The Intercontinental (Hong Kong) – The Red Box Chinese Afternoon Tea

A dainty Chinoiserie afternoon tea in an oasis of space.

Our experience

Looking for somewhere to relax and gaze at the Hong Kong skyline? Somewhere that isn’t thumping with techno beats or pulsating with a thousand bodies? Then, head to the Lobby Lounge at the Intercontinental for a lesiurely afternoon tea…though make sure you get there before 2pm. The concept of “no reservations” takes a whole new meaning in Hong Kong — we Melbournians complain and whinge about waiting for more than 20 minutes…Hong Kong locals have no qualms lining up for more than an hour(s). Crazyness. Without digressing further, if you visit on a particularly rare clear day, the Intercontinental’s Lobby Lounge offers a splendid 180 degrees panoramic view of the Hong Kong Island skyline, from Quarry Bay all the way to the tip of the Sheung Wan district.

On our visit, the service was average — wait staff with earpieces were standard, pleasant enough but rather difficult to catch their attention to ask for the bill or for the tea refill. Table setting was plain, and table seating was on the low side (this Dessert Correspondent is personally not a fan of having her knees almost on the same level as her food, but perhaps it’s because this Dessert Correspondent is on the taller side compared to your Hong Kong local). Overlook all these elements however, sit back and listen to the melodies of a live jazz/classical band, and order the Intercontinental’s “Red Box Chinese Afternoon Tea” set. The Chinese tea on offer is exquisite — the Calendula Tea is the signature, but you will also find the Cantonese favourite of Pu Erh, the Southern Chinese preferred Tie Guan Yin and more exotic harvests of silver needle, rarer white teas, and peony tea. Depending which tea you order, it may be served in a classical earthenware pot or in a contemporary glass pot.

Presented as a three-tiered tower of Chinese lacquered boxes, the first two layers of the Intercontinental’s afternoon tea are occupied by six savoury bites. Think yum cha delights. The first layer contained a deep-fried crab wedged onto a sugar cane stick, a crispy shell enclosing prawns, scallops and pear (our favourite) and a rather decadent, abalone and mushroom tartlet with a dash of edible gold leaf.

The second layer straddled between sweet and savoury — there was a sesame coated, glutinous rice ball with minced pork and spring onion,  and a sweet pastry bun with char siew pork.

Taking an intermission, we looked to the goji berry mini cakes. Rather sweet, airy sponge cakes, they were an interesting alternative to the more traditional English scones version.

The third layer contained three Chinese sweets — i.e. barely sweet. Two beautiful parcels of glutinous rice wraps, one being a pandan-flavoured green wrap, and the other being rose-flavoured, both encasing a mung bean centre. The third was a waterchestnut tartlet. After this, a shot of almond coconut jelly betopped with red bean paste served as a palate cleanser.

Intercontinental Hong Kong - the Red Box Chinese Afternoon Tea - the sweet nibbles

Our verdict

When in Rome, act as a Roman. Why bother with French pastries and English scones when you are in Hong Kong? Don’t. Afternoon tea at the Intercontinental ticks many boxes — views to impress, a sophisticated though not overly stuffy atmosphere, an oasis of space (a concept so irresistible to an Australian who has long taken that concept for granted), and a rather different, unique afternoon tea showcasing nibbles for which the city is famed for and which one should take the time to appreciate and discover.

Dessert adventure checklist

  1. Dessert destination: The Intercontinental Hotel, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong.
  2. Budget: $$$. HKD$ 568 for two (plus 10% mandatory service charge).
  3. Sweet irresistibles: High Tea.
  4. Must-eat: Red Box Chinese Afternoon Tea.
  5. The short and sweet story: A dainty Chinoiserie afternoon tea in an oasis of space.


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