The Peninsula name is eponymous with luxury and class. It’s timeless decor and renowned service makes it one of the must visit places for afternoon tea if you’re ever lucky enough to visit a city that has a Peninsula hotel. When researching where to have afternoon tea in Shanghai prior to my visit, I was excited to discover that the Peninsula Shanghai is the Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotel’s flagship hotel in Mainland China. Straight away I knew this had to be the next stop on my Global Afternoon Tea Challenge.
The Peninsula hotel in Shanghai
The Peninsula Shanghai can be found on the beautiful Bund, overlooking the Huangpu river. I was surprised to discover it only opened back in 2009, but less shocked to hear it’s considered one of the best hotels in Shanghai – having been named the top hotel in the city by Condé Nast this year.
Entering the hotel from an unassuming side entrance I didn’t feel that externally it had the same ‘wow’ factor as its sister hotel in Hong Kong. However, once inside I felt like I was on familiar ground – the interior was just like I’d remembered from HK.
I’d visited the Peninsula Hong Kong for afternoon tea back in 2007 and this actually became the first stop on my Global Afternoon Tea Challenge. I really liked how the retro-style interior mirrored that of the other hotel I’d visited, making you feel like you were back in an old friend’s home (albeit a very posh one!).
Afternoon tea in the Lobby
Walking down the corridor I passed grand staircases and designer boutiques to make my way to the Lobby, where afternoon tea is held. The space itself is beautiful, with large white columns and very similar to the HK set up. Above us on a balcony was a string quartet and then later a solo pianist, who entertained us with beautiful music while we ate.
The staff were attentive, first offering us a selection of teas before regularly popping by to refill our pots and pouring a cup. It was thoughtful to be sure however, I did find they did this so often that my tea had little flavour as it was so watered down. Not the best when you like strong ‘builder’s tea’. Still, it’s the thought that counts.
The Peninsula Heritage Afternoon Tea and Basque Afternoon Tea
During my visit two afternoon teas were on offer, the Heritage and the Basque option. We decided to try one of each, so we could get a taste of everything!
For me, as is the case more and more often, the savouries were the highlight of the high tea.
From the Heritage (H) tea I found the egg truffle sandwich moist and tasty without the sometimes overpowering taste that can come from truffle – instead it added a welcome delicate flavour.
The pumpkin quiche on the other hand sadly had little flavour, but it did have a thick pastry crust with no soggy bottom in sight.
The salmon sandwich came in the form of a brioche ‘swiss roll’. The fish was fresh and full of flavour, and when you get to the centre there’s a strong kick of lemon. This is something I could have done without to be honest, but that’s a personal preference. Supposedly the salmon was topped with caviar, but I have to say I didn’t really notice it!
On the Basque (B) front I loved the tangy salted black cod on green olive bread, but the top sarnies had to be the pork loin, which had the texture of salmon paste with a light, smoky flavour and from the Heritage side the masala roasted chicken on whole wheat ciabatta, with its wonderfully spicy kick.
The other savouries didn’t win me over as much, but I think that comes down to my quirks around textures and taste combinations. I was unsure about the Spanish tortilla (B) – its sweet biscuit base just didn’t work with the savoury tortilla and also it’s glutinous texture felt out of place compared to the other dishes. Similarly with the chorizo and white bean tart (B) I thought the filling was too gloopy and didn’t stay in place (making it hard to eat) however it did have a nice chorizo flavour and had the same great pastry based as the pumpkin quiche.
Overall I thought the food was beautifully fresh and well displayed.
As a bit of a scone fiend I am happy to report that the scones at the Peninsula were (mainly) wonderful – fresh and falling apart by just the right amount.
The Heritage tea has the classic raisin and fruit options, However, alongside the plain scone on the Basque menu was an espelette pepper scone, which personally I think is a pretty weird idea. Red in colour, it tasted just like a normal sweet scone until – wait for it – you’re hit by a sudden peppery taste. It was odd and oddly nice all at the same time, although I’d always choose a sweet scone over a semi-savoury option. The pepper scone also came with a six spice Basque curd to pair it with. I personally wasn’t a fan of the flavour but could tell that it would go with the scone well.
Onto the sweets
The afternoon tea came with a wide selection of sweets from a jasmine and blueberry macarons (H) and caramelized apply tourte (B) through to a lemon and ginger tart (H) and a plum clafoutis.
They covered all types of dessert from biscuits and pastries through to cakes and tarts. Highlights for me included the molasses biscuit which was somewhere between a ginger snap and a gingerbread man with a hint of cinnamon (H,) the rich, dark coffee and chocolate empress cake (B), the coconut sticky rice tart (H) and the chocolate mint brownie (H).
What I thought of afternoon tea at The Peninsula Shanghai
The Lobby is a wonderful setting for afternoon tea with a relaxed ambience. The place itself was classically beautiful, with staff always at hand to fill your pot or answer any questions.
The food is beautifully presented and wonderfully tasty whatever version of afternoon tea you choose, but I have to say, for me the Heritage Afternoon Tea won over the Basque version. Why? It simply had more of the flavours and textures I liked!
The Peninsula Hotel is a great place to enjoy afternoon tea in Shanghai. Good food in a gorgeous setting. What more could you want?
Afternoon tea is served in the Lobby of the Peninsula Shanghai daily from 2-6pm. It costs 360 CYN (approx £41) per person or 680CYN (approx £78) for two.
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Our afternoon tea was complimentary for the purposes of this review. However, as always, all views are my own.