I have a confession.
I’m a bit fancy.
There. I said it. I just spent $100 on a water cooler just so that I don’t have to drink water from a jug in the fridge like a plebe. People who come over always remark on how many pairs of shoes I own. My most played Songza playlist may or may not be “Basically Baroque” and my shampoo may or may not contain olive oil and/or be edible.
So it’s no surprise that I’m totally an advocate of the hoity toity practice of high tea.
I mean, tiny sandwiches, mid-afternoon champagne and miniature cakes served up on fine china? What’s not to love? It also comes in the perfect part of the day. A great time to cool off after a day’s worth of being out and about. A leisurely indulgence signifying that you are such a boss that you can block off an entire afternoon at will for nothing but whimsy. It’s a real life “Finer Things Club”.
Yesterday I jumped at the chance to take in the Pink Affair Afternoon Tea Buffet at the Sofitel Saigon Plaza, in the chic Boudoir Lounge, designed to look like a ritzy Parisian apartment.
While the Sofitel is a decidedly French hotel (currently hosting a collection of unpublished photographs of screen siren Brigitte Bardot), I must say that they put on a beautiful High Tea with a colorful twist – almost everything is a shade of pink.
From the strawberry crumble to the pink meringue, it was a gorgeous display dominated by cakes and sweets in flavors of strawberry, raspberry and cranberries. Props for the innovative berry smoothies served up in vials along with the pink champagne and pink chocolate fountain…
I knew I should’ve skipped an earlier lunch when I saw the savory bites as well. Salmon sandwiches, cheese puffs, Vietnamese spring rolls presented in shot glasses – it was a feast for the eyes as well as the palette.
It was also interesting to find out about the origins of high tea. I didn’t realize that what we know as “high tea” is actually a misnomer. It’s more similar to the custom of English “low tea”, with “high” and “low” referring to the height of the tables these late afternoon meals were customarily served on.
Starting in the 17th century, when the English typically ate two meals – breakfast and a late evening, 8’ish fashionably drawn out dinner – the concept of afternoon tea began to catch on, sampling the newly introduced teas from France along with small snacks to tide people over until dinnertime. The fancier version was known as “low tea”, named after the low tables in posh sitting rooms, especially after the practice caught on with royalty. “High tea”, on the other hand, referred to the light meals taken in the early evenings by middle-class folk (on high kitchen tables) in place of the later dinner enjoyed by the more affluent.
Whatever the origin, I’m a fan.
I was also there to meet Chef Richard Toix, guest chef at the Sofitel’s French cuisine L’Olivier Restaurant this week. Jetlagged from only arriving from Poitiers, France that morning, Chef Toix nonetheless took time to speak of his modern, purified and contemporary take on French cuisine. Owner of Le Chalet de Venise, a fine dining restaurant in Poitiers, Chef Toix’s interpretation of oysters with shallots earned him his first Michelin Star in 2008, incredibly just nine months after opening. That is a serious recommendation.
I loved his down-to-earth take on fine dining.
The perfect dinner?
“Be there with people you like. You might just be eating jam and potato but that’s what makes a perfect dinner.”
And the ideal restaurant guest?
“My perfect guest is actually someone who is not wealthy. Maybe they saved up to have a meal at my restaurant for the first time and they’re wowed at how well they’re treated and at the food, like a dish of Wagyu beef, lemon paste and morel mushrooms.”