This post is part of a series of features and reviews on Marco Polo Ortigas Manila. I was invited to a staycation in their hotel but all opinions stated are my own.
I did not expect my Afternoon Tea at Marco Polo to be the beginning of a new love affair. I’ve known about this British practice of Afternoon Tea for a very long time, and all the while I’ve always thought it to be overly posh for me. I’m so used to grabbing a cup of coffee and a quick bite to get me through the afternoon that I never quite saw what the big deal was. But then I got to try it, and somehow something changed.
You know how our “firsts” always seem to make or break our impressions or opinions on certain things? Well then, I had my first experience of Afternoon Tea at Marco Polo Ortigas Manila, and I do declare it to be a most wonderful introduction.
Afternoon Tea is a British social event where people gather during that period between lunch and dinner to have some finger food and conversation. In British fashion, Afternoon Tea is composed of a variety of small “finger” foods that range from savory to sweet. To wash it down, tea is normally served with the food, but nowadays there is the option to have coffee. (And sometimes even champagne!)
It is a rather elegant kind of afternoon snacking, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I quite enjoyed myself. I do actually love how posh it feels.
Afternoon Tea at Marco Polo Ortigas Manila starts at 2PM and ends at 6PM daily, and it costs only Php 788 for two persons already. This special meal is served only at the Connect Lounge of Marco Polo Ortigas Manila, directly opposite the Front Desk at the 24th floor of the hotel. Teatime with a view. What’s not to love?
The Connect Lounge houses an open sitting area that has the perfect ambiance for meetings and an afternoon of chitchat. In the evening, this place transforms into a parlour-like area to grab drinks and cocktails from. Arriving at around 3PM, the Connect Lounge was nearly at capacity. Luckily there was one last window-side table available, and it gave a perfect view of the chef busily prepping for Afternoon Tea on the opposite side of the Lounge.
Once you’ve made it clear that you’re here for Afternoon Tea, the first thing you will be asked is whether you would like tea or coffee to go with it. It felt like a coffee kind of day for me so I decided to go with a cappuccino, while my date for the day, my brother The Dapper Drone, went for the Manila Mango Tea.
I enjoyed my cappuccino quite a bit, letting the coffee’s full-bodied earthiness wake my tastebuds up. A barista once told me that one way to tell if the coffee you’re drinking was made using good quality beans is if it doesn’t leave you with a sticky, thirsty feeling in your throat. There was none of that here. This was simply good coffee to start with.
I also had a sip of my brother’s tea just for the heck of it, and I have to say it’s the most unique flavor of tea I’ve had so far. It’s quite hard to explain actually. It’s like a cousin of chai tea, with underlying fruity notes and a bit of a sharpness to it. I’m not sure if this will be for everyone, but it certainly works well as a palate cleanser.
It took them longer than I expected to prepare our food. I’m not sure if this is normal or if it was just an exceptionally busy day, however I was really happy when the first part of our Afternoon Tea set arrived in the form of an Amuse Bouche.
An Amuse Bouche or “Mouth Amuser” is served at the start of a meal to act as a preview of what to expect. We were served with these interesting looking things on a stick, which ended up being sherbets encased in tinted white chocolate shells. The shells looked haphazardly done, but I wanted to let the taste do the talking.
Flavors for the day were Mango and Raspberry, and both were really refreshing, with a tart sweetness that almost felt playful in the mouth. That seemed like a very positive preview indeed despite the appearance.
Once we finished with our Amuse Bouche, it was time for the main event. The 3 tier-stand housing the food for our Afternoon Tea in Marco Polo Ortigas Manila was truly eye-catching once filled.
As it was carefully brought to us like some sort of giant trophy, the higher my expectations became. Would the colorful appearance of this translate into an equally colorful eating experience? We were about to find out.
Since Afternoon Tea is traditionally arranged from savory to sweet, I think the breads would normally be found in the topmost layer. However I don’t mind starting with the scones at all, since they do seem more like appetizers to me than the heavier breads.
And so we started with Cranberry Scones and Spinach Quiche.
The quiche I found to have a nicely flaky crust. It did have a milder flavor overall compared to most other quiche I’ve tried, but I think this is for the best. If they made it too rich it wouldn’t feel like a perfect fit for this set.
Now being a fan of a good scone, I would have to say I enjoyed it more than I did the quiche. While the scones were a bit drier and crumblier than I would’ve liked, they were just sweet enough on their own that they perfectly complemented the spreads.
At first, I found it strange that the clotted cream and jam were on a separate layer, but all questions were erased once I started eating. Scones are meant to be eaten with cream and a bit of jam over the cream. (Or vice versa, if you get too excited like me haha!) You cut the scone in half and spread a bit of both depending on your taste.
The next thing we scarfed down were the multi-colored breads. I have an interesting “teatime etiquette” trivia for you guys: It’s actually okay to use your fingers to eat breads and sandwiches instead of using a fork and knife (that’s why they’re called finger food), but apparently lifting your pinky up when you drink your tea or coffee is not proper! (Guess I’m never doing that again.)
Going back to the breads, you actually have the option to choose your combination of baguettes and toppings, or you can just let the chef prepare the combinations for you like we did. We ended up with four kinds of flavored baguettes, namely parsley (green), corn (yellow), tomato (red), and squid ink (black). One of my favorite combos was the Tomato Baguette with Smoked Salmon, which came as no surprise since I love smoked salmon. The other was the Squid Ink Baguette with Turkey.
All of these breads have the rich savory taste of their toppings jump out immediately, but the fresh lettuce and tomatoes give them balance while the cheeses give them a nice earthiness. Frankly speaking, you can’t really taste the flavors of the baguettes individually because the toppings have such strong flavors, but they all have that crisp-crusty bite I like.
Finally we get to the bottom layer, and here is where I start feeling slightly sad because it means we’re about to end our Afternoon Tea experience. It was now time for dessert.
Having dessert in hotels can be hit or miss in most cases, because let’s face it, some of their desserts don’t taste as good as they look. But I was pretty impressed with the desserts I got to sample here at Marco Polo. Their Chocolate Cake is as good as it gets, with deep chocolate flavors that aren’t cloying and will keep you coming back for more. The Mint Panna Cotta was a surprise as well since it was pleasantly subdued.
The Lemon Cheesecake topped with caramelized mango was my runaway favorite. The cheesecake itself was surprisingly moist, with a popping tanginess that was undeniably lemon. I love it when lemon desserts actually taste like they were made with real lemons rather than just flavorings.
I noticed I started using this lemon cheesecake as a reference point whenever I eat from places that do not make it as good as this!
The only thing that wasn’t so memorable to me was the Tiramisu. I was looking for that rich savory kick from the creamy cheese layer but it didn’t give me that. It just tasted like normal cream to me, with layers of coffee-soaked ladyfingers in between. Perhaps this just had the misfortune of being eaten last. Since I am a lemon-lover, it was hard to top the Lemon Cheesecake!
If I were to give this whole experience a rating out of 10, it would be an 8.5 out of 10. I have to take points off the the time we spent waiting for the food to come out, as well as the rather messy presentation of the Amuse Bouche. But other than that, I can’t stress enough how happy I am that my first foray into the wonderful world of Afternoon Tea was in Marco Polo Ortigas Manila. The food was delicious, and while the service was a bit slow, the servers were courteous and very accommodating.
Afternoon Tea has officially found a special place in my heart after this experience. There’s a certain elegance to the whole affair, from how the food is prepared, grouped together, and finally enjoyed. The food look so dainty and carefully made, they somehow remind you to appreciate them little by little. And indeed they are a great accompaniment to an afternoon of stories and reminscing with special people. With the fast pace of life these days, I have learned to grab onto every opportunity to slow things down, and Afternoon Tea at Marco Polo Manila provided a lovely setting.
And now I sit here thinking about the next opportunity I will have Afternoon Tea again, because as I mentioned above, I think I may have fallen in love.