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Chocolate Contrast afternoon tea – indulge at Cafe 103, The Ritz-Carlton

In case you hadn’t been keeping up… the highflying café at The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, previously called The Chocolate Library, has since been renamed Café 103 – and although its breathtaking views over Hong Kong haven’t changed (see below!), Executive Pastry Chef Richard Long has been busy inventing creative new afternoon tea sets each month!

For September, the theme is “Chocolate Contrast” where pastries are layered with dark and white Valrhona chocolates to tantalise both the eyes and the tastebuds! After receiving comments about previous chocolate-based tea sets being too sweet, Richard has added a punch of sourness with berries, yogurts and different types of pastry to cater to local tastes (this menu took him two days to invent)… So let’s see how this tea set turned out!

As per Sassy tradition, we started with the savouries (well… there were only two of them!). Even these follow the contrasts theme, with one sandwich in a white bun and the other in black. The first was a smoked duck mini baguette, which was less smoky than I expected; meanwhile, although Rach was a little terrified by the black bun of the second, a salmon rillette on squid ink sesame bread, it had a pleasant hint of spice and the perfect amount of chewiness.

And before we knew it, we were onto the sweets! At first, I thought the contrast applied only to the colours within individual pastries, but I was pleasantly surprised to find each dessert also featured a contrast of textures and tastes, like the vanilla yogurt crème with chocolate shot. Separated by a moat of berries, the initial shock of sourness was quickly smoothed over by a silky sweet chocolate mousse. The square-shaped almond pave (the sweet that takes the longest to make out of the whole set!) was beautifully moist, hiding a fruity puddle of raspberries inside, which in turn were balanced out with a dollop of chocolate cream on top. The ivory strawberry tart is Richard’s personal favourite of his creations (it looks like a flourless chocolate cake) and comes packed with nuts and crumbly goodness, but it was also the pastry that tasted the least like chocolate in my sweet-toothed opinion!

Though I’m usually a huge fan of macaroons, the chocolate lemon macaroon was a tad too tart for me, especially with a borderline bitter tuft of lemon zest in the centre. However, Rach and I both loved the salted caramel hazelnut mille-feuille – in our opinion, the best bite of the bunch, it was crunchy, creamy and crumbly all in one delicious mouthful! We also enjoyed the feather light black and white choux filled with scrumptious chocolate cream. Chocoholics, make sure you snap these two up before you get full from the rest of the set!

Richard also created a pecan cake in response to traditional high-tea-ers demanding a scone in the set – this had a moist texture (far removed from some of the dry scones we get in this city) and a fluffy cinnamon cream topping, ensuring we didn’t miss the scone component at all!

I think that the Chocolate Contrast tea set has cleverly managed to balance not being too sweet whilst still hitting the spot for chocolate fanatics out there. Factor in the breathtaking view and you have a definite afternoon tea destination… I’m just glad I scheduled a gym session right after!

The Chocolate Contrast Afternoon Tea is served from 3-6pm daily throughout September 2012. It costs $268 per person or $508 for two people (plus 10% service charge), including a choice of coffee, tea or the house signature hot chocolate.

Cafe 103 103/F, The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Road West Tsim Sha Tsui
2263 2270 www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/HongKong/Dining/Cafe_103/Default.htm

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