Review: Vienna Afternoon Tea at Raffles Singapore – High tea at the city’s illustrious hotel is a different kind of tea.

The three-tier silver stand with savouries at the bottom and sweets on the top two tiers


With leisure travel being virtually impossible or tedious enough to put us off the hassle for the foreseeable future, Raffles Singapore is helping us slake our wanderlust by taking us from one distinctive city to another with a new series of thematic Afternoon Tea experiences.

From now for a limited period before the journey continues to another destination, guests can discover the charms of Austria with the Vienna Afternoon Tea at the hotel’s Grand Lobby.

The Grand Lobby at Raffles Singapore

The Story
The Grand Lobby may be the most impressive colonial-style hotel lobby I’ve ever seen. Decorated with fresh flowers and lush green foliage, soft daylight streams through the skylight at the top of the towering space over pitch-black railings juxtaposed with off-white floor-to-ceiling Victorian pillars. That’s a three-storey lofty ceiling, mind you.

Sparkling above the marble floors is a massive bespoke Prague-made central chandelier with 8,142 crystals, featuring a “constellation of dazzling crystals, accompanied by glass sculptures in the shape of lotuses, as well as floral motifs engraved on the underside of each metal branch.” Surrounding the first-floor space itself are bronze screens with faceted glass that create glorious refracting light — a detail that made me stop and stare several times during my visit. As soon as you walk in, you most definitely feel that oomph of an impression that leaves you speechless for a moment or two.

The Mariage Frères premium tea menu

The Food and Drinks
Offered alongside the signature Classic Afternoon Tea, the Vienna Afternoon Tea experience invites guests to indulge in a thoughtful selection of Austrian confections like rich chocolate Sacher cakes and classic creations like English home-baked scones. To begin, guests can choose from a menu of Mariage Frères premium tea featuring Orange Pekoe Ceylan to Rouge Opéra, a red rooibos delight; as well as an off-menu white tea or custom-blended coffee.

For an extra charge, opt for a glass of Billecart-Salmon Champagne in brut or rosé. Handcrafted cocktails are also available, including 1867, a refreshing concoction made with Champagne, elderflower, saffron and eau de vie; Tea Time Radler, a unique blend made with Raffles Singapore’s exclusive Beach Road Pale Ale, apricot and peach schnapps; and Rumtopf Milk Punch, an elixir of rum, seasonal fruits, tea, bitter citrus and spice.

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Our Billecart-Salmon Champagne in rosé and honey for our teas

Once you’re set with beverages, tier runners will next deliver a three-tier silver stand filled with an array of savouries, cakes and pastries. I mean it when I say that there was enough food for four. Our objective then changed to sampling at least every one of the treats, even if we weren’t able to polish off the entire stand.

For the savouries, there were baked ham and vienna sandwiches; mini polish baguettes with herring, sour cream and onion; maine lobster and shrimp crostinis with remoulade on rye bread; and smoked salmon with crème fraiche, salmon roe and quail egg on cereal bread.

For the sweets selection, there were apple strudels; Sacher cakes; marble bundt cakes; sponge roulades with strawberry jam; and carnival doughnuts filled with apricot jam.

My favourite of all were the scones, which were served separately and fresh from the oven. As I relayed to Gibson, the assistant manager of the Grand Lobby team, I typically eschewed scones because the ones I’d tried before were often too hard or crumbly. To my surprise, these were warm, soft enough to easily slice through, and sumptuous with the clotted cream and signature rose petal jam. I only wish I’d had room to eat them all.

Signature rose petal jam and clotted cream condiments for the home-baked scones

The Hospitality
Two team members stood out to us: Gibson, the aforementioned assistant manager of the Grand Lobby team, and Kishen, who was working as a tier runner for the day. I was told that the waitstaff rotate to different stations on a daily basis. The service overall was excellent, and Gibson and Kishen in particular, were extremely polite, considerate and welcoming in our interactions with them. Props too to Executive Pastry Chef Tai Chien Lin for her creations.

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Gibson, the assistant manager of the Grand Lobby team, and Kishen, a Grand Lobby team member who was working as a tier runner for the day

Location
On the first floor of the hotel’s Main Building, where tropical gardens flank the Grand Lobby. It really is a one-of-a-kind space for high tea.

For Your Consideration
Just because we have small appetites to begin with, by the time we worked our way through the bottom first tier of the stand, we felt a little overwhelmed at how much more there was to eat. We were informed at the start that this was the sequence to follow. Adding to the conundrum was the fact that we kicked off with the carb heavy options.

The Noteworthy
Apart from the service, food and beverages, the ambience was inviting, cosy and refined. You get the sense that time ticks away in a different way in the comfort of your couch as you languorously sip tea and bubbly, and chitchat.

The Summary
I’d always held the notion that high tea at Raffles Singapore was a tourist affair. Now that I’ve experienced it for myself for the first time, I can say with confidence that everyone should have the pleasure.

Monday to Thursday: 1pm to 5pm
Friday to Sunday: 12pm to 6pm

The Vienna Afternoon Tea experience is priced at $78++ per guest and is offered alongside the signature Classic Afternoon Tea. All thematic afternoon tea reservations have to be made and indicated at least one day in advance. The Writers Bar handcrafted cocktails will be served from 5pm daily.

Staff
Affable and courteous

Food & Drinks
Thoughtful

Where: Grand Lobby, Raffles Singapore 1 Beach Rd, Singapore 189673
(Located at the Main Building, accessible via the main hotel entrance)

The luxe factor is:

10 Location
10 Service
8 Dining
9.3