Food Life in Japan

Afternoon Tea in Tokyo – Shangri-La Hotel

1 April 2015

For Mumu’s birthday, I decided to surprise her with a treat to afternoon tea in Tokyo!

She had no idea where we were going, and en route to Shangri-La Hotel, she suddenly commented “Do you know if they have high tea in Tokyo? I asked my (Japanese) colleagues and they had said they have no idea.”

I beamed and replied “Yes there are. In fact, I’m bringing you to one right now!” :D

And I think I know why her colleagues didn’t have any inkling of what “high tea” is. Because in Japan, it’s called afternoon tea!

In fact, traditionally, afternoon tea (also know as low tea – yes, for real!) is where people dress up in lace and hats, and gather together to enjoy dainty morsels of food. Whereas high tea is a meal of the working class, with heavy foods such as steak or casseroles.

Well, enough of the low high tea talk. Let’s move on to our first afternoon tea experience!

Lots of pictures, to eternalise the artfully-created pastries (as well as maximise value for the ¥¥¥ I paid!)

Shangri-La Hotel at Tokyo Station

I was quite surprised to find that the hotel was inside another building (reception is on level 28) because hotels in Singapore are all standalone buildings, but apparently it’s quite common in Tokyo.

Our reservation was for 1pm and we arrived a couple of minutes earlier on level 28 where the restaurant, Lobby Lounge is located.

But it was so chaotic! Let me show you why:

The reception desk, lobby area and restaurant are crammed into a tiny area.

There were two doors leading into the restaurant but it wasn’t clear which one was the entrance. There was no one standing near any of the doors to ask, and there were neither a reception desk nor counter. There were loads of people loitering around and I had no idea if they were queueing for the restaurant, or just resting at the lobby area. It was so messy and we had no idea where to go!

In the end we just marched past one of the doors and simply stood there. The moment we did that, a queue formed behind us!!! So we weren’t the only ones who were confused! Shangri-La really should do something it.

We were shown to our window seat and pretty much ignored for a good 5 minutes or so.

Other tables received hand towels and some even had a pot of tea. Us? We weren’t even given hand towels and I had to ask for them! -_-

Table set up

As it was the beginning of spring and they had a seasonal offering, we ordered the Sakura Afternoon Tea.

Afternoon tea in Tokyo, Shangri-La Hotel

Some pictures before we start eating!

Ok la, enough photos of us! Time to dig in! (I was so hungry. All I had all day was a small bottle of yoghurt drink.)

Photos will be in the order we had them!

Sakura shrimp and clam flan
Steamed egg custard with a very seafood-y broth tiny sakura ebi. Pretty good!

Sakura smoked chicken and cabbage
It was o-k. A little on the dry side for me.

Sakura cheese and imperial honey
The honey was nice (whatever little bit there was), but overall this item was dry and quite meh.

Sakura leaf wrapped tenshi shrimp frits
This was delish! There was a light leafy taste that was pretty refreshing. And I rather like the use of pink peppercorn as decoration!

The first tea we had was their exclusive tea, Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo original Himalayan Blend which despite the long name, is just darjeeling tea la. Lol. It was normal, nothing life-changing.

The next tea we had, Spring Harmony (a seasonal tea), was really nice! It’s rose hip and… something else I forgot, heh. But it smelled SO GOOD and the color was so pretty!

We later had Strawberry and Rose Tea and Mango and Strawberry Tea. The Strawberry and Rose was also excellent!

Mango and Strawberry came in a rather unappealing color, but smelled and tasted pretty good, although nothing like mango or strawberry.

Here are pages of the menu, if you’re interested. I believe the tea selection (apart from seasonal teas) is offered all year round.

Tea is free-flow, and come in teapots.

TIP! Order for just one person (which is 2 cups worth) so that you can try more teas! (um, if you’re having tea by yourself, then this tip won’t work for you, sorry)

We started on the scones next!

Honey marshmallow scone
Interesting, but quite difficult to eat gracefully because the marshmallows kept falling off lol.

Pistachio scone
This was alright.

Crispy sakura scone
Scone is pretty, but it was very salty! My least favorite scone.

The scones were quite… average. They were cold and the taste was nothing special. I found them a little dry as well. Perhaps because I have quite high standards for scones after having eaten some out-of-the-world ones in London…

However, the one thing that was the saving grace of these scones was this:

L-R: Honey, clotted cream, cherry curd, strawberry jam

THE CHERRY CURD IS TO DIE FOR!!! Absolutely delightful! If there is a single thing that I can praise, it is definitely this little dish of unassuming cherry curd!

Sakura éclair
The sakura motifs are teeny tiny and a work of art! The éclair is only about the length of my finger, so you can imagine how minuscule they are! I really wonder how they managed to cut them out of such delicate gold leaf! Taste-wise, I didn’t really like it though. Quite plain and… dry. Seems like dry is a recurring theme, eh?

Green tea and chocolate cake
This is so pretty!!! The sandwiched green tea mousse was very rich and flavorful. Love! But it was quite a sight to eat. Once I bite down, the mousse will squish out from the sides, but the chocolate piece is so hard and does not break. End up being stuck and with green goo oozing out of the mouth. So unglam!

Strawberry daifuku rice cake
This was the only traditional item of the entire offering, with a red bean paste and strawberry wrapped in rice flour skin and dusted with flour. It doesn’t taste that much different from the usual daifukus I’ve had though.

Now, to the last item on the plates:

Sweet bean and agar jelly
A tiny pipette of honey was included and we were free to add as much (or little) or honey as we like. It tasted like… strawberries and jelly. Not much skills required for this one. It was pretty awkward to eat though. The spoon was way too big to the little glass and every time we attempted to scoop something, something else will fall out of the cup -_-

At some point, we realized that we had an extra stand of something on our table. They were so aesthetically unpleasing that we didn’t even notice them! Upon closer examination, we realized they were post-tea sweeteners.


And that was our first afternoon tea in Tokyo!

Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo


Here are my thoughts on the experience:

Not the most attentive nor dedicated. The reception of guests was a mess and they forgot our hand towels until we asked. But otherwise polite. As is standard of Japanese service staff.

There was nice music playing and I realized only much later that it was live piano! (my back was towards the rest of the restaurant) View is of the Tokyo business area cityscape. Not my favorite kind of view, but some people might like it.

Some items were very intricate whereas others were rather plain. It’s a bit of hit-or-miss. I also felt that the serving stand and plates were rather uninspiring.

To be honest, it didn’t taste half as good as I was expecting it to. Most items were quite average and didn’t live up to the standards in my mind.

The Sakura Afternoon Tea set came up to 4,781 yen per person (incl. tax and 15% service charge). I think our experience does not justify the price paid.

The overall impression of this experience is: Mediocre.

I also didn’t like that we had a 2-hour time restriction. We felt rushed and couldn’t really relax and enjoy the tea like we are supposed to. Towards the end, we had to stuff the remaining food into our mouths (so much for elegant tea time, huh? lol) because we were quickly approaching the time to get booted out as they needed the space for the next session.

This first afternoon tea in Tokyo was a bit of a disappointment, and I will not return to Shangri-La for tea anytime soon.

However, I will still try out other afternoon tea places! After all, I’ve finally found an afternoon tea partner ;D

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