A few weeks back I went to review Chi Kitchen in Debenhams and had a fantastic time. So when I was invited back to the pan-Asian restaurant to try their Asian afternoon tea, I was really looking forward to what treats they had in store. Having discovered this great place in such an unlikely setting, I wanted to tell everyone who would listen to give it a go, and assumed that I’d be telling a similar story after the afternoon tea. Read on to find out why this sadly wasn’t the case!
Once we were seated in the beautifully light and airy restaurant, we were surprised to see that there was only one offering of afternoon tea, which included a lot of meat. This isn’t a fault in itself, but it would be helpful for the restaurant to at least put the menu on the website so us non-meat eaters can find out in advance. As we eat fish, we simply asked them to double up on the seafood bites on the menu – if you’re fully veggie, however, this isn’t an option. The friendly server (after a discussion with the manager) was happy to accommodate our diet, though we can’t know if this was because we were there to review rather than regular diners.
We opted to have prosecco with our afternoon tea, which we enjoyed sipping on whilst tucking in to some prawn crackers and waiting for the food to be served. It was a nice surprise when we were brought over a stand each – we certainly weren’t going to go hungry!
Rather than the traditional finger sandwiches and cakes, the Asian afternoon tea consisted of dim-sum and a selection of Asian sweet-treats. For the savoury we had prawn dumplings served in a traditional basket as well as prawn rolls and vegetable spring rolls. Everything was fine, but it didn’t blow us away. We felt it was a little lacklustre, even after taking into account that we weren’t sampling the full menu, and were left wondering what had happened to the exciting flavours and beautiful presentation of our previous visit.
When we moved onto the sweet selection, it was only then, after thinking ‘I could murder a cup of tea with this’, did we realise that the tea part of our afternoon tea had been completely forgotten about! We ended up only getting some once we were pretty much finished. The sweet selection, which consisted of banana cake, panna cotta, green tea cheesecake and coconut pancakes, was hit and miss. We loved the pancakes and the panna cotta, but the banana cake was just a bit boring and the cheesecake tasted down-right synthetic. All in all, though we enjoyed most of this course, it felt a bit like a missed opportunity. We couldn’t help but compare it to Praza’s Indian afternoon tea, in which everything was exciting to try.
After finishing we felt our Asian afternoon tea was lacking the quality we had come to expect from Chi Kitchen, but it wasn’t until a later date, when I asked Helen from Positive Fridays about her experience the week before, that it became clear there was more missing than just the meat from what we were served. If you do eat meat, then please go and read Helen’s review, as she and others have totally different things to say, and for good reason. Helen’s afternoon tea was varied and the presentation took it to the next level, with salad, cucumber, banana leaves and decorative touches adding the wow-factor that ours lacked.
Our experience clearly wasn’t representative of what the Asian afternoon tea at Chi Kitchen is all about, so please don’t write it off if you eat meat! Having said that, it is worrying that our experience was so inconsistent, and regardless of the meat/seafood issue, there is no excuse for how differently ours was presented, and, as a general rule in life, there is never an excuse for no tea!
The afternoon tea on this visit was complimentary for review purposes. This does not affect my honest opinion.