“Comer Aqui” and “Cerveza” – My Most Used Phrases in Madrid

I was under the impression that Madrid was cheaper compared to other European capitals. I was wrong for as a Spaniard explained to me “Madrid is a cosmopolitan city. Naturally, its prices should rival the other European capitals”. Another Spaniard whom I met in The Hague also said “Madrid is surrounded by land. It imports resources from other parts of Spain, so the cost of things are higher”. Yes, high enough for me to be jolted upon discovering that a plate of sliced ham cost €10. Although, I was told that if I knew where to look, I could have a cup of coffee and a pastry for less than three euros or even a good steak for ten.

You see, the reason why I flew all the way to Madrid for the New Year was because of the allure of a European winter holiday, without the snow, and the misinformed notion that it would be a cheaper European holiday.

Disayuno Americano
Disayuno Americano but the ham was definitely Spanish

I stayed near Callao, just a few steps away from Gran Via, and was within walking distance to almost everything. Obviously, I was in the expensive part of Madrid. Right across my hotel was a diner, where locals ate. I had my disayuno(breakfast) and café con leche there every morning that I was already on nodding terms with the patrons. Once, while I was going in, a woman spoke to me in Spanish. “Pardon, habla poco Espaňol” I said. “English?” she asked. “Yes”. “Do you want to fuck?”. “No, gracias”. It was truly the local scene because even prostitutes had their breakfast there(I also saw the woman there again the following day at dinner time). You can have a breakfast set for as low as five euros. Although, the service and quality of the dishes were not consistent. The place was run by Chinese immigrants who spoke very fluent Spanish. If the manager was there, the food servings were more generous, had more ingredients, and peanuts were served while waiting. If he wasn’t around, the staff would just plop the food, which had the appearance of being hastily put together, in front of you.

Paella Merisco
Paella Marisco and Copa de cerveza con limon

My first Spanish meal was Paella Marisco, which I had with a Copa de cerveza con limon. Beer with lemon! It was tasty and refreshing. I ate at Terraza Galapagos in Retiro Park – where the Philippine national hero, Jose Rizal, reportedly spent most of his time in while he was in Madrid in the late1800’s. The park was huge but it would have been very vibrant in spring and summer. I was taken aback by the €15 bill (well of course I was paying for the location) despite the somewhat meager serving of paella. I later discovered that my diner served proper paella in a pan for less than €10.

Whenever I was at a restaurant, I always said “Comer aqui(I’ll eat here)” and whenever I was asked what I wanted for beber (drink), I always replied “Cerveza”. I noticed that Madrileňos are not heavy eaters whenever they were out. Restaurants have picadillos on their menu, meaning food was sold in smaller servings. One time, I had lunch at El Paraiso del Jamon and ordered a whole plate of Jamon de Serrano for €10. As in France, a small basket of baguettes was served with the main dish. You have the option to eat it for an additional charge of a couple of euros. I always ate the bread for I needed carbs for my long walks. Of course, I had beer. I think I drank more beer than water in Madrid.

Jamon Serrano
Jamon Serrano

One time, for dinner, I went to Mercado de San Miguel, which was touted to be the place for authentic tapas and other Spanish eats. I read that the locals love it and food was cheap and of high quality. True enough, there were a number of locals there having their picadillo and quite a number of tourists. One order of tapa ranged from less than €2 to a little over €3 – it was not my definition of cheap. In Japan, a piece of sushi at Tsukiji Market(which has been closed) cost about the same.

Tapas
Tapas and Sangria Rojo

I ordered €6 worth of tapas and a glass of Sangria Rojo – total of €10. The tapas were fantastic, but since it was dinner time, I wanted something more substantial. I wandered among the food stalls and through crowds of tourists to look for other options. Some stalls offered grilled meats or fish, which smelled and looked delicious but came with a hefty price tag – obviously intended for sharing.

Suddenly, my eyes caught sight of deep-fried anchovies and calamares. A packet of Boquerones Frescos(Fresh Anchovies) cost €14 while a packet of Anillas de Calamares(Fresh Squid Rings) cost €17 euros. These were meant to be shared but at those prices! Curiousity got the better of me. Surely such common staples would not be sold at such ridiculous prices, unless there’s something special about them. I just had to find out!

Calamares
Boquerones Frescos and Anillas de Calamares

The anchovies were plump, delightful and uniform in size. The calamares were perfect. The way they were deep-fried, the temperature at which they were served, the texture, the freshness, the moisture, and the flavors were finely balanced – surely some obsessive-compulsive chef is toiling somewhere. They were the best anchovies and calamares I’ve ever had. By the looks of the food stall’s display, they do brisk business. They also had a credit card terminal.

Those were probably the most expensive seafood I’ve ever had so far(considering they were just fried squid and anchovies). And I thought the exquisite seafood feast I had with friends at Lei Yue Mun, Hong Kong or the eight pieces of sushi I had in Tsukiji, Tokyo were scandalous enough. In Manila, I could have gotten these at a euro per serving. The price of one packet was more than enough for a decent buffet with unlimited drinks in Manila or even in Budapest. But of course, one must have perspective. The place was recognized as gourmet among locals. I also remembered that a serving of five fine rings of calamares in a 5-star hotel in Manila cost €5.

I do amaze myself at the lengths of rationalizing I go to in order to justify my spending. The ROI I’ll get out of this is the lifetime right to arch my left eyebrow at someone annoying who claims to have spent so much money on a paltry dish and say “Yes… but have you paid €14 for anchovies and €17 for calamares?”

After that, I went to the grocery store and bought milk, bread, biscuits, juices, and grapes so that I would not have to spend so much on meals anymore. But, I did have afternoon tea at the Ritz Madrid – something I just had to do.

When I just had three days left in Madrid, I moved to a hostel because my first hotel could no longer extend my stay. At the hostel, I roomed with Diego, an electronic engineer from Ecuador. I discovered he had not really gone around Madrid yet, except for some museums. We decided to go sightseeing together.

The following day, we went back to my former neighborhood. We walked through Plaza del Sol, saw the Opera House, walked around outside the royal palace, and went to an old records store that sold vinyl records and VHS tapes from the 90’s. I felt really old while looking at 90’s music being marketed as vintage.

Tabla de diez quesos tapas
Tabla diez quesos tapas

I convinced Diego to go to Mercado de San Miguel. It was really convenient to have a Spanish-speaker on hand. I wanted to have cheese and he also decided to have some. He spoke to the seller and translated for me. “Do you want to have mild, medium, or strong cheese?” he asked me. “Tell the guy I want one of each”. I got ten types of cheeses. Diego also had some tapas, which he enjoyed. Of course, we also had beer.

I also took him to Plaza Mayor and let him take photos. He was into photography and was really particular about the lighting conditions. Since he was also a book nerd, we went into an antique bookshop. He called my attention to a very heavy world almanac published in the 1930’s. It was very heavy and had thick pages. He looked up the chapter on Ecuador and pointed to a photo – “So this is what Quito(the Ecuadorian capital) looked like back then” he observed. He told me later that he went back to the antique bookshop and bought a book.

ComicUpon recommendation by a pretty girl that Diego chatted with at the antique bookshop, we went to La Central Bookstore. I looked at Spanish translations of popular fantasy and science fiction books while Diego pored over books about theoretical and quantum physics. He bought two books. Afterwards, we walked along Gran Via to Retiro Park, with Diego guiding the way using an actual map. I would have just taken the metro. From the park, we passed my Madrid’s community hall and exhibition center. There were some exhibits on display and admission was for free. There, I spent a considerable time trying to translate a comic strip with birds as characters. Diego was my task master – he determined whether my understanding of the story was not too far off. For dinner, I told him we should go to my diner. “Their food is of inconsistent quality. But since it’s dinner time, the manager will be there so there’s a good chance we’ll have a good meal”. “This is quite a long way to go for a restaurant with inconsistent food” Diego said as we trudged om Gran Via.

At the diner, I had paella and sautéed mushrooms. Diego was satisfied with his pizza. My last night in Madrid went well.

Some Related Posts:

A Series of Afternoon Teas

How Film Festivals and Anime Helped Me Survive Abroad

 

 

A Series of Afternoon Teas – The Raffles Grand Hotel d’ Angkor(Siem Reap) and The Majestic Hotel(Kuala Lumpur) Edition

The Raffles Grand Hotel d’ Angkor, Siem Reap

I flew into Siem Reap in the evening of October 30, 2018. I was going to attend the conference on “Globalising Your Practice: Opportunities and Challenges”, organized by the International Bar Association, LAWASIA, The Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia, and the European Lawyers’ Foundation, on November 1st. The flight I took was the only direct flight from Manila to Siem Reap that fit my schedule.

It was my second time in Cambodia so there was no pressure to go sightseeing. Instead, I slept in. About eight days earlier, I had returned from a two-week trip in Europe – a week of which was for the International Bar Association 2018 Annual Conference in Rome. After my return to Manila, I had to battle jetlag, work backlog, and deadlines before flying off to SIem Reap. My only itinerary for the day was to drop by Raffles Grand Hotel d’ Angkor, considered to be one of the best heritage hotels in the world.

I purposely woke up late and had a late breakfast, after which I took a nap. Around two in the afternoon, I left my hotel and walked about two kilometers to Raffles to work up an appetite for late lunch/afternoon tea.

Conservatory
The Conservatory

This sounds very cliché but stepping into the lobby of the hotel was like being transported back into another time. Even though the hotel was right smack in the midst of the commercial center of the city, its walls seemed to contain a different world. I asked where the Conservatory – where they served afternoon tea – and I was told it was right straight ahead.

The Conservatory had a view of the hotel’s pool. The atmosphere had a very colonial feel to it, made more palpable by the high ratio of white people whiling the afternoon away there. I took a seat near one of the windows to have a good vantage point from which to people-watch.

Raffles Tea
Raffles Local Khmer Tea

I asked for Raffles Local Khmer Tea(Street Stalls Selection:Local baguette, pork paté, pickled vegetables, coconut and spring onion rice pancakes with coconut sauce, fresh vegetable spring roll with lime and chili dressing. Sweet Selection: taro and sago coconut pudding, palm sugar and coconut dumpling, yellow bean cake. Ancient Traditions Selection: Glutinous roasted rice cake, slow cooked local banana with palm sugar caramel), instead of the traditional afternoon tea because, after all, I was in Cambodia. I paired the set with a Taste of Singapore Tea(“harmonious mix of Ceylon black tea, ginger mango and pineapple dices, passion fruit, and soursop flavoring). It was a very tropical afternoon tea.

The attention to detail was impeccable, which explained why it took some time to assemble and serve. Every morsel was placed on top a banana or palm leaf, moulded into small cups and held by pins. There were a lot of pins. Such attention demonstrates this hotel’s dedication to service.

Raffles Pool
Raffles Pool

Service was very warm and meticulous. Since I look Cambodian, the food attendants politely engaged me in conversation and in the process extracted information on where I was from and what I was doing in Cambodia. I may have also called to attention to myself as a lone diner who ordered a large meal and possibly being the youngest in that room. After discovering that I was Filipino, they also informed me that the front desk manager and the pianist, who plays during evenings, were also Filipino.

As I slowly gobbled up the pieces of food, the attendants occasionally checked on me if I needed anything. One of them asked me how the Khmer fare was compared to Philippine cuisine, and I said we use the same ingredients but use them differently. After tea, I walked on the balcony and decided to have a cocktail there.

Airavata
The Airavata

I ordered the hotel’s signature cocktail – the Airavata. Each Raffles hotel has its signature drink: Raffles Singapore has the world-famous Singaporean Sling, while Raffles Makati has the Makati Sling – which has gold flakes drizzled on it. “I’ve heard of the Makati Sling. Have you tried it?” asked the food attendant. “Yes, I have”, I replied. Maybe I should start a blog series on cocktails.

The Airavata( Rum, Malibu, Creme de Banane, Fresh Coconut Juice and Lime Juice) is described as a “refreshing cocktail x x x named after the mythical white elephant ridden by Indra, the Hindu King of Gods and Ruler of the Heavens. It’s told that once, Airavata sucked up water from the underworld and sprayed it into the clouds, which Indra then caused to rain forth as cool water for the earth”. It came in an elephant-shaped urn. For contrast, I was served fried green banana chips with pepper powder and fried sticky rice balls with paprika salt. I never knew that banana chips and pepper went so well.

The Filipino pianist, before starting his set, came by and introduced himself. We had a brief chat and discovered that we came from the same region in Mindanao and spoke the same dialect. Afterwards, I walked back to my hotel, slightly swaying and sweating heavily. Man, that was a strong cocktail.

The Majestic Hotel, Kuala Lumpur

Orchidarium
The Orchidarium

From Cambodia, I flew to Kuala Lumpur to visit a couple of friends who were a couple. On a lazy Sunday afternoon, my friend Kates, took me to The Majestic Hotel, also considered to be one of the best heritage hotels in the world. Kates tried to reserve a spot inside the hotel’s Orchidarium – a room filled with rows of orchids, a fancy greenhouse so to speak – but it was already fully booked.

“They offered me a spot in the Drawing Room instead” Kates said. “I’ve never been inside although I’ve seen it from the outside”. The Drawing Room felt very British, which makes sense because Malaysia used to be a British colony. We were seated near the window with a view of the lawn, where a small group of people were having a party while accompanied by two people playing a violin and a cello. They even had balloons.

Drawing Room
The Drawing Room

A group of Chinese ladies were already having their tea and were whispering and giggling. “I think I may be the only guy here” I observed. A little while later, a couple came in. “I think they are on a date” Kates noted.

We had the Traditional Afternoon Tea Set (Lemon Tart, Raspberry Tart, Chocolate Ganache, Eclair, Strawberries and Cream, Sandwiches- Salmon, Chicken, Turkey) which we paired with Darjeeling Tea. There was also a Box of Savouries(Seafood Bun, Chicken Roll, and Chicken Pie). I think our set perfectly matched the colonial atmosphere of the Drawing Room. The dark wood paneling and heavy curtains encouraged one to whisper, which Kates and I tried to do. But, as people from the Visayas and Mindanao, respectively, our voices were naturally louder.

Majestic Box of Savouries
Box of Savouries

“These are the largest scones I’ve seen so far” I said. I was used to perfectly cut and shaped scones. “Really? I thought these were normal” Kates replied. The food attendant, dressed in all white sailor-type long-sleeved shirt and pants ensemble, who was assigned to us, occasionally checked if our cups needed refilling and if dishes needed to be taken away. We were entitled to two refills of hot water and after that we had to order another pot. Since we were tea guzzlers, we asked for a refill. I appreciated the service given to us – unobtrusive but attentive.   The portions were quite generous and despite our considerable appetite, we could not finish everything.

We would have wanted to sit around more and ask for another refill but the sky was turning dark. After tea, we went off to look at colonialist architecture in Kuala Lumpur’s heritage area.

Majestic Tea
Traditional Afternoon Tea Set

 

 

 

 

 

Other afternoon tea experiences are here:

A Series of Afternoon Teas

 

 

 

Yes, Omelettes

The first thing I ever learned to cook was an omelette.

One afternoon, I came home from school hungry. I was in first grade, between five to six years old. Usually, I helped myself to left over rice and some cold meat or fish dish from lunch. Sometimes, I would drizzle some leftover cooking oil, used to fry pork, over some rice and use a dash of soy sauce.  But that particular afternoon, there was only rice. I wanted scrambled eggs (omelette was a word I learned when I was much older).

I’ve seen the grown-ups crack an egg into a bowl, whisk it , and add a pinch of salt. I also remembered how low the fire was on the stove and that it was important to let the cooking oil heat up slowly so that the egg won’t stick to the pan. The scrambled egg should be poured into the pan slowly and evenly.

So, there I was, standing on a stool, holding a large lid like a shield against the sputtering hot oil, and prodding the omelette with an aluminum frying spatula. To prevent the egg from overcooking, I turned off the stove and clumsily transferred the omelette to a plate. I managed to feed myself that day and for many years after that. Sad to say, my cooking skills has never improved from that point. I chalk it up to laziness and to availability of take-out food.

I like eggs. I eat it almost everyday. I don’t know about health risks but it’s my go to food wherever I am. I am particularly fond of the boxed meals at 7-11 and I’ve been known to patronize an eatery called Tapsilogan – they served everything with an egg – in Talamban, Cebu City throughout the four years I spent studying there.

In homage to the omelette, let me share with you some of the memorable ones I managed to record. Aren’t smartphones fantastic?

 

Sardine Omelette and Spinach and Mushroom Omelette

Cafe France MotherThis is my mom. I have this thing that I photograph people with the food that we are about to eat. She had the sardine omelette, Spanish sardines wrapped in scrambled eggs, while I had stir-fried spinach and mushroom wrapped in scrambled eggs.

We ate at Café France, formerly known as Delifrance. For years, I had my spinach and mushroom omelette at a branch just around the block. I usually opted eat it with wheat bread and chase everything down with brewed coffee. But a couple of months ago, that branch closed and I have yet to find a substitute provider for fluffy omelettes. For now, I’m subsisting on McDonald’s. Sad, I know.

 

 

Norwegian Salmon Omelette

Norwegian Salmon OmeletteIf I was feeling particularly posh, I’d get Café France’s Norwegian Salmon Omelette – basically smoked salmon on top of an omelette. Whenever I ordered this dish, it was to simultaneously satisfy my cravings for omelette and salmon.

 

 

 

 

Mubakar Ayam and Roti Sardin

In the first week of January 2014, my friend and I were in Penang, Malaysia. We explored Georgetown the night before and we woke up early to catch the bus back to Kuala Lumpur. On the way to the bus station, we decided to have breakfast at what may have been either a Bangladeshi or Nepalese eatery. We were given a breakfast menu, which had some items listed under the category “Eggs”. We gathered that “ayam” was Malaysian for chicken and “sardin” was, well, sardines. My friend, to be on the safe side, decided to have the Mubakar Ayam while I had the Roti Sardin.

Mubakar AyamMubakar Ayam came with a side of tomatoes and two dips: a very spicy red dip and some sort of chutney. The omelette itself had a slight hint of curry. Meanwhile, Roti Sardin was more like a cross between a pancake and an omelette mixed with sardines in tomato sauce with a hint of curry. As a kid, I’ve had scrambled eggs mixed with sardines in tomato sauce. I have never been fond of that combination but I found Roti Sardin interesting and proceeded to eat it all. I also ate my friend’s leftovers.
Roti Sardin

 

Omelette Complete paired with Chardonnay

 

Omelette CompleteDuring my first trip to Paris in 2014, I did the obligatory exploration of Montmarte. I had walked, or climbed, all the way up to Sacre Coeur and surreptitiously took photographs of the interiors. There were signs at the entrance of the church that informed tourists that photography was forbidden. There were also watchers inside the church that walked up to you if you attempted to snap a photo. I took photos by pretending to be devout. I clasped my hands around my phone and pretended to pray to all the statues and images. I also sat and knelt on the pews and clasped my hands to the heavens – actually at the glass murals.

After walking around Montmarte, I was hungry. Almost all of the cafes were full of tourists. I stumbled on a small brasserie and perused their afternoon menu. They served omelette for afternoon snack. I sat myself and asked for Omelette Complete. And to add a sense of occasion, I also ordered a glass of chardonnay.

The waiter asked me where I was from. “Philippines” I replied. “Are you from Manille?” he asked. “Yes, Manille” I said with a smile. “You from Philippines have very warm smiles” he said. “Merci beacoup” and I beamed like the tropical sun.

Omelette complete meant that it was served with a salad and a basket of baguettes.  Apparently, I was eating and drinking with such relish that a couple of passers-by commented “Bon appetit!”.

 

Omelette Nature

Omelette NatureI was staying at a hotel near the Rome Metro Station in Paris. On my street, there was an Asian restaurant, a small sandwich shop, and a brasserie where locals get their morning café. As much as I enjoyed baguette sandwiches, I was craving for something warm during a cool spring morning. I decided to check out the brasserie.

At the door, the morning’s selections were written on a blackboard. I took note of omelette nature, thinking it was an omelette with vegetables – I surmised that “nature” must have had something to do with plants. It turned out that “nature” meant plain. But, man it was tasty. It was lightly flavored with salt to bring out its natural flavor. I did not know that an omelette could taste so purely of egg. It was very fluffy and it must have been fried in butter. Anyway, it was not cheap. It cost me ten euros.

 

 

Penang Omelette

Penang OmeletteI was in Singapore with my mom sometime in March 2015. I was attending a conference organized by the International Bar Association. I was looking for something to eat at Bugis SMRT Station one evening and “Penang Omelette” caught my eye. Turns out it was an oyster omelette with three dips: vinegar, soy sauce, and hot sauce.

I’ve had oyster omelettes before but they were usually drowned in scrambled eggs and bamboo shoots. Not a lot of people I know like oyster omelettes – most find it gross. I love oysters, so an oyster omelette makes sense. What makes this particular oyster omelette memorable is that the binder is just the egg, no flour or vegetables. You can actually taste the fried oysters.   The dips also enhanced the oyster flavor.

 

 

Scrambled Eggs and Sausage at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong

Mandarin OrientalSometime in November 2016, I had breakfast with a friend at Café Causette, Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong. It was my treat and we shared the Mandarin Breakfast Set – Belgian Waffles with Strawberries, a small fruit platter, a pot of tea, scrambled eggs and sausages.

It is the most expensive breakfast I’ve had so far and cost me USD60. Yes, we could have had breakfast anywhere else but we wanted to break fast in style. And, dahlings, I earned the right to say “Yes, I’ve had breakfast at Mandarin Oriental”.

 

 

Roasted Bone Marrow Rice Bowl

Bone MarrowI went to Bonifacio Global City to use my voucher for a diamond peel. At that time, Sunnies Café had just opened.  WIth my face newly-smoothened, I dropped in at Sunnies and ordered Roasted Bone Marrow Rice Bowl(Sous Vide Hanger Steak Rice with Bone Marrow Omelette) and paired it with Sunnies Bday(gin, hibiscus syrup, lemon juice, basil).

It was a bowl packed with cholesterol. Bone marrow has a delicate taste and putting it on top of an omelette highlights its flavor.

 

 

Budapest Reggeli

BudapestI was having breakfast in Budapest with a friend who flew in from Ukraine. I took him to Anna Café in front of the Grand Market. I’ve had breakfast there in my previous visit to Budapest and you can have breakfast the whole day. It’s a nice café.

I had the Budapest reggeli(Budapest breakfast: eggs, bacon, Hungarian sausage, leek, vegetables). I thought it was going be served on a breakfast tray but it turned out to be an omelette. Really heavy breakfast but it powered me for most of the day.

 

Market Breakfast

Market BreakfastOn my second to the last day in Washington D.C., I had breakfast at Dupont Grill House, right at the edge of Dupont Circle. An Indian friend wanted to have breakfast there but he left before we could try it. To annoy him, I decided to go and brag about it on social media.

I ordered the Market Breakfast(Sausages, smoked bacon, free range eggs, homemade hash browns, fried tomatoes, rye toast). The yellow cup-shaped mound in the middle? Those are scrambled eggs, not rice.

 

 

Scrambled Eggs with Unlimited Moet Champagne

Emirates LoungeI’ve flown enough number of times that I’ve gained access to the Emirates Business Class Lounges in Dubai. How long I’m going to continue to have access, I don’t know. I’m not made of money.

Every time I transit in Dubai, I always eat scrambled eggs and smoked salmon and drink all the Moet champagne that I could. You could say I’m sloshed whenever I’m in the business class lounges.  They also have very high-tech coffee machines that produce good coffee. And a good selection of salads, too.

 

 

Yeah, I know I should really get a life instead of compiling the omelettes I’ve eaten.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Series of Afternoon Teas

I think it was because of Downton Abbey that I was obsessed with having proper tea. I used to call it high tea but a friend in Hong Kong who spent her childhood in the United Kingdom declared:”It’s not high tea! It’s just afternoon tea!”. And it turns out I’m quite partial to them as evidenced by my Facebook posts reproduced below:

Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong

This was originally posted on May 17, 2013.

The PenHigh Tea Set. My caption”Minsan sa buhay, may mga karanasan na dapat mong namnamin. Huwag mong isipin kung ano ang halaga o ano ang kapalit. Ang maranasan mo lang ito ang mahalaga. Bahala na ang bukas, mas mahalaga ang ngayon(Sometimes in life, there are experiences that you should relish. Don’t think about how much it costs or what you should give in return. The experience is the important thing. Don’t worry about tomorrow, today is more precious)” 

This was my first foray into five-star dining. I was told that afternoon tea at The Pen is a must for a visitor in Hong Kong. So instead of going sightseeing, I put on the clothes I brought for the occasion – a short-sleeved barong-inspired shirt and khaki pants with brown leather shoes, which I took the time to polish.

On entering the fabulous lobby with its checkered floor, I was told that the queue for the afternoon tea was behind the wall. To be precise, it snaked behind the wall and past the shops for Cartier, Ralph Lauren, and Louis Vuitton. The queue was long because it was a holiday, and apparently, families and friends meet up for afternoon tea on such days. My shirt received curious looks from the ladies.

After more than an hour, I was finally seated on a table good for four. Families and groups gave me cursory glances as I consumed the delicious pastries and chugged the tea.  Service was fantastic – it was like being served by ninjas. One time, I was concentrating on putting jam on my scone and when I looked up, the empty saucers and cups were gone and my water glass was refilled.

The Pen has been my standard ever since.

 

The Peninsula Hotel Manila

 

This was originally posted on January 16, 2016.

Pen Manila 2High Tea Set with Bourbon Vanilla Tea. My caption:  “Tsaa sa hapon kasama ang mga Tita ng Maynila(Afternoon tea with the Aunts of Manila) ”
It was an afternoon of catching up with friends whom I haven’t seen in a long time and both of them love tea and pastries. Okay, we like playing tea party.

 

Conrad Hotel Manila

This was originally posted on January 8, 2017

ConradMy caption:” Afternoon Tea Set: Unique(Sweet: Semolina cremeux with spiced oranges, Mango-white chocolate soup in a taste tube, Organic Felchlin chocolate, Walnut and green tea scones with clotted cream and jam. Savoury: Sustainable tuna “sisig style”, Ceviche of lapu-lapu, Mango-coriander dip, Watermelon and Serrano ham, Beetroot, blueberries and pistachio, Rolled finger sandwiches(filled with cheese and authentic prosciutto).

The tea chest, with drawers keeping the sandwiches and scones, makes being a host/ess very effortless.

All paired with Citron Green Tea.”

 

It was an afternoon with a friend. The skies were cloudy but we still decided to have our tea on the couches on the balcony of the hotel’s C Lounge. We just talked and ate through the set because we did not have lunch. After eating through the first set, we were still hungry so we ordered the Conrad 2The Traditional Afternoon Tea Set(or shall I say “Chest”). Sweet: Felchlin chocolate praline, Pavé espuma, Opera cake, Ube macaroon with paint, Eclair vanilla, Nuts tartelettes, Scones with clotted cream, lemon curd and jam. Savory: Finger sandwiches, cucumber, salmon, cream cheese, and Serrano ham. Paired with White Vanilla Grapefruit Tea

We had a hard time finishing the second set so we stayed on. We had time to kill. By the time we ate the last finger sandwich, the famed Manila Bay sunset was upon us. We decided to have cocktails and watch the skies turn to hues of purple and gold.

 

Shangri-la at The Fort, Manila

This was originally posted on July 10, 2016.

The FortMy caption: “Glass of Blood(Havana Club 7 years rum, Massenez blackberry liqueur, Dolin rouge vermouth, cranberry, cherry bitters) – one of the many signature drinks of the newly opened High Street Lounge, Shangri-la at The Fort. In the background is the High Tea Selection, featuring scrambled eggs with caviar.”

I had just attended a christening in which I was a godfather of the baby. After the reception, I decided to drop by the latest Shangri-La hotel in the Philippines(three in Manila, one in Boracay, and one in Cebu – all five are included in the top ten hotels in the country). I hitched a short ride in a co-worker’s car with four other people.

As they were dropping me off, all of them decided to have a look as well and make inquiries about accommodations. While I was taking note of the understated and zen-inspired interiors of the lobby, my companions caught up with me and started following me around. “Aren’t you guys supposed to be going somewhere else?” I asked as I headed towards the High Street Lounge. “Nah, we’ll just have a look around as well”.

At the lounge, they decided to sit with me as I ordered my cocktail. My original plan was to have a drink by myself. The food attendant informed us that they were having a promotional rate for their afternoon tea selections. My companions decided to order a set. I ended up drinking alcohol and having tea at the same time.

 

The Ritz-Carlton, Budapest

This was originally posted on March 16, 2017.

Ritz Carlton“Afternoon Tea Selection of the Ritz-Carlton(Royal Ocoa Chocolate Cake, Framboise Cake, Hungarian Poppy Seed Macaroon, Apricot Macaroon, Caramel Cupcake, Lemon Merengue Tart, Smoked Salmon Croissant, Cucumber Cream Cheese, Foie Gras Mousse and Dry Fruit Chutney) plus an assorted selection of Chinese tea, of which the experts in the tea party greatly approve.”

My classmates in a master’s program I was taking at the time , well the ladies – two Chinese, one German, and an American, decided to have afternoon tea as a means to bond and hang-out. We invited the guys but they declined. One said to me it was too girly. The conversation was mostly about how hard it is to be a woman working in a lawfirm. I mostly kept mum and sipped my tea.

The lobby lounge was fabulous and the guy serving us, whom the girls thought was very cute, was very knowledgeable about the tea. The Chinese girls were impressed. There was a lot of giggling and we did not care because we were the only ones there.

The Ritz Madrid

This was originally posted on January 3, 2018.

Afternoon Tea SetRitz Madrid with Strawberry Preserves and (proper) Clotted Cream paired with Golden Ritz 50 years Pu-Erh Red Tea

Yes, I am having tea at the Ritz Madrid at the moment. Of course, I’m bragging about it! Also, in hommage to Mariah Carey, I’ve got to have a sip of tea otherwise it would be a disaster.

I brought a coat, dress pants, a long-sleeved shirt, leather shoes, and a tie for this purpose. I was a tad overdressed (later on took off the tie) but I did get very fast and attentive service even though I had no reservation. The locals also dressed for their tea and the tourists stood out in their casual wear. I made the effort to dress appropriately as a sign of respect for one of the three “real” Ritz Hotels in the world.

“We’ll, set up a table for you right away!” exclaimed the maitre’d. There is indeed power in appropriate dressing.

I also channeled my inner Meryl Streep to act very casually in an elegant setting. Show a hint of hesitation or a flicker of fear and the facade is broken. Strain too much and you’ll be revealed as coarse.

As a practiced social climber, I did not ask how much everything was but drew my confidence from the knowledge that my two credit cards will answer for everything. It also helped me give my order with conviction. Live in the now, it has been said.

Service is very efficient and unintrusive. One flicker of your hand and a member of the staff will appear beside you. Even if you are just staring into space, any one of them will check if you’re alright or need anything.

Someone’s playing on the piano, so I’ll just soak in the ambiance for a while.

Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon

This was originally posted on January 8, 2018.

Lisbon TeaLisbon Afternoon Tea Set(Macaron with Spices, Pastel de Nata(Portuguese egg custard tart), Queljada de Sintra(fresh cheese and almond Tartelette), Pastel de Feijäo(Bean Tartelette), Almond and Blueberry Tartelette, with Strawberry Jam and Mascarpone with Lime on the side.

The tea is Gorreana Orange Pekoe Black Tea, a Portuguese tea(one of the best teas in the world according to the very attentive maitre’d)

As expected, service was excellent and I got the best couch in the lounge with a view! The maitre’d was particularly pleased that I enjoyed myself and made the effort of checking on me every once in a while.

Belated Happy Birthday to me. Today is the first day of my nth year on this planet.

 

EDSA Shangri-la Manila

 

This was originally posted on July 14, 2018.

ShangrilaMy caption: “Afternoon Tea Set(A selection of warm scones served with coconut jam, clotted cream, and fresh butter. Ham and cheese mini-sandwiches. Grilled chicken satay skewers. Dark forest cream in a goblet, walnut cake with cream cheese icing, dark chocolate tart with a splash of gold, thin dark and white chocolate sandwich with dark chocolate filling, white chocolate eclair. Almond and lychee tea)

I can’t decide if this is a very late lunch or very early dinner.”

 

Before swallowing these, I had been rolling in the ball pit at Kidzoona while attending a kid’s birthday party. I also managed to knee a toddler or two. After eating, I wandered around Shangri-La Mall for an hour before using my spa voucher to avail of the villa facilities at The Spa. I rarely go to the Ortigas area so I plotted my schedule and finances a couple of weeks before the date.

More afternoon teas here:

A Series of Afternoon Teas – Raffles Grand Hotel D’ Angkor and Majestic Hotel Edition