Have you ever walked through a beautiful hotel lobby, or passed by the window of a large cafe in London only to see happy people sipping tea and munching on dainty sandwiches and cakes? High Tea (or Afternoon tea) is a British tradition- helping to bridge the everlasting gap between your early lunch and late dinner. Having passed by those London cafes far too many times and drooled at the flaky scones and fruit tartlets long enough, I decided it was time to give it a try for myself. With the large British influence here in the UAE, Afternoon Tea is a widespread offering at many hotels and cafes.
This past Saturday afternoon when I should have been cleaning the house for my visitors this coming week, I put on a dress (something I only usually do when coerced or made to feel guilty) and Brian his sport coat, and we headed out to the Shangri-La Hotel in Abu Dhabi. The Shangi-La is one of the older and more established hotels in the Emirate. It has distinctly Arabic architecture and sits directly on the strait that separates Abu Dhabi Island from the mainland. The hotel's infinity pool sits directly on the water, providing an amazing view of the Grand Mosque which is just across the strait.
The tea room is just off of the beautiful grand lobby, and overlooks the pool and the Mosque. The January weather was perfect for sitting outside.
I properly ordered the "Ladies Afternoon Tea" complemented by a pot of Rosemary Peppermint tea, and Brian ordered the "Classic Tea" with a pot of Oolong. The tea arrived first and was poured ceremoniously by our attendant. After about 20 minutes of sipping and savoring, our snacks arrived. All were beautifully presented on tiered dishes, separating the scones, from the sandwiches, from the sweets. Would you expect anything less of High Tea?
The service was excellent and very attentive, as our server was always stopping by to ask if we wanted more tea or more sandwiches (both of which would be complementary).
There was a good variety of savory sandwiches and all very light. Cucumber and cream cheese on rye; smoked salmon with onion, caper and cream cheese; egg salad on sun dried tomato bread; grilled chicken on herbed bread; and a very tender roast beef with pickles.
The sweets were offered in array, with something small and dainty to satisfy every palate. Fruit, chocolate, cream, custard, nuts, and everything in between.
We finished off the last of the creme brulee, and almost fought over the last warm scone, lathering it with clotted cream and warm blueberry sauce before popping the last bites in our mouths. As my first experience of High Tea in Abu Dhabi, I did feel rather pampered and proper and just as I always expected, I now have one more reason to love the British.
Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi
Tel: (971 2) 509 8888 Fax: (971 2) 558 5999