The first thing we noticed upon arriving at the InterContinental Hong Kong in Kowloon was the string of Ferraris, Porches, and Bentleys filling the valet line. One might have assumed it was for a movie premiere or some other red carpet extravaganza, but it turns out that's just how they roll to afternoon tea here in the Hong Kong hotel's glitzy Lobby Lounge. Tea time in Hong Kong is a centuries-old custom, a pillar of social life – people like to see and be seen – and so is an absolute must-do during a visit. And what makes it especially interesting on a cultural level is that, as a former British colony, Hong Kong's version of high tea is a unique hybrid – English tradition with a Cantonese spin.
The InterContinental is a five-star luxury contemporary hotel and the recently remodeled Lobby Lounge here is suitably chic. The obvious draw are the enormous three-story curved windows that overlook Victoria Harbor and the Hong Kong Island skyline, making it a popular gathering place for upscale local clientele as well as the occasional in-the-know tourist. For high tea, visitors have the option of two service styles. The Western comes with a selection of sandwiches and French pastries, as well as warm English scones, Devonshire clotted cream, and Earl Grey jelly. The Chinese set comes with regional specialties like savory dim sum as well as sweets like goji berry madeleines. (We recommend the house specialty Calendula Beauty Tea, a light and aromatic blend of marigold flowers wrapped in jasmine tea leaves.) Both are served with the deft precision and high standards that Hong Kong is famous for (as well as an equally high price, at about $70 for two). While there's no official dress code, we'd recommend dressing to impress – a tailored suit wouldn't be a bad idea; this is Hong Kong, after all. [Service for two is about $70 U.S.; hongkong-ic.intercontinental.com]