Afternoon Tea Buffet Bar at Kempinski’s Rendez-vous Lounge
Back at it again, LumDimSum is determined to help CityWeekend uncover Beijing’s Best Afternoon Tea. I’ve already hit up afternoon tea at the Ritz-Carlton, Park Hyatt and Sofitel Beijing Hotel to see how each one compares to the others and although some fare better than others, so far none have stood out as mind-blowingly spectacular. And I really don’t want to settle for anything less than that.
Next up, we have the Kempinski Hotel Beijing Lufthansa Center, whose afternoon tea was actually listed as one of Time Out Beijing’s Top 4 Picks for the city’s best rated afternoon teas.
The Kempinski Hotel is a Beijing “old school” hotel that has been around for ages and passed the test of time. From what I hear, before Beijing was swimming in choice for upscale establishments, the Kempinski was one of the biggest players around back in the day (we’re talking over 10 years ago). It’s no longer a destination people rave about, but it’s still part of a massive convention center, shopping mall and with its prime location in one of Beijing’s most important diplomatic business quarters (and close proximity to the US embassy), the Kempinski still has the leverage to hold its own against Beijing’s other 5-star hotels.
LumDimSum Snapshots of Kempinski Hotel Beijing & Rendez-vous Lounge:
Step inside the Grand Lobby of Kempinski Hotel Beijing
Kempinski’s Rendez-vous Bar & Lounge
Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Kempinski’s Rendez-vous Bar & Lounge offers a “Weekend High Tea Buffet” from 2:30PM-6:00PM for RMB 138 per person + 15% service charge.
While Kempinski calls it “High Tea”, they should be calling it “Afternoon Tea” as British High Tea is traditionally more of a working class meal to be enjoyed at the end of the work day (after 5PM) serving heavy meat, fish and potato dishes like steak and kidney pie whereas “Afternoon Tea” involves things like manners, lace and dainty food to be enjoyed as an elite social gathering.
That being said, there is also something inherently wrong about inserting the word “buffet” alongside “high tea”. British Afternoon Tea is a truly time-honored tradition, and that should automatically repel any association with a “free-for-all buffet” where people pile their plates to the brim and a venue serving buffet undeniably makes the conscious choice to sacrifice quality for quantity. I can imagine how appalling this must be to Brits who might actually want to reminisce in classic British custom.
Fortunately for Kempinski, we are in Beijing and “fusion” is trendy here so there is really no point in being a stickler for respecting and upholding classic traditions in such a cosmopolitan city. I realize that makes me sound stuffy and conservative, but in the same way that I prefer not to drink tea out of tea bags, I prefer to enjoy British high tea in an authentic fashion (I admit my position is heavily influenced by too many hours spent watching Downton Abbey).
Kempinski’s buffet was not as crass as you might suspect a “British High Tea Buffet” to be, but afternoon tea is just not the same without being served the multi-layered silver trays of dainty snacks.
As my fellow British foodie friend eloquently explained, “Afternoon tea should be enjoyed as an occasion rather than this drive-thru style.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Tea was served in porcelain white tea sets to be enjoyed on comfy, plush sofas in the Rendez-vous Lounge. Once again, my British counterpart automatically went for the classic English Breakfast Tea while I chose something a little less conventional.
Western & Eastern Tea Selection at the Kempinski
As you can see from the photos below, the selection was plentiful, but nothing was traditionally British and maybe that’s not a bad thing bearing in mind this is a Swiss luxury hotel chain with a prominent German bakery. Before I get into details I ought to give due credit to Kempinski’s awesome Kempi Deli who supplies an abundance of freshly baked bread, cakes, pastries and sandwiches on a daily basis.
You can probably get a good sense of the items on display through the close-up shots that everything was pretty mediocre. None of the hot items were hot (not even the quiche and scones under the warming tray) and similar to the afternoon tea at Sofitel Wanda Beijing, the quality of the desserts were much more superior to the savory snacks. The best of the bunch were the Smoked Trout Baguette and Mini Prosciutto Sandwiches, but the bread was still much too thick and filling.
Dessert highlights include the chocolate mousse, fruit tarts and the Belgium Ivory Chocolate Fondue with mini cake and fruit skewers to dip. Points were deducted for serving scones with orange whip cream rather than separate sauces dishes of jam and clotted cream as it ought to be served.
Afternoon Tea at the Kempinski’s Rendez-vous Lounge:
Kempinski “Weekend High Tea Buffet” Display
Cold Soba Noodles / Prosciutto Ham Buns
Smoked Trout on French Baguette / Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Cheese
Spinach & Feta Cheese Quiche / Vanilla Scones
Mini Strawberry Pavlovas / Fruit Tarts
Mango Tart / Chocolate Mousse Topped with Strawberry
Chocolate Muffins, Chocolate Sweets & Bran Banana Muffins
Red Berry Jelly / Emmental Cheese Platter
Kempinski Afternoon Tea Buffet: Belgium Ivory Chocolate Fondue with Fruit Skewers and Cakes to Dip
Fruit Basket & Fresh Fruit Platter
In spite of all the loungers in Rendez-vous Bar & Lounge and the wide selection on display, there was hardly anyone going up to the buffet.
Observing the other guests around me, it was clear that this is a purely functional venue. Rather than a lounge for people to relax and sip on tea, they were all meeting here for work-related meetings – drinking coffee and discussing business.
Perhaps that’s is why this “high tea” is served as a buffet (less effort) and why the entire “high tea deal” seems more like an after-thought rather than the main attraction.
To be perfectly honest, it seemed like the lounge’s clientele paid more notice to the live pianist performance more than the high tea buffet.
Live Pianist Performs in Kempinski’s Rendez-vous Lounge
I can imagine that the experience would be much more enhanced if the lounge provided outdoor seating in the hotel courtyard that is bordered by surrounding gardens.
Green View Through Kempinski’s Rendez-vous Lounge
Review of Kempinski’s Afternoon High Tea: Located on the Southeast Corner of Liangmaqiao, 50 Liangmaqiao Road, Chaoyang District, Tel: +86 10 6465 3388. Afternoon Tea available Friday, Saturday & Sundays, 2:30pm-6pm
- Come hungry because a buffet automatically implies you’re allowed to “stuff-your-face-til-you-fall-over” rule of thumb
- Save extra room for their chocolate mousse, fruit tarts and Belgium Ivory Chocolate Fondue with mini cake and fruit skewers.
- Lounge features a live pianist who performs daily.
- Their awesome Kempi Deli is probably responsible for the nice chocolates and sweet tarts on display at the dessert bar.
- The Kempinski is surrounded by green gardens, perfect for a nice stroll after stuffing your face at the buffet.
- This is not a place for traditionalists. Kempinski serves their afternoon tea as a buffet (don’t expect to see any multi-tiered silver trays brought to your table)
- While Kempinski’s Rendez-vous Lounge is lovely, it is clear this is a place to meet and discuss business rather than a place to relax and enjoy afternoon tea as an occasion. No one seemed to pay any attention to the buffet as the lounge was full but we were the only two people going up to the buffet.
- The tea was fine, but the food was very mediocre, especially the savory snacks. The Quiche and Scones were cold even though they are under a warming tray and the scones were served with an orange whip cream rather than jam and clotted cream.
- As my fellow Brit so eloquently describes this experience - “Afternoon tea should be enjoyed as an occasion rather than this drive-thru style.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Rating: (on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being best)
- Food: 6
- Atmosphere: 6
- Service: 6
Overall Experience: 6
Tea Service at the Kempinski Beijing Hotel
LDS’s Afternoon Tea Reviews in Beijing:
Click here for previous review of the Ritz-Carlton Beijing’s Afternoon Tea.
Click here for previous review of the Park Hyatt’s Afternoon Tea.
Click here for previous review of the Sofitel Beijing Hotel’s Afternoon Tea.