Afternoon Tea in Manila: Relish at Ponte

* Part 13 of a series *

The list of establishments that offer afternoon tea in Manila keeps growing longer, it’s getting harder for me to keep up. I stumbled upon Relish at Ponte while searching online for must-try afternoon tea offerings in the city. I’ve heard of Relish – Hello, Happiness! located in Quezon City, but I didn’t even know there was a Relish restaurant in Makati and it’s already celebrating its 5th anniversary this month! So anyway, since my friend Steffi treated me to an afternoon tea buffet in the Peninsula Manila some weeks ago, I decided to return the favor and invited her to share the afternoon tea set with me at Relish at Ponte. Turns out, she’s been to the restaurant before because the owner is a very good friend of hers.

Afternoon Tea for Two

Afternoon Tea for Two

According to its website, Relish at Ponte “is a cozy modern bistro restaurant serving delicious cross-continental food inspired by family favorites.” The restaurant is located on the ground floor of the Ponte Salcedo Building at 120 Valero Street, Salcedo Village in Makati. Obviously, its main customer base is made up of the corporate types: business executives, lawyers  and their clients, and office workers who are there for meetings and/or power lunches.  Steffi and I — both stay-at-home mothers — were just there for afternoon tea.

Relish

Relish

The Afternoon Tea for Two (P375++) is served from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. from Mondays through Fridays. It consists of an appetizer sampler (crostini with chicken liver pate topped with jam; crostini with wild mushroom dip), tea sandwiches (a pair of roast beef and a couple of egg salad sandwiches), a dessert sampler (cheesecake, orange loaf cake, grapes) and a pot of Harney & Sons tea of your choice. I liked everything in the set, except the cheesecake just because it’s one of those things that I don’t eat. I think that the whole set was carefully thought-of and because the “meal” is as light as it should be, it fulfills the afternoon tea ideals. Those who are looking for a reasonably-priced, tasty afternoon tea will surely be quite pleased with this set from Relish.

“I am in no way interested in immortality, but only in the taste of tea.” — Lu Tung

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Afternoon Tea in Manila: Discovery Primea

* Part 12 of a series *

There’s a new luxury hotel in Makati and it’s quite hard to miss because of its towering presence along Ayala Avenue. Discovery Primea is the latest addition to The Discovery Leisure Company‘s growing roster of fine hotels and resorts including Discovery Suites in Ortigas, Discovery Country Suites in Tagaytay, Discovery Shores in Boracay and Club Paradise in Coron, Palawan. Having opened only six months ago (last February), Discovery Primea is already creating a buzz not only for its superior brand of hospitality but also for its gustatory delights.

For my mom-in-law’s birthday weekend celebration, my husband decided to spend our family staycation in Discovery Primea. We stayed there for two nights and were completely satisfied with our accommodations and dining experiences. If only for an entire weekend, we got to live the “suite life” again: eat, swim, eat, go to the mall, eat, sleep, then repeat. I’ll save the full feature on the hotel for later; for now I’ll just take you through my afternoon tea experience there.

Gilarmi Lounge

Gilarmi Lounge

Afternoon tea is served at the hotel’s swanky Gilarmi Lounge, named after the building that once stood on that very spot: the Gilarmi Apartments. I met up with my friend Aimee, who has gone on a few afternoon tea dates with me before,  and together we indulged in a couple of hours of girltalk (without the kids). Tea service starts at 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily. We went there at exactly 3 o’ clock.

lounge

Gilarmi Lounge

There are two choices for the afternoon tea set, the only difference being the selection of tea sandwiches. Aimee and I opted for the Afternoon Tea to Remember (I forget the name of the other option). The set good for two persons costs P750++. From the TWG range of teas, we went for the Silver Moon Tea — a blend of green tea, grand berry and vanilla bouquet. It was light and sweet-scented, perfect for an afternoon of relaxation.

Afternoon Tea to Remember

Afternoon Tea to Remember

The tea was served right away but the food tray did not arrive until about 45 minutes later. Aimee and I had to follow up a couple of times because we could not start sipping our tea without the finger foods. When our food finally came, our server offered to prepare a new pot of tea for us since the first one had already gone cold. So we let him.

scones

scones

I presume that the food preparation time was excruciatingly long because we were the only ones having tea that time. What I mean is, the place is not yet known for its afternoon tea offering unlike its two neighbors: the Makati Shangri-La and the Peninsula Manila. And so everything had to be made from scratch, I think. Maybe they only started baking scones when we ordered the set, I don’t know. As Aimee and I were already famished, we started eating right away. The scones, though not the best I’ve had in this afternoon tea series, were rather tasty, albeit slightly tough and burnt on their bottoms. At least, they came with clotted cream and jam.

tea sandwiches

tea sandwiches

The tea sandwiches were good but nothing really remarkable. What made me happy, as always, were the sweets: fruit tartlets, chocolate eclairs and those very moist lemon sponge cakes. What would afternoon tea be like without them?

sweet pastries

sweet pastries

Perhaps to make up for our long wait for the food, the staff gave us some freshly-baked madeleines at no extra cost. We appreciated the gesture, and to show just that, Aimee and I wolfed all the madeleines down to the last morsel. See, we’re not difficult to please.

madeleines

madeleines

Having tasted several afternoon tea offerings already, I can honestly say that the one from Discovery Primea‘s Gilarmi Lounge is very promising but it still has a lot of room for improvement. I’m positive that in a few more months, everything will be made just right. The hotel’s restaurant Tapenade has some really excellent gastronomic gems, so I have high hopes for the Gilarmi Lounge‘s future in terms of afternoon tea.

“When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things.” — Muriel Barbery

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Afternoon Tea in Manila: The Manila Hotel

* Part 11 of a series *

For more than a hundred years now, The Manila Hotel has been a landmark of grandeur, luxury and rich tradition right in the very heart of the City of Manila. It has witnessed many historic events and still remains one of the favorite hangouts of the well-heeled members of society. Also known as the Grande Dame, this esteemed hotel upholds the lavish tradition of afternoon tea in its elegant Lobby Lounge — and does it very tastefully.

Manila Afternoon Tea

Manila Afternoon Tea

Since I haven’t concluded my afternoon tea series yet, I thought it might be wonderful to try the Manila Hotel‘s offering. It’s called the Manila Afternoon Tea (P500++ or P650 net): a mix of classic Filipino and continental favorites.  Tea service starts at 2:00 pm and is good for two persons. In other establishments, they only serve one pot of tea inclusive in the set. But in the Manila Hotel, you get 2 pots of tea of your choice. Perfect! I invited my friend, Arlene to join me so we can share the set together. We started off with the third layer of the tray which contained a pair of kesong puti sandwiches and Norwegian smoked salmon on wheat bread. They were good.

tea sandwiches

tea sandwiches

On to our next plate, which was on the topmost tier — Filipino rice cakes bibingka and puto bumbong. It came with another plate of all the toppings you can possibly want for the rice cakes, namely: grated coconut, muscovado sugar, grated cheese, goat’s cheese (kesong puti) and salted egg slices.

bibingka and puto bumbong

bibingka and puto bumbong

Then lastly, we had the tiny cake slices. Admittedly, the portions were very small but they turned out to be just right. They were a nice and perfectly sweet way to cap the meal.

cake sampler

cake sampler

For me, the Manila Hotel‘s Afternoon Tea is ideal just because it is not too heavy and yet it does not leave you wanting for more. It’s just right for a light afternoon snack while passing the time, listening to soothing piano music and just taking in all the elegant charms of the hotel. And it’s reasonably-priced, too.

“Tea is quiet and our thirst for tea is never far from our craving for beauty.”James Norwood Pratt

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Afternoon Tea in Manila: Bistro Pamana

* Part 10 of a series *

When it comes to the idea of afternoon tea, can the food-crazed Filipinos be far behind? The concept of having a light snack in between lunch and dinner is commonly known to the average Pinoy as merienda. And what could be a more enjoyable merienda fare than our native delicacies?

Filipino-style Afternoon Tea

Filipino-style Afternoon Tea

The other day I went to Bistro Pamana on Perea Street, Makati all by my lonesome to try its Afternoon Tea Set (P380) during lunch time. Why not?  The set is said to be good for 2 to 3 persons and consists of an all-Filipino snack time favorites: four pandesal sandwiches (a pair of adobo flakes sandwiches and a pair of kesong puti with pesto sandwiches), palitaw, puto bumbong, bibingka and turon served with a pot of Lipton Clear Green Tea. Just add 75 pesos if one wishes to substitute the tea for native hot chocolate (tsokolate ah). I just opted for tea because the hot chocolate might be too sinfully rich and too heavy for me.

Bistro Pamana's Afternoon Tea Set

Bistro Pamana’s Afternoon Tea Set

Pandesal is the most popular local bread that’s a staple for breakfast on most Filipino tables. I found the pandesal in Bistro Pamana rather humongous, but it turned out to be very light and very good. The adobo flakes sandwich in particular was really tasty. I loved it.

Adobo Flakes in Pandesal

Adobo Flakes in Pandesal

By the time I finished eating two pandesal sandwiches, I was already quite full but I knew I still had to tackle the bottom layer of the serving tray. I started with the puto bumbong — the purple-colored glutinous rice cake wrapped in banana leaf. It’s sticky and chewy and delicious. I was able to finish eating all of it. Then I had one palitaw — a flat white rice cake rolled in grated coconut, toasted sesame seeds and white sugar. It’s good but very heavy in the tummy. Then I ate the bibingka — another type of rice cake that’s fluffy like a thick hotcake. Bistro Pamana‘s version is topped with a lot of cheese. Yummy! Finally, all that’s left was the turon or banana fritters. I took a bite and found the banana way overripe, it was much too mushy. I didn’t like it at all, which was just as well because my tummy couldn’t  take any more.  I really wished I had company while I binged on this (so I was texting my good friend Aimee while I was eating).

yummy and very filling

yummy and very filling

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local favorites

For all Filipino food lovers, the Bistro Pamana Afternoon Tea Set is a must-try. It’s best enjoyed with a friend or two. I love that our traditional native snacks get that well-deserved spotlight because they’re really close to my heart.

“There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life.”

— Lin Yutang

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Afternoon Tea in Manila: The Royal Piccadilly Restaurant & Cakery

* Part 9 of a series *

I know it’s only been about 7 months since I went there, but I already miss London terribly. Once you fall in love with a city, you’ll constantly ache for it. You’ll always yearn to go back. That’s how I feel about Berlin and London. Only those afflicted with wanderlust can completely understand. The next best thing to revisiting the cities that I love is to eat food that will remind me of them. And that’s what The Royal Piccadilly is all about.

the restaurant & cakery

the restaurant & cakery

Piccadilly is an almost mile-long road within the City of Westminster in Central London, stretching from Hyde Park Corner all the way to Piccadilly Circus (the busy intersection between Piccadilly and Regent Street). It’s interesting to know that the land once belonged to a tailor named Robert Baker, who became successful by making and selling fashionable collars known in those days as piccadills. Today, Piccadilly is home to many of London’s famous shops, most notably Fortnum & Mason, a high-end department store established in 1707 and is also well-known for its tea room.

afternoon tea set

afternoon tea set

So, anyway…. I was so happy when I learned that this restaurant and cakery called The Royal Piccadilly opened in the Katipunan area in Quezon City sometime in 2013. I have been wanting to go there since then, but because it’s a bit of a trip from our place, I never really got around to visiting it — until last Sunday, on Mother’s Day, when my daughter Bea and I accompanied my husband to UP Diliman. The perfect opportunity presented itself, and I didn’t let it pass.

Russell Square Set

Russell Square Set

Let me just state that The Royal Piccadilly offers the most affordable choices in afternoon tea: there’s the most basic Cream Tea (two sultana scones with English cream and jam plus a pot of tea for only P140), Knightsbridge Set (two sultana scones, one Puffin, one caramel bar or mini-cupcake and a pot of tea for P199), Covent Garden Set (two sultana scones, four tea sandwiches and a pot of tea for P220), Russell Square Set (two sultana scones, four tea sandwiches, one Puffin, one caramel bar or mini-cupcake and a pot of tea for P280) and, finally, the Piccadilly Circus Set (two sultana scones, four tea sandwiches, two Puffins, two caramel bars or mini-cupcakes and a pot of tea for P335). Not only are the sets very affordable, but they’re also available any time of the day. Naturally, I wanted to feast on the Piccadilly Circus Set but was told that it was not available that time, so I just went for the Russell Square Set. They didn’t have the Puffins and since they had just run out of scones, I was asked if I was willing to wait for half-an-hour for the new batch of scones. I said yes, and the freshly-baked scones were worth the wait — totally awesome!

caramel bar, cupcake and scones

caramel bar, cupcake and scones

The tea sandwich selection includes crabstick and cucumber, tuna salad, ham and cheese, and coronation chicken — but you only get to choose one. I wanted the coronation chicken sandwich because it’s very British (Bea and I were able to taste it at Costa Coffee on our last day in London). Unfortunately, only the ham and cheese sandwich was available last Sunday. I guess to make up for it and because it was Mother’s Day, they let me have the regular size cupcake instead of a mini. From a handful of choices, I opted for the Earl Grey Tea Cupcake. It’s perfectly moist with a just-right sweetness and a well-balanced fruity flavor of the tea. So deliciously good. I loved it.

The Royal Piccadilly serves tea from Twinings, a London-based tea company which started more than 300 years ago in 1706. It’s still one of the leading tea brands in the world to this day and is one of my favorite teas to drink at home.

Russell Square Set

Russell Square Set

My afternoon tea experience in The Royal Piccadilly is one of the best in my book. The restaurant truly gets the concept of afternoon tea and this is evident in the food selection. Best of all, it’s so unbelievably inexpensive! It’s so worth the trip to Katipunan and worth every single centavo. I highly recommend this place to all the Anglophiles in Manila.

“Every nation in creation has its favorite drink / France is famous for its wine, it’s beer in Germany / Turkey has its coffee and they serve it blacker than ink / Russians go for vodka and England loves its tea… It’s a very good English custom / And a stimulant for the brain / When you feel a little weary, a cup’ll make you cheery / And it’s cheaper than champagne….” — from the song Everything Stops for Tea (1935) by Jack Buchanan

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Afternoon Tea in Manila: Marriott Hotel

* Part 8 of a series *

There’s nothing wrong with getting oneself an early Mother’s Day treat, is there? Honestly, I feel like I ought to give myself a simple reward — nothing grand, nothing extravagant — for all the little things that I do for my family, knowing that motherhood is not the easiest thing in the world. And because I’m doing this afternoon tea series, I decided to treat myself to Marriott Hotel Manila‘s “Afternoon High Tea” which, technically, is not high tea but is, in fact, afternoon tea.

Marriott Hotel Manila's Afternoon High Tea

Marriott Hotel Manila’s Afternoon High Tea

Available from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. in Marriott‘s The GreatRoom, the set costs P550++ and can satisfy one to two persons with small appetites. Tea is served first, and I picked the Single Origin Darjeeling from Dilmah. Unlike Makati Shangri-La and The Peninsula Manila, which have both established themselves as  sought-after afternoon tea venues, I believe the afternoon tea craze has not caught on in this hotel yet. It took forever to wait for my food to arrive — it’s a good thing my tea remained hot.

The first layer of the 3-tiered serving tray had some really dainty savory bites: arugula leaves wrapped in smoked salmon, tomato and cheese skewer, mushroom and onion tartlet topped with cheese, and a couple of vegetable sandwiches that I skipped eating.

first layer

first layer

The next layer contained 5 miniature scones (just slightly bigger than a ten-peso coin) accompanied by clotted cream and fruit jam. Not bad, but not remarkable either.

second layer

second layer

The last layer was composed of pretty but tiny portions of sweets. I particularly liked the elongated macaron and the mango dessert. Nice and sweet. The whole afternoon tea set was just okay for me. At least it was reasonably-priced for a hotel offering. And the Dilmah specialty tea was lovely, as always.

third layer

third layer

I would like to greet all the loving and devoted moms in the world a very happy Mother’s Day! We all deserve the best because…

“A mother’s love is like a cup of tea — it is always there to comfort you.”

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Afternoon Tea in Manila: Lusso

* Part 7 of a series *

Lusso is the Italian word for luxury. It is also the name of a restaurant-bar in Greenbelt 5 owned by chef-restaurateur Margarita Fores, who is also behind the famed Cibo restaurants. Lusso‘s décor exudes quiet elegance, while its menu epitomizes sophisticated Italian flair. Needless to say, the price range at Lusso is on the extravagant side. In fact, the restaurant has become synonymous with its signature foie gras burger — but that’s not what I was interested in.

Lusso's Afternoon High Tea for Two

Lusso’s Traditional Afternoon High Tea for Two

For the second time this month, I met up with my friend Aimee for afternoon tea. Still fresh from our highly enjoyable Makati Shangri-La afternoon tea experience, we planned to try the Filipino afternoon tea over at Bistro Pamana near Greenbelt. Unfortunately, when we got there last Saturday, it was closed for a break. So we just headed to Lusso, since we’re running out of choices for afternoon tea. The tea service for one is pegged at P650++ while we had the Traditional Afternoon High Tea for Two priced at P900++. I was surprised that it’s even more expensive than Makati Shangri-La‘s.

scones, tea sandwiches and desserts

scones, tea sandwiches and desserts

Thankfully, the scones were delicious — perfectly soft, slightly moist plain buttermilk scones — unlike those from Makati Shangri-La. However, they were accompanied by butter and jam instead of clotted cream and jam. Oh, never mind. I love butter, anyway. I only wished they served 4 scones instead of 3, just to be even-numbered. After all, the tea sandwiches and pastries came in pairs. The sandwiches included smoked salmon, egg salad and watercress, truffle cream cheese with cucumber, prosciutto, and tuna with potato chips. Desserts consisted of bite-size cheesecake, mocha sansrival and mini-pavlova.

Earl Grey French Blue

Earl Grey French Blue

The server presented us a tray of Mariage Frères tea canisters to choose from. We opted for the Earl Grey French Blue tea, which matched the sophistication of the restaurant. It’s a full-bodied blend with a note of refined bergamot oil and a hint of blue flowers (cornflower).

If you’re looking for a nice, quiet spot for afternoon tea and don’t mind the splurge, then Lusso just might be the place for you.

 “Come, let us have some tea and continue to talk about happy things.” — Chaim Potok

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Afternoon Tea in Manila: Dusit Thani

* Part 6 of a series *

Hotels are certainly some of the most reliable and ideal places to unwind and savor some of the finer things life has to offer.  Thus, in my quest to try the different afternoon tea offerings in the metro, I turned to one of our family’s favorite hotels: Dusit Thani Manila. In fact, I am a Dusit Gold cardholder, which means I get to enjoy discounts and other perks every time I stay or dine in any of its hotels worldwide.

Dusit Thani Manila's Afternoon High Tea

Dusit Thani Manila’s Afternoon High Tea

This Afternoon High Tea at Dusit Thani is the most affordable among those I’ve sampled in hotels so far — priced at P495 nett — and let me tell you why.

afternoon tea

afternoon tea

I must say that I love its unique three-tier serving tray that’s designed like a birdcage. It’s absolutely adorable. Service was great, as usual — the server even gave my daughter Bea some cookie nibblers and a glass of cold water even without her asking. However, the food selection was rather disappointing. The bottom plate had a pair of smoked salmon sandwiches and a pair of edam cheese sandwiches. They were very plain and… blah. The middle plate had a couple of chocolate chip cookies, which were not as chewy as I had hoped. Actually, I really wished they were scones instead of cookies. The topmost plate was a dessert sampler: a slice of what tasted like food for the gods topped with frosting, a small piece of cheesecake topped with strawberry, and what seemed to be an opera cake. None of them was a tasty treat. It’s such a shame because I’m very fond of the sweet creations in the hotel’s pastry shop, Dusit Gourmet.

Dilmah Earl Grey Tea

Dilmah Earl Grey Tea

Dusit serves Dilmah tea, which is very good, but because it was served a good 20 minutes ahead of the food, my tea was already stone-cold before I even started to eat. Oh, well….

I still love Dusit Thani Manila, especially its dining outlets Benjarong (for authentic Thai cuisine) and Umu (for delectable Japanese cuisine). The afternoon tea, however, leaves much to be desired. I wish they could improve on it because I know they can.

Strange how a teapot can represent at the same time the comforts of solitude and the pleasures of company.”

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Afternoon Tea in Manila: The Peninsula

* Part 5 of a series *

Filipinos certainly love buffets and The Peninsula Manila recognizes that. So aside from offering just an afternoon tea set for two, it also has an afternoon tea buffet available daily at its majestic lobby from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. The buffet spread is really impressive. Well, what else can you expect from the Pen?

Let’s start off with tea. The Peninsula Manila serves  TWG Tea and I chose its Sweet France blend: “The elegance and refinement of France concentrated in a teacup. This gracious TWG blend combines green tea with exotic flowers and a touch of chamomile to create a fresh and soothing cup.”

Sweet France tea

Sweet France tea

I’ve already discussed the differences between afternoon tea and high tea in a previous post. Afternoon tea is supposed to be a light snack between lunch and dinner, or what is commonly known in our country as merienda, while high tea is a heavier meal taken later in the day, like an early dinner. It’s safe to say that the Pen‘s afternoon tea buffet fare falls under high tea, except that the hours when one can enjoy it fit into the afternoon tea time frame. But, whatever. For my first plate, I got some fish fingers, grilled fish and pineapple on a skewer, smoked salmon in a bagel, sausage roll, bacon and marble potato salad, shepherd’s pie and beef on bread. So deliciously filling!

my first plate

my first plate

I was already full, but there was still so much food to try. I guess that’s my main problem with buffets — I tend to force myself to eat way too much so that I can get my money’s worth. This indulgent afternoon tea buffet costs P1,350++ per head so you can understand why I kept going back to the buffet table. Ha ha!

second plate

second round

Finally, I got some Pinoy favorites and fixed myself a glass of halo-halo, one of The Lobby‘s bestsellers. The buffet spread changes seasonally but I do hope these delicacies will always be part of it.

sweet ending

sweet ending

Sure enough, I didn’t have room for dinner after overindulging in this afternoon/high tea affair. It’s nice to try the Peninsula Manila‘s afternoon tea buffet once — just once — but then I must say it defeats the whole concept or purpose of afternoon tea. Personally, I enjoy the simpler afternoon tea set more but this buffet was quite a gastronomic experience nevertheless.

“Tea to the English is really a picnic indoors.” – Alice Walker

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Afternoon Tea in Manila: Poetry & Prose Patisserie

* Part 4 of a series *

With afternoon tea gaining more popularity in the city, more dining establishments are now offering it as a regular part of their menu. One such restaurant is Poetry & Prose Patisserie located on the Streetscape strip of Shangri-La Plaza in Mandaluyong. It’s a charming little place, reportedly inspired by the tea rooms of the famous Angelina of Paris, and the menu is decidedly French.

Poetry & Prose

Poetry & Prose

However, afternoon tea is headlined as The English Tea Sets (Thé Anglaise), available daily from 2:30 to 5:30 in the afternoon. There are three choices, namely: Le Sablière (tea for one – P305+) consists of 2 regular scones, 3 mini-French pastries and a pot of tea; Duchess of Bedford (tea for two – P588+) has 4 mini-scones, 4 tea sandwiches, an assortment of 6 mini-French pastries plus choice of tea; and Queen Victoria (tea for three – P758+) includes 6 mini-scones, 6 tea sandwiches, 9 assorted mini-French pastries and tea.

Queen Victoria set

Queen Victoria set

I was with my daughter Bea, my friend Rodelyn and her two kids when we tried the Queen Victoria set last year. We also ordered additional items like beignets, mille-fuille and macarons apart from the afternoon tea. I thought that the selection of finger foods was very satisfactory.

desserts come first

desserts come first

The topmost tier had the sweet stuff: cake slices, profiteroles and madeleines. The second layer was devoted to scones, while the last layer held assorted tea sandwiches. I had no cause for complaints. They’re all good.

Harney & Sons

Harney & Sons

Tea is by New York-based Harney & Sons Master Tea Blenders, another high-quality tea brand with which I’m totally in love. I’m just so glad that it is already being distributed in the Philippines so I can always enjoy its finest blends. The Paris tea, for instance, pays homage to La Ville Lumière with its blend of fruity black tea, vanilla, caramel and a hint of lemon and bergamot. It has a very calming effect.

The thing I love most about Poetry & Prose Patisserie is that the owner of the place is a certified lover of literature and food. Proof: she also owns Pages Deli, another perfect place for book lovers and food lovers alike. Cheers to that!

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” — C.S. Lewis

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