Afternoon Tea at the Magnificent Capital M
Capital M will officially be the very last afternoon tea visit of the “LumDimSum & CityWeekend joint effort” to discover the best afternoon tea experience Beijing has to offer.
After tasting our way through 9 of the top rated afternoon tea venues in the city, we’ve seen everything from the good to the great and unfortunately also a few of the bad and the ugly. Now that we’re confident that we’ve seen the best of the best, we’ve already started to narrow down our overall favorites. While some venues excel in superior service, others stand out with their beautiful interior design, lively atmosphere, quality scones or wide variety of tea selection and gourmet coffee.
To give you an idea of the caliber of establishments we’ve experienced, we started with the Ritz-Carlton, Park Hyatt, Sofitel Beijing Hotel, Kempinski Hotel Beijing Lufthansa Center, China World Hotel, Raffles Beijing Hotel, China World Summit Wing, and just before our most recent visit to M, we visited the very stylish and elegant JE Mansion (in chronological order).
Hold your horses and sit tight because within the next two weeks, we will announce which venue will reign as the very best in the city.
Although Capital M will be the last of this tea series, I should say upfront that the last was not necessarily reserved for the best but after this lovely tea experience at the very unique Capital M, I’m going to have to go back and seriously re-evaluate my previous afternoon tea experiences to see who comes out on top.
Although M’s interior design is stunning and its very fortunate, prime real estate location overlooking the Qianmen Pedestrian Street with an open-air balcony terrace offers spectacular views all around, I gotta say that M stood out to me most as the venue with the very best atmosphere.
Sipping our tea and tasting our way through their three-tiered display of sweets and finger sandwiches while looking around and observing everyone around us smiling, laughing, chattering and genuinely enjoying themselves is like something straight out of a film set. Everything is set in a vibrantly colorful backdrop, everyone is dressed to look the part – tall, beautiful women dressed in elegant floor-length summer dresses and men dressed smart with glossy sunglasses perched on top of their head. If you enjoy people-watching, Capital M is the place for you.
LumDimSum Snapshots of the Magnificent M:
The area behind their beautifully curved cocktail bar is the designated area for their afternoon tea guests.
While most of the tables were occupied when we arrived, by the time we left, there was not a single open seat. Although there was quite a lot of us in a relatively confined space, it never felt crowded. Every table was full but strategically spaced out with just enough space that everyone is just out of “eavesdropping reach” so you can still enjoy an intimate afternoon tea experience with the benefit of lively chatter and laughter all around you.
“Enjoy a simple or classic afternoon tea overlooking the gates.” – Capital M
In the past, Capital M offered their afternoon tea daily, but now it is limited to the weekends. That being said, you can still come any day and choose from their large selection of afternoon teas from their own blends to the classics, from fine Chinese teas to herbal, fresh and modern ones too.
“Served the old fashioned way”, M’s teas include the classics (English Breakfast, Earl Gray and Darjeeling) and their Song Fang Selection from their Shanghai M branch, which is broken down into different categories: Chinese teas (Jasmine Pearl, Lapsang Souchang, Huangshan Maofeng, Pu’er Toucha), Blends (Carthage and Pomme D’Amour), Herbal (Rooibo Reunion, Chrysanthemum, Camomile), and Fresh Teas (Wild Fennel, Fresh Mint, Skin Purity, Lemon & Ginger).
We ordered a pot of Jasmine Pearl and Lemon & Ginger Tea. The tea is served in transparent glass pots with customized M labels (a lovely touch of detail) along with bright floral cups and sauce pans (that are also available for purchase – RMB 288 each).
“M’s iconic fine bone china teacups and saucers feature unique design and beautiful colors, and they are packaged with a gift card and tea-making instructions.”
Capital M offers a choice of two afternoon tea sets:
1. A “Tea and Scones” Afternoon Tea Set (RMB 88)
Set Includes fresh warm scones served with clotted cream and their favorite jams, served with any of their teas or coffees
2. “Capital M’s High Tea” Set (RMB 138)
“Go the whole hog” with scones, pastries, tarts both sweet and savory, sandwiches and sweet treats too, served with a pot of any tea or a plunger of coffee.
M’s Complete “High Tea” Set (RMB 138 per person)
We went for the “whole hog” and ordered “Capital M’s High Tea” set and when it arrived, we were pleased (and slightly intimidated) by the large portions (which is generally applied to their menu dishes as well).
And with at least two of everything, we didn’t need to sort out how to best divide up or cut apart anything for once.
LumDimSum Breakdown of M’s High Tea Set:
Bottom Tier: M’s Savory Finger Sandwiches
We started with the bottom layer of rectangular sandwich blocks starting with the egg salad sandwich, layers of cucumber and cheese sandwich and chicken salad sandwich (made from chicken breast, celery, walnut and mayonnaise).
M’s Cucumber Sandwich
M’s Chicken Salad SandwichM’s Egg Salad Sandwich
I was pleased to find that the bread was indeed soft (hallelujah!), but unnecessarily longer than the ball of filling compacted into a little hump in the center of the sandwich block.
Top Tier: M’s Selection of Sweet Desserts
Saving the scones for last, we skipped the middle layer and went straight for the sweets on the top tier.
M’s Chocolate Cake / Fresh Fruit Tarts
We started with the chocolate cake without a moment’s hesitation. Although it looks like a brownie, the fluffy cake consistency gave it away as a chocolate cake with thin layers of fudge and covered with chocolate powder. This bite-sized portion was the perfect size.
A quality fruit tart wins points with the use of exotic fruits – strawberry, kiwi, papaya, melon and dragon fruit all diced up and piled into one neat little creation with vanilla custard.
Passionfruit Shortbread Macaroon / Lemon Meringue Tart
M is the first venue to do something a little different from the standard macaroon that comes with an afternoon tea set. Their version of a Macaroon used shortbread cookies with a tangy passionfruit mousse filling that really is something special (just imagine how good their passionfruit pavlova is). This is exactly the kind of creative twist on a classic favorite that works. Hats off to Capital M for this unique concoction.
The only dessert we didn’t like was the Lemon Meringue Tart, which was very sour and had an odd metallic-y taste that very much offended our taste buds. In addition, the top swirl of “meringue” was actually more of a soft whipped cream.
If I may be so bold as to make a suggestion to their kitchen and management team – if they could replace one or two of these desserts (preferably the lemon tart and chocolate cake) with mini pavlova desserts, we would have been beyond ecstatic. It’s the best thing on their menu and it’s a shame not to showcase your very best assets for the afternoon tea set. This additional dessert would have scored them some serious extra points in my book.
M’s very Famous Pavlova
If you haven’t had it already, you haven’t lived until you’ve tasted M’s phenomenal pavlova. As their name states, it’s “very famous” for good reason.
Middle Tier of M’s Scones
By the time we got to our middle layer of scones, we were stuffed, but we still managed one of M’s scones each. Sprinkled with powdered sugar, these scones were a bit more on the dry and crumbly side. They weren’t too dense, but they still felt heavy. The winner of Best Scones in Beijing still goes to Raffles Beijing Hotel.
Sliced in half and stuffed with a generous spoonful of strawberry jam and clotted cream, I couldn’t manage more than two mouth-fulls. The size of these scones were actually quite petite, but the heavy texture of the scones made even this bite-sized portion a bit too much to finish off enjoyably.
M’s Trio of Clotted Cream & Favorite Jams (Strawberry & Pear)
Overall, Capital M takes the gold for its lively atmosphere. With such an exquisite interior design as a backdrop and plenty of tables full of happy guests chattering away and laughing throughout the afternoon, you can’t help but feel like you’re on a film set. It’s so lovely, it’s almost impossible to replicate and like it’s too good to be natural, but of course it is and Capital M should receive well-deserved recognition for being the only ones to manage its venue’s atmosphere so flawlessly.
While the food was more than satisfactory, I have always found M’s dishes to value quantity over quality. The portions are always generous, but that also means that you’re sacrificing the refined details you normally expect from a high-end restaurant. Similarly in the case of M’s “High Tea” set, each tier was full of bite-sized items, but everything was all quite basic. From the simple sandwich blocks to the plain scones with powdered sugar sprinkled on top, there wasn’t much that really impressed us. We loved the shortbread passionfruit macaroon and we were pleased to see the use of exotic fruits in their mixed fruit tart, but this is a very small portion of the complete tea set and overall, the quality was only slightly higher than average. Everything may be done well here, but it’s not anything exceptional and that’s exactly what you’re hoping to find when you dine within such a stunning venue surrounded by spectacular views all around.
Service was a bit of a hit or miss. When we asked our waitress what was in the chicken sandwich, her first reaction was to just avoid us, and then to whisper to her other colleagues just next to our table and waited another 5 minutes before she finally asked her manager to come over to our table so that we could ask the same question over again.
That being said, we also couldn’t help but notice one male waiter who was seriously on top of his game. He was like a eagle watching over all the tables and rushing over to their aid at any sign of need. He was aware of his surrounding and he worked the room effectively and efficiently and was one of the most professional waitstaffs I have ever seen who was not higher up in a manager role. Throughout the afternoon, we kept referring to him as “the super server” because he just impressed us so much, we were almost captivated watching his movements and how courteous and attentive he was to all of M’s guests under his watchful eye.
I would definitely recommend Capital M as a worthy destination for those who enjoy this time-honored tradition of afternoon tea and for any travelers who may not have the budget to have dinner here, an afternoon tea would be a great alternative to come and see this spectacular venue and impressive views.
High Tea at Capital M
Review of Capital M’s Afternoon Tea: 3/F, 2 Qianmen Pedestrian Street, 前门大街2号3层, Tel: +(86 10) 6702-2727. Afternoon Tea available Weekends (Sat & Sun) from 14:30-17:00.
Capital M’s lively atmosphere is infectious. Beautiful people dressed to look the part makes you feel like you’re on a film set. You’re surrounded by chatter and laughter with a bright and colorful backdrop to complete this perfect picture.
M’s location overlooking Qianmen pedestrian street offers stunning views all around. If the weather is nice enough, you can also choose to sit on their spacious outdoor terrace.
The large selection of teas is worth noting – from classic teas to their own blends, Chinese teas and herbal ones, tea lovers are spoiled for choice.
They have a “super server” who seriously impressed us with his ability to efficiently and effectively serve the afternoon tea section of the restaurant, never resting a moment or spacing out. He was as attentive as he was courteous and just very good at his job.
Although M used to offer Afternoon Tea on a daily basis, they are only serving it on weekends now from 2:30PM-5:00PM.
If you love their brightly colored tea cups, these uniquely made-in-China teacups and saucers are now for sale. In a beautiful array of colours – pink, blue, green, peach, orange – each set is beautifully packaged with a gift card and tea-making instructions. Price is RMB 288 for a tea cup and saucer set.
One of the few afternoon teas not spent within the walls of an international 5-star hotel, M offers something unique. I only wish they also included their very famous Pavlova dessert as part of their “High Tea” set.
Although the food was good, the overall set was not very impressive. It was basic and satisfactory, but lacking in detailed refinement – a quality I generally come to expect from high-end restaurants. Capital M is widely considered one of Beijing’s very top dining establishments but the food could use a bit of fine-tuning for a more delicate selection of sweet and savory bites.
Rating: (on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being best)
- Food: 7
- Atmosphere: 9
- Service: 7
Overall Experience: 8
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.
Click here for previous review of the Kempinski Hotel Beijing Lufthansa Center.
Click here for previous review of the China World Hotel.
Click here for previous review of the Beijing Raffles Hotel.
Click here for previous review of the China World Summit Wing.
Click here for previous review of JE Mansion.