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Afternoon delight

By Mike Peters ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-04-14 08:10:18

Afternoon delight

Pastry chef Reinhard Lackner gives final touches to a dessert. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Sipping a fragrant Darjeeling with sweet pastries is a tradition with a rich history. Mike Peters joins some Hong Kong ladies for tea.

Afternoon teas are popping up at five-star hotels all over China, offering classic sips with elegant repasts. For women with a sweet tooth and a social bent, it's a pleasant way to catch up with friends and sometimes even have an informal business chat. (Men have their own rituals, generally over single malt in a well-oaked bar.)

In recent months, The Langham hotel in Hong Kong has laid claim to a particular level of authenticity. Tradition has it that the first English afternoon tea was served at the Langham in London almost 150 years ago. The Hong Kong hotel re-opened its elegant Palm Court lounge in the lobby last fall after a glamorous gold-and-white facelift, and the hotel's recently arrived executive pastry chef, Reinhard Lackner, has created a special menu of finger sandwiches and delicate cakes, scones and other desserts to bring the tradition new energy.

The package is a collaboration with the venerable British firm Wedgwood, which provides the beautiful floral china that inspired Lackner's creative designs. Alychee mousse, fragrant with the scent of roses, is served in a dark-red chocolate cup with hints of gold flake, topped with pink icing rose petals and fresh raspberries. His raspberry eclair is a modified version of the traditional chocolate sweet, with a crispy choux pastry filled with smooth raspberry cream-and finished with a pink glaze, raspberry crisps and a regal white-chocolate disk.

"The pastries complement the design of the Wedgwood tea ware," says Reinhard, an Austrian who says he also took inspiration from the hotel's stylish neighborhood of Tsim Sha Tsui, home to some of Hong Kong's most luxurious shops. "We use only the finest ingredients, such as Valrhona Couverture (chocolate) and Madagascar vanilla beans to create the best-tasting pastries and desserts."

Designed to please both new fans and the most tradition-bound Brits on the island, the afternoon-tea menu includes warm plain and raisin scones served with Devonshire clotted cream, and strawberry and rose preserves.

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