To partake of a leisurely afternoon tea set in a beautiful hotel setting is a very pleasant – if a rather indulgent – way to relax. Visitors, as well as locals, could appreciate this luxury experience, at several of the high-end hotels located in Chiang Mai.
When I was much younger, I lived in London: a city where the smartest hotels all strive to outdo each other in the provision of outstanding afternoon tea sets. Indeed, some people claim that this afternoon tea tradition was invented in England. Such lauded establishments as the Fortnum & Mason and Harrods shops are famous for their afternoon teas; as well as the best hotels in London each offering their own excellent version of an afternoon tea set, such as those memorable ones available at the Ritz, Savoy, Dorchester and Claridges hotels. This review compares some of the best afternoon tea sets available at hotels here in Chiang Mai.
First up, the small cake shop at the Dhara Dhevi Hotel offers an afternoon tea set from 2 to 6pm, daily. Located just on the edge of town at 51/4 Moo 1, Chiang Mai-Sankampaeng Road, the hotel’s stylish main buildings present a stunning venue which is well worth a visit in its own right. At 1,200B for two people, their afternoon tea set offers exquisite dainties of the highest quality. It is very popular, so you are recommended to call them on 053 888 888, #8834 to make a reservation.
On a warm afternoon, their provision of refreshing cooled moist towels upon arrival was welcome. As you might expect from a renowned establishment of this high quality, they offer a very wide range of teas. You may make your choice from some forty different types of tea. These include some rarer selections, such as Earl Grey with blue cornflower, Himalayan rose, Japanese Yuzu, Tibetan flower, black lime and blue flower teas. Or you may, instead, choose from one of their twenty versions of coffee.
Their sandwiches and cakes come on the traditional tiered plate stand and offer a range of items, each attractively presented and delicious to taste. For example, their cucumber-edged squares of smoked salmon, and their fish eggs and crab salad in whole wheat croissants, both looked and tasted great. All their items, savoury as well as sweet, come in finger-sized proportions. Their Chiang Mai spicy sausage rolls, egg salad sandwiches, and everything else came as two of each. They also offer several delectable cakes, such as chocolate fancies, fruit cake, muffins, vanilla and mango mousse and more besides.
To my mind, one of the key factors in evaluating an afternoon tea set is the quality of their scones. The little plain and chocolate ones (rather small, it must be admitted) served with this tea set did not disappoint: they were moist and crumbly, obviously just baked. Added to them was exceptionally-delicious jam of several varieties. These homemade jams are so good that you will likely be tempted to lay out an additional 250B to buy a jar to take home with you. The traditional and very welcome clotted cream was provided to top these scones.
Good though the service was, perhaps some of the staff are in need of special training about the precise serving of afternoon tea. For example, wishing to dilute the tea from the teapot, to make it lighter, I requested a pot of hot water. Instead, they provided another teacup of boiling water! But the thin slices of lemon, which I also had to ask for, were instantly provided. In some afternoon tea places, sliced lemon and a pot of hot water are provided as standard, and it would be great if that were to be done here, too.
As you eat and drink your way through the Dhara Dhevi’s tea set, you’ll be seated near their cake shop counters displaying wonderful cakes and delicious little pies, so you’d be hard pressed not to select some of these enticing items to buy to take home with you! Altogether, the DD afternoon tea set must count as one of the very best in town.
Located not far from the night bazaar, and overlooking the river, is the very stylish Anantara Chiang Mai resort. Their address is 123-123/1, Charoen Prathet Road, Changklau (tel. 053 253 333). This hotel has been constructed in modern style, surrounding the former British Consulate traditional pillared verandah colonial-style office (ground floor) and (upstairs) residence, which is almost a hundred years old. Their afternoon tea set is served there, at The Service 1921 Restaurant and Bar. It overlooks the pool and river, and is of itself an interesting architectural relic which has been well preserved.
Their afternoon tea set is available from 2 to 6pm daily. Their standard afternoon tea set costs 1,200B for two people. Or, for 1,999B for two, a glass each of Prosecco can be included. At the weekends, they have live music at tea time.
On a swelteringly-hot afternoon, they first served up most-welcome iced drinks and ice cream, as their tea set includes a smoothie or iced drink, plus tea or coffee, which can be taken hot or cold. Anantara also offers a range of less-common teas, eleven in all, including such rarities as Indian wild cherry, South African roibosh and lemon, Sri Lankan Earl Grey and Indian Irish malt. A choice from eight versions of coffee is another option, as also is hot chocolate. The requested pot of water to dilute the tea was provided, correctly, in a second pot; though we had to ask for the lemon, milk and sugar. Ideally, such items would be provided as standard.
Their tea set ‘’tower’’ contains many good things. One of the best was a mini croissant with truffle, ham and cheese. Their Quiche Lorraine were also excellent. To some tastes, their own versions of certain other classics were somewhat too spicy. For example, their smoked salmon sandwiches were made too hot by the addition of red curry, and the same could be said of their roast beef and curry sandwiches.
Their macaroons, cakes and tarts were all very good, with the unusual lychee tart being really outstanding. Mango vanilla rice pudding was another less common but delicious offering, here.
Their plain and raison scones, although large, were a disappointment: too hard on the outside and not completely cooked through on the inside. They were accompanied by jams and cream cheese – itself a poor alternative to the more traditional (and sweeter) clotted cream. On the other hand, most of their ‘’tower’’ items were of very good quality and a pleasure to eat.
The well-decorated bar can furnish you with a choice from their wide range of special cocktails to finish up with, such as their ‘’British Consulate’’ or ‘’Made in Chiang Mai’’ cocktails at 299B each. These are expertly mixed and are served in a bamboo mug.
All in all, this is a very good tea set, served in a lovely setting.
Located just the other side of the river is the very stylish and fairly new 137 Pillars House Hotel at 2, Soi 1, Nawatgate Road, Wat Gate (tel. 053 247 788). Again, this modern luxury hotel has been built around a much older structure, and set in lush and well-tended gardens. Overlooking the pool is a 150 year old Thai wooden house, indeed supported above ground by 137 teakwood pillars. Inside that lovely old house, which is beautifully-decorated and furnished, you can make your selection from several choices of afternoon tea sets.
Their classic afternoon tea set costs 1,200B for two people. Or, for 1,850B for two, they will include a glass each of sparkling wine. Or you may wish to go the whole hog and splash out on their well-named Indulgent Afternoon Tea, which at 4,999B per couple includes a bottle of Champagne!
Clearly, some of their staff still need additional training in serving this tea set. For example, after sampling, we were first served only about a thimbleful of Prosecco, before a more experienced waitress topped up our glasses to a more reasonable level of wine. We were clearly there for their afternoon tea set, but the staff completely forgot about providing the tea itself and this only arrived after we had finished eating all the food! Nor were the waiting staff attentive enough: although the place was not at all busy, the waitresses disappeared for long periods. And the lemon slices twice requested to accompany the hot tea never arrived at all.
Six varieties of tea are offered here, including a delicately-scented Yin Zhen white tea, or you may choose coffee instead. Aromatic lemongrass tea can be served hot or iced, and was most refreshing.
Their tea set tower of three platters included much that was very good to eat. Their mini quiches were exceptionally tasty, although the tower could have done with a few more savoury items on it. Unfortunately, to some tastes, their smoked salmon rolls were rendered too spicy by the addition of wasabi cream. On the other hand, their chicken curry cone puff was milder in taste.
There were more sweet items than savoury, in this selection: a selection that changes, over time. Their homemade fruit cake was excellent, and their chocolate éclairs contained a most-delicious rich chocolate cream within. Another highlight of the cake plate was an apple crumble cake with berries. Their lavender-coloured but passion fruit-flavoured macaroons were to die for!
The tasty raisin scones provided here were of medium size, accompanied by a well-made blueberry jam. Unfortunately, they served with these nice scones a rather light whipped cream, rather than the thicker and more traditional – and more delicious – clotted cream.
After your teatime experience, you could move on to their recently redesigned nearby Jack Bain’s bar. The happy hour there, running from 5 to 7pm daily, offers a wide selection of well-made and imaginative house cocktails, from 280B up, which are ‘’2 for 1’’ during the happy hour.
This is a fine tea set, which is taken in a lovely setting.
Chiang Mai is well-provided with several stylish venues at which to partake of a traditional afternoon tea set. The three hotel teas reviewed here are among the very best of the lot.