Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Lobby Lounge

Lobby Lounge at Fairmont Pacific Rim on UrbanspoonThe Lobby Lounge and Terrance at the Fairmont Pacific Rim serves an interesting and very fresh-tasting afternoon tea involving nigiri sushi, sandwiches, pastries, and desserts. So far it is one of the best afternoon tea services I've had, considering both the quality of the items you get, and the coolly professional servers.

Not being an afternoon tea destination on weekdays, your chances of walking in and asking for it are really rather good -- Reservations are "preferred but not required". Just this Monday at around 2 PM, we were just one of two couples who were there for afternoon tea. The few other patrons were there for drinks and sushi.
You can sit anywhere in the lobby, including the extension separated by sliding doors. There are three types of seating:
  • For dinner-table style sit-down seating, you'll probably have to go into the extension. Sometimes there are larger groups there, so ambient noise may be an issue.
  • In the rest of the lounge, the most common seating involves low tables and unwieldy chairs. If you sit too close to the table, you'll probably whack your knee. This is annoying, but not as bad as it might initially seem for afternoon tea, since you're picking up the single bites of items from the tray.
  • There is also bar-height seating on sometimes slightly wobbly tables. The downside to this is bar-height seating, smaller tables, and proximity to the piano. Starting in the later afternoon, there is live entertainment and live instruments can be very loud if you are close to it, especially when it is projected throughout the entire lobby.
For $35, you get all of the following:

amuse bouche with your tea selection, probably a tiny cake

warm scones served with seasonal fruit preserves
devonshire cream & fresh strawberries

Sushi
miso tofu – sweet miso paste, tofu
tuna tataki – pineapple, rice, lightly seared tuna
crab & cucumber – tobiko, crab mayo mix, cucumber

Sandwiches
farm raised truffled egg salad – pickled cucumber & pea tendrils
chilled tiger prawn & avocado – citrus crème cheese
tandoor roasted chicken – laccha mango salad, mint chutney butter

lemon fruit tart
matcha layer cake with lychee
chocolate ganache jewel

You may feel that the use of sushi makes this some sort of mutant afternoon tea that is half sushi platter, half tea service. Or, you may feel it is wonderfully creatively. Whatever the case, what you get is very good.
Overall, the afternoon tea selection was characterized by a freshness, a sense that everything was very freshly made -- not just the sushi pieces, but the sandwich fillings.
  • Of the teas, the one with pear was probably one of the most interesting, with a clear pear aroma (but no actual pear flavour to the tea, sadly).
  • The scone was wonderfully buttery in aroma and taste. You can generally just tear it open and it will separate along one of the layers.
  • The sushi bites had small amounts of rice, but enough to make the afternoon tea more filling than it initially looked. The smaller amount of rice also helped to highlight the topping/other ingredients.
  • Although all the sandwiches were nicely done, the one stand-out among them was the chilled tiger-prawn and avocado, which gave a sudden burst of moistness and citrus. I was lucky enough to eat this last after the sushi and sandwiches, and I recommend you do the same.
  • The matcha layer cake was probably the trickiest to tackle. It has a thin film of some sort of jelly or maybe sauce, which easily smeared off. Also, the very bottom layer is a thin film of white chocolate which can peel off when you cut the rest of the triangular slice.
    • Especially because it is wet to handle, what you can do is transfer it to your saucer first. Bring up your saucer to the tea tower. Then slide your fork under the cake -- you don't have to slide it all the way under, just enough to anchor the cake so that you can pull the cake onto the saucer. Since you didn't skewer the cake, you are also now free to release your fork to cut the cake.
    • If you just stab the cake, the layers may separate while you are transferring the cake.
  • The macaron had a delicate, hollow shell with nevertheless did not disintegrate into a crumbly mess. The flavour of the filling was intense.
Deficiencies in the tea service include not having separate plates for the many utensils (butter knife, fork, spoon, chopsticks). Once you clear the bottom tray of sushi, you can put your utensils there.
If you need a plate for your sushi or sandwiches, use the saucer on which your teacup arrived.

Something neat to watch out for is when one of the many (hot) servers walks to the sliding doors separating the lobby and the extended area. There is some sort of windy draft there that can cause their hair to flare/billow in a dramatic fashion-magazine way.

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