I felt really deprived of good pastries while I was in Shanghai, so when I was told that Four Seasons Hotel (Beijing) had a decent afternoon tea and retail selection, I immediately made a booking to go there during my Beijing trip. One of the main reasons for my excitement was that the executive pastry chef (Holger Deh) created his very own unique flavoured Cacao Barry Or Noir couverture and it was available exclusively at Four Seasons in Beijing.
I am by no means an expert in Afternoon Teas but I have been to a couple, one in Melba Langham (Melboure) and one at Puli Hotel (Shanghai), both differed in quality (Langham was heaps better). I understand that the acceptance of high end patisseries in China is still slowly growing, but given Four Seasons was a five star hotel, I still had a mid to high expectation of it.
Overall, the Afternoon Tea at Four Seasons as a let down. The setting was nice and elegant, a selected few items tasted good, but as an International Branded five star hotel, I expected more. The scones, choux pastry and chocolate cake were the only highlights for me from the afternoon tea selection. We especially enjoyed the chocolate cake for its crispy hazelnut peanut butter base.
But the good points ended there. With the premium price we paid, I expected loose leaf tea, not tea bags. The buffet selection was poor in terms of quality and quantity.
I think all in all, this was a huge let down, especially given the positive online reviews. Four Seasons Beijing should really consider adding more substantial savoury items and a larger selection of sweets to not only satisfy their customers’ taste buds, but to also make the buffet display look nicer. (Picture above shows about 80% of the selection, there was another bench on the other side of the room, displaying similar selections in addition to some fruits and a bundt cake).
Since we were so disappointed with the Afternoon Tea buffet, my boyfriend and I decided to buy some macarons, chocolates and petit gateaux from their retail display case. However, even then, we felt so underwhelmed that our mood was only saved by their decent chocolates at the very end.
This was one of the better items I tried on the day. It is a mango petit gateaux – mango mousse with a mango jelly sphere on a chocolate base. On the outside it was decorated with cocoa nibs. Taste and texture wise, this was probably one of the best items from the day, the mousse was light and smooth. However, I feel that the mango flavour tasted a little artificial and the cocoa nibs on the outside did nothing more than providing a colour contrast. Personally, I feel that garnishes should not only make the cakes look nice, it should also complement the cakes in terms of taste and texture.
This was one of their best sellers, red velvet petit gateaux. It had a red velvet spray, white coloured mousse and chocolate cake on the inside. Other than the colour combination, I could not find any resemblance with ‘red velvet’. To me, the cream cheese icing (or filling) is the star of any red velvet cakes or cupcakes, accompanied by red-coloured cake that contains a small amount of cocoa powder. This tasted nothing like cream cheese, I felt like I was just eating some cream or vanilla mousse.
The vanilla macaron not too bad. It was quite sweet but the texture of the macaron was acceptable (slightly crispy and chewy centre).
However, I was utterly disappointed and speechless when I cut this caramel macaron in half. I’ve bought macarons different establishments before – from hotels to specialised macaron stores to farmer’s market – and I’ve not encountered a “biscuit” macaron before. Yes, caramel macarons tend to be a bit harder and chewier than the other flavours due to the nature of caramel, but this was just unacceptable. It was extremely difficult to cut this in half (see the crumbs) and the macaron was just extremely dry and hard.
However, the Holger Deh Or Noir chocolate was pretty good. The flavour was rich, dark and fruity. And because of the lovely flavour, I can see past the softer shell that lacked nice ‘snap’.
Overall, do try out their moulded chocolates (Holger Deh Or Noir) if you happen to visit Four Seasons in Beijing because they do have a nice flavour, but currently (at the time of tasting) the afternoon tea is not worth the money.