around, and the huge outside terrace offers space to let off steam in between courses.Sadly, on the day we visited, the weather had other plans, however the boys were soon pacified with the promise of cake, cake and more cake, and sat down happily to get busy with some colouring while we checked out the kids’ menu. The selection features some sure-fire child-pleasers such as spag bol, omelette and sausages, however our boys went for the mini burgers and fish and chips respectively. The slider-sized burgers wouldn’t look out of place in adult hands accompanied by a beer on a casual night out, and were beautifully cooked, juicy and covered in plenty of crisp salad… that was, of course, immediately picked off and discarded. The fish was lightly battered and crispy, and the lightly seasoned chips were identifiable as having originated from potatoes, which put them ahead of 99% of the kids’ menus I’ve encountered in Hong Kong. Boys sorted, the mums then took the opportunity to order ourselves, opting for The Continental tea set. If you’re not a total glutton *ahem* then you can order individual elements of the tea separately, but honestly, I’d suggest skipping lunch and possibly even dinner to enjoy the whole china-cups-and-proper-teapot experience. Our set was presented Instagram-ready on a cake stand, ensuring that the camera ate first, (because in the wise words of Miss J, “if it’s not on Insta, it didn’t happen”), and consisted of a nice balance of sweets and savouries, some more of a hit than others. Our sandwiches were as follows: duck egg mayonnaise (yum), prawn brioche (ok, though brioche always counts as a sweet as far as I’m concerned), smoked salmon roulade on pumpernickel, (this was SO good that I wish we’d had an entire tier), and the exceedingly retro option of coronation chicken (tastier than I remembered from days of yore).
And of course, what’s an afternoon tea without scones? The Continental’s set comes with two raisin and two plain, both of which are a proper size, i.e. bigger than a thumbnail but not so large that you’ve no space left for the important business of cake. Here I have pause to levy my only real criticism of the whole meal at the cream which, while lovely, comes in Thumbelina-sized pots that are chilled to the point of frozen, rendering the task of spreading it on your scones nigh-on impossible. To be fair, Hong Kong is a warm place at this time of year, and the friendly staff are always happy to provide extra cream as required, but might I suggest removing the pots from the fridge half an hour before the tea service, and also making them just a teensy bit bigger so I don’t have to feel like such a massive pig by asking for seconds? Thanks, The Continental. (Apologies for the lack of scone photos – I was clearly more preoccupied with obtaining backup cream supplies than snapping a pic). *Normal service resumes*.
The sweets are always the highlight of any meal for me, and this pretty selection didn’t disappoint. The bite-sized cheesecake was creamy, flavoured with delicate vanilla and a crumbly biscuit base and the raspberry macaron delivered the perfect combination of crisp and chewy with a satisfyingly tart centre. At the richer end of the sweet scale, the salted caramel chocolate cake was smooth with just a hint of tangy sea salt, while the chocolate mousse roulade was light and airy. Unfortunately at this point, small grabby hands began encroaching on our cake stand and so I’m afraid that some detail of the remaining sweets may have been lost in the ensuing scuffle. The general consensus was, however, very positive, and I’m happy to say that I managed to fend off enemy attack and enjoy the complimentary apricot soufflé in all its fluffy, fruity glory before it deflated.As if the pilfered patisserie wasn’t enough to ask for, our little cherubs had dessert of their own included in the kids’ set, and this time it was Team Mum’s turn to get busy with the spoons and swipe a few retaliatory mouthfuls. The French toast with raspberry ripple ice cream was popular with our junior tasting panel, although a little sweet for my taste. But the runway winner was the crème caramel, whose subtle vanilla sweetness was perfectly complemented with a moreish – and very grown up – burnt sugar caramel that made me want to lick the plate clean. (I didn’t, as I would obviously have had to take myself straight to the naughty corner, but it was a close thing). If you’re bringing a baby to The Continental, you’ll find pram parking no problem and, although there are a couple of steps to navigate up to the main seating area, the friendly staff have been quick to offer help on the couple of occasions I’ve visited with our family’s littlest member – Bread Street Kitchen, take note. There’s also high chairs aplenty and an immaculate flip-down changing table in the disabled loo, so thumbs up there too.
And The Continental can have another thumbs from me up for the bill. The afternoon tea set is pretty excellent value at just HK$365 for two, while the kids’ menu is HK$110 for two generously proportioned courses. The location, ambience, value and consistently good quality of the food make The Continental an excellent choice with or without kids, meaning that we’ll definitely be back.
Opening hours: Afternoon tea 3pm – 5pm Weekday breakfast 6.30am – 10am; Lunch 12 pm – 2.30pm; Dinner 6pm – 10.30pm; Weekend brunch 10am – 2.30pm
The Continental, Unit 406, L4 Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, Hong Kong; 2704 5211 www.thecontinentalhongkong.com
Please note that we paid for this meal ourselves.