(SPOT.ph) The difference between afternoon (low) tea and high tea is the table: the former is traditionally intended as a mid-afternoon social gathering of sorts over delicate pastries and fine china sets served on low tables and enjoyed sitting down. Leisurely, elegant, upscale-it’s rumored to have been started by the Duchess of Bedford who required something to tide her over between the then-norm of mid-morning breakfasts and late dinners.
High tea, on the other hand, is a heavier meal eaten on a tall table after a day of hard labor. The distinction between the two has blurred over the years, with the terms being interchanged especially outside Europe. Afternoon tea is still a usual practice, especially among women. After all, it’s a great way to catch up and-gossip.
Filipinos aren’t tea drinkers, but we’re getting there. More and more non-hotel establishments are integrating this afternoon habit in their daily practice, so if you’re looking for a relaxed post-lunch retreat, here are 10 of the best.
Hotel-run establishments were not considered for this list.
All SPOT.ph Top 10 lists are researched, paid for, tested, and selected by the writers and editors. They are discreetly conducted without any notice made to the restaurants or their owners.
10. Café 1771
People usually think of Café 1771 as a brunch venue, but their sweet treats shouldn’t be overlooked. Café 1771 was built for your entire day’s gustatory requirements, but sit in one of those comfortable chairs in the afternoon when the crowds thin out. This may be the best time to really appreciate this relaxing oasis in the middle of bustling Ortigas. Enjoy a cup of tea with their warm Brioche Bread Pudding (P250) or a slice of Coffee Pie (P220), and keep yourself entertained with the whimsical interior design. It’s a great place for girls’ days out.
Café 1771 is at El Pueblo, Julia Vargas corner ADB Avenue, Pasig City.
9. Relish (Hello, Happiness)
Afternoon tea at Relish may not be as uppity as in other places, but it’s consistent with what they are known for which is simple, satisfying comfort food. Between the homey ambience and familiar food (chicken sandwiches, chocolate cake), it’s easy to forget that you’re at a restaurant and not at home entertaining guests. The restaurant is owned by acclaimed designers, sisters Cynthia and Ivy Almario, who know how to create just the right ambiance for a tea setting. The best part about spending the afternoon at Relish is avoiding the usual hectic-ness of the Tomas Morato area during peak dining hours. Instead, you’re "at home," leisurely sipping a cup of tea. Afternoon tea (P350/a set for two) is served daily from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Relish (Hello, Happiness) is at 74 Scout Limbaga Street, Barangay Laging Handa, Quezon City.
8. Bistro Pamana
Having tea at Pamana is like going to your lola's house for merienda-on Christmas day. The selection of pan de sal sandwiches and native snacks like palitaw, bibingka, suman, and puto bumbong will bring back fond memories associated with food and family. Friendly servers as a well as bespoke and antique kitsches make the place extra homey. Try the sweet ginger and lemongrass tea served in dainty teacups. Pamana manages to combine our local merienda tradition with tea-drinking rituals, and the best part is that it's available throughout the day. The Afternoon Tea Set (P380) is hearty enough to order for brunch, but it’s also great to share with two or three people.
Bistro Pamana is at 109 Perea Street, Legazpi Village, Makati City.
7. Tito Chef
Tito Chef's afternoon tea menu offers the best value for money. For P450, diners get to choose six each from the sweet and savory menus-plus, they serve two of every item. Tito Chef is quiet in the afternoons, which makes it a perfect spot for whiling away afternoons. The interiors are clean and homey, and it's a good place for family meals. They have a bake shop that has an interesting display of cookies, cupcakes, and cakes.
Tito Chef has branches at Microtel, Libis, Quezon City; and President's Avenue, BF Homes, Parañaque City.
Bizu has become one of Manila's favorite patisseries, and for good reason. They have consistently delighted us with their selection of beautiful cakes, breads, and other treats, and their afternoon tea set is just as delightful. A treat for both the eyes and palate, the set includes, among other things, a melon-prosciutto skewer, chocolate truffles, scones, and their famous macarons. At P775 per set, it’s good for two to three people.
Click here for a list of Bizu branches.
5. M Café
The Museum Café or M Café serves Dim Sum High Tea every day from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Perfect for those who prefer Asian flair, the set for two which includes dumplings, buchi, and mango and tapioca pearl is filling without being too heavy. It’s served with a pot of tea and priced at P595++. We liked the variety of steamed and fried dumplings on a three-tiered serving plate, served in a sophisticated style expected of M Café. In the afternoons, this place is quiet and relaxed enough for a peaceful date with your closest friends.
M Café is at G/F Greenbelt 4, Makati City.
4. La Vie Parisienne
If sipping tea in a wine cellar is more your thing, La Vie Parisienne at Hotel Rembrandt on Tomas Morato is the place for you. The French bakery, deli, and wine library-a concept originally from Cebu-is filled with a bevy of breads and pastries, so you’re sure to find something to suit your taste. You can order whatever you want for your tea, and whatever you get is sure to satisfy-macarons (P45/piece), quiches (P180), sandwiches (P180). The coconut custard is a revelation: smooth and creamy, and sans chunks of coconut meat akin to buko pie. Try the tiramisu and their bestseller, the croissant, which is one of the better ones in Manila.
La Vie Parisienne is so casual that they serve Twinings in mugs, but it’s all part of the charm.
La Vie Parisienne is at G/F Hotel Rembrandt, 26 Tomas Morato Avenue, Quezon City. It is not run under the Hotel Rembrandt management.
TWG Tea Salon and Boutique carries an extensive list of teas from all over the world, as well as an impressive selection of sweet and savory treats that even non-tea drinkers would appreciate. The salons are conveniently located in malls around the metro, making them the perfect place to park while taking a break from errands and shopping.
Items like muffins and scones are expected and available, but do indulge in the assortment of ice cream and sorbet. The three Tea Time Set Menus-the 1837 (P325), Chic (P500), and Fortune (P650)-serve mostly as guidelines because you get to customize your set from the selection of finger sandwiches, tarts, and macarons. Tea is served either hot or iced, and is good for sharing. Afternoon tea is available from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
TWG has branches at Greenbelt 5, Makati City; Shangri-La Plaza, Mandaluyong City; Newport, Pasay City; Century City Mall, Makati City; and Power Plant Mall, Makati City.
Those who are familiar with the work of Margarita Fores (Cibo, Grace Park) know the kind of attention to detail and quality that she puts into her food. That same attention extends to her Traditional Afternoon High Tea menu (starts at P650), which you can request if you want a set for one or two. Lusso serves you a variety of tea sandwiches and pastries, and scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserve. And, as if the Mariage Frères teas aren’t enough, you can also opt to add a glass of bubbly to your selection. Sip some Chandon Brut Rosé or Moët & Chandon if you want a pick-me-up in the middle of the day.
Lusso means "luxury" in Italian and stepping into this elegant space with a view of the Greenbelt gardens will make you want to linger, sipping your tea at a relaxed pace, with your pinky in the air.
Lusso is at Greenbelt 5, Makati City.
1. 100 Revolving Restaurant
There are many reasons why 100 Revolving Restaurant is on top of this list, pun intended: great food as expected from Chef Jessie Sincioco (Le Souffle, Chef Jessie at Rockwell Club), warm service, and a spectacular ambience. The restaurant is on the top floor of the tallest building in Eastwood, and boasts a beautiful 360-degree view of the city.
There are three options for tea: Traditional Way, Asian Way, and Filipino Way (P500 to P750). The latter is a quirky and unique set which includes pritson (fried lechon wrapped spring roll-style), pancit sotanghon, puto, kutsinta, banana cue, halo-halo, and salabat (ginger tea). Expect your tea time to be the best of a town fiesta instead of humble merienda fare. The other options are just more reasons to keep coming back. Tea is available from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
100 Revolving Restaurant is at MDC Building (before entering Eastwood City), Libis, Quezon City.