Another country, another afternoon tea and yes, while it may seem like more, this is only the sixth afternoon tea that I have eaten on this trip.
After a very early morning arrival in Hanoi, I spent the morning wandering around the Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake area.
There were no tai chi or dancing classes taking place but there was a pretty energetic aerobics class under way by the water.
It’s a very friendly city.
A man told me stories about people hoping for exam success by the Temple on the Jade Mound while the lady in the post office taught me how to say thank you and goodbye.
I’ve lost count of how many people who have said hello.
So, after a very pleasant day, I was hungry and ready to sample high tea at the Sofitel Metropole Hotel in the French Quarter of the city.
The hotel opened in 1901 as the Grand Metropole Palace. It was considered one of Southeast Asia’s great hotels.
In 1967, during the French War, the journalist Bernard Fall said the barman could make a reasonable copy “of almost any civilised drink except water”.
The hotel continued to operate after independence as the Reuinfication Hotel, until Sofitel took over in 1990 and transformed it.
Previous guests have included Charlie Chaplin in 1936 (who also stayed at the Shanghai Fairmont Peace where I had afternoon tea… I appear to be on the Charlie Chaplin Circuit) and Graham Greene who is one of my favourite writers.
The service is warm and friendly, from the moment of walking through the door until paying the bill.
The lady who served me ‘warned’ me that the afternoon tea was set with no room for alterations. Having had a quick read of the menu, there was nothing I would have changed.
A nice and, in my experience, unusual touch was bringing a tray of tea samples to help me choose. While the menu and descriptions of the tea were comprehensive, being able to sniff the dried leaves would be a good way to help the uncertain, in their choice, tea drinkers.
I was also given a choice of scones and told there would be more than one scone. Hopefully they would be a decent size… i.e. more than one mouthful.
I could choose from plain, raisin or chocolate.
While traditionalists would argue for a plain scone to be essential, I disagree.
The restaurant was a relaxed place to wait while the afternoon tea was prepared. It was also quite busy but not noisy.
Tea arrived… with a milk jug. It had been a while since I’d had tea with milk. Marvellous, though that teapot would probably need to be refilled soon, I thought. In that assumption I was wrong.
It was a novelty to have simple sandwiches and made a welcome change, not that I think that every establishment should offer the same set menu. It’s just unusual to have sandwiches without quiche, wraps, tarts etc.
The scones were far more than one mouthful and deliciously light, though I was slightly disappointed that I was given a plain rather than a fruit scone.
The raspberry jam was thick, slightly tart and full of fruit. It was delicious. The chocolate spread was not something I would expect but no arguments from me about its inclusion
It was intended for the madelines but I went off piste.
I’ve previously said the cardinal rule is not to mess with the scones… the chocolate scone is definitely allowed.
The fruit platter was something I haven’t seen before and I was planning to eat that before moving onto the cakes.
While I make various statements about what I prefer to see included in an afternoon tea, it would be a shame if every venue churned out the same offering. How would you differentiate between Hanoi and Moscow?
A lady circulated offering more sandwiches, which I was not going to refuse and Alexandre the assistant Director of Food and Beverages came to seek feedback on the high tea.
I mentioned the absence of the raisin scone… issue resolved! It was delicious.
Chantilly cream rather than clotted cream was served and I think this complimented the jam whereas clotted cream might have seemed heavy.
The fruit made a refreshing… interval… before the cake and the fruit theme continued.
The citron tart was a smooth lemon curd mousse on a biscuit base and it was a nice touch that it was lemon shaped.
The fruit tart and the strawberry macaroon were delicious and then I was left deciding whether to leave the madelines until last or finish the chocolate royale. Tricky.
There were also teaser chocolates to remind me that there is also a chocolate library option, possibly for another day.
I went with madelines before royale and with the chocolate sauce they were perfect.
It WAS a risk because I was rapidly approaching feeling very full… but I will leave no chocolate behind. The ganache on a light crispy base was beautiful.
At 797,000 VND including tax and service charge (approx £27), high tea at the Sofitel Metropole was superb value and highly enjoyable.
*Featured Photo: It should have been a shot of the high tea but I was busy enjoying eating it that I forgot to take a photograph. So, you’re stuck with the sandwich menu.