A Chic Twist: Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok's Elevated Afternoon Tea Experience

March 24, 2023

The ‘Afternoon Tea at the Library’ at Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok: the Premium Edition

I am surprised by an invitation to afternoon tea at the Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok; afternoon tea is not usually what the hip Kimpton does. But as I consider the invite, I am intrigued by the possibilities. The question is, are they reinventing the classic afternoon tea for the hip urbanista? But then again, the afternoon tea has already been ‘reinvented’ several times, so what exactly will the Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok bring to it? Questions that can only be answered after the experience.

To begin with, this all-new “Afternoon Tea” is at the Maa-Lai Library on the 30th floor. For those obsessed with heights, this must be the highest-elevation afternoon tea served in town, with panoramic views of the lush surrounding Langsuan greenery. The Library, I don’t spot any books, is a light-filled modern space with scattered seating, touches of colour and purple flowers (or should I say berrylicious in keeping with the surroundings?) in refreshingly casual bunches. The afternoon’s adventure is set around International Women’s Day, focusing on an interesting panel of women achievers – Google Thailand’s Country Director Jackie Wang among them.

But the focus of this feature is the afternoon tea, which can begin on an extravagant note with a glass of Champagne, if you like. I try the delicious lychee and lemon welcome cocktail instead. A server then asks me to choose my poison from two exclusive Monsoon tea blends: the floral Marigold blend, featuring notes of jasmine, rose, and marigold, and the fruity Peach blend, infused with refreshing peach and balanced with rose and jasmine. I go with peach, a decision I don’t regret.

The “Afternoon Tea at the Library” offers two distinct options, both servedin a whimsical wooden ‘book’: the Pocket Edition and the Premium Edition. I try the Premium Edition (THB 1,400++ per set for two people).

The ‘cover’ lifts to reveal the savouries, while a ‘drawer’ opens to showcase the sweets. The scones come in a caddy of their own; vanilla scones and the enticingly smoky chipotle ones cater to the purist and the adventurer. The scones are neither too dense nor too crumbly but have just the right amount of buttery moistness. Accompanying them is a zesty lemon curd, the velvety richness of Devonshire vanilla cream, a vibrant wild berry jam, and a blood orange marmalade. Each combination provides a dance of flavours. And I hit my first niggle: the scones deserve lashings of Devonshire cream, not an itty-bitty pot. It’s hard to be ladylike and ask for more cream!

Sadly, the traditional tea sandwich has once again been dispensed with, but I spot 28-month Jamon Iberico Pata Negra served on sourdough bread. It will just have to stand in for the ham sandwich – the jamon is rich with a melt-in-your-mouth texture perfectly elevated by the earthy sourdough bread with its subtle tang. The Canadian lobster ceviche combines morsels of tender lobster with crisp, refreshing green apple and crunchy celery – an imaginative medley of contrasting textures and flavours that lingers long after the last bite.

The Scotch quail eggs are a delightful gourmet twist on a classic favourite. This petite culinary gem, when paired with a tangy, creamy tartar sauce, offers an exquisite marriage of flavours and textures, elevating the humble egg to new heights.

To counter the savoury, the ‘book’ has an entire chapter on irresistible desserts. A zesty burst of lime perfectly balances the delightful crunch of pistachio-laden meringue tarts; the indulgent gianduja praline éclairs are divine with silky smooth filling encased in a delicate choux pastry; the rich, dark chocolate molten cake has a delicious molten core that seductively coats your tongue; the raspberry Ispahan macarons are a delightful dainty treat; the enticing mango and star anise crème brûlée offers an innovative twist on a classic dessert, pairing the velvety richness of the traditional custard base with the exotic sweetness of ripe mango and the warm, aromatic allure of star anise; and the daring chilli chocolate terrine offers bold flavours, marrying the velvety richness of dark chocolate with the exhilarating kick of chilli.

I alternate between sweet and savoury chapters. You need to, to balance the experience.

That brings me to that odd note: burrata in Italian pesto. It’s delicious, and the serving is generous, but I just don’t see it as ‘afternoon tea’. And my second niggle: the temperature of the tea. Ramp it up, guys. Let it match the heat you generate with the sweets and savouries.

Would I go back? Yes. Though I would make sure to ask for my tea ‘ron-mak-mak’. I also imagine having this tea at CRAFT, sitting outside on a Sunday afternoon. But then, that’s just me. Go check it out.

Book your experience HERE

Neetinder Dhillon
With over two and half decades in the media, The Front Row founder Neetinder Dhillon has plenty of stories to tell. As the former editor of several lifestyle, travel, inflight and B2B magazines, she has been in the front row keeping a close eye on news, trends and all things luxe. She subscribes to Pico Iyer’s concept of luxury: In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention.

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