Wondering down the streets of Central, Hong Kong after our morning walk in the Mid-levels/Soho area, we were feeling a little hungry and could sit down somewhere for a pitstop. In between meals, we didn’t want something too heavy so high tea seemed like the perfect choice. There are many 5-star hotels dotted along the coastal stretch overlooking Victoria Harbour from Sheung Wan all the way to Causeway Bay. Since we just came out of H&M along Queen’s Road Central, it seem to make sense to head in the direction of Pedder Street to a place which I have on my “to-eat/do” list. We didn’t make reservations as high tea here isn’t part of the travel itinerary but we are here nonetheless to try our luck. Thankfully, it was a lazy weekday afternoon and there were empty tables available, though not very many. High Tea @ Le Salon De Thé de Joël Robuchon it seems destined to be…
Joël Robuchon is a name within the culinary scene which does not require much introduction. His line of restaurants, many of which of michelin-starred calibre is often regarded as the epitome of French haute cuisine. It it seems almost befitting to find him anchored in Bellavita, a shopping arcade right in the heart of the Xin Yi District, the prime shopping belt in Taipei. Despite having only 6 floors and obviously dwarfed by the neighbouring Taipei 101, Bellavita stood out prominently amidst the surrounding skyscrapers with its Edwardian architectural style. Dotted with exquisitely designed cafes and fine dining restaurants, its a common sight to find madame moseilles aka “tai tais” all dolled up in haute couture enjoying afternoon tea amidst alikened company. No wonder this place is known as 貴婦百貨 in Taiwanese. And indeed JR has found himself two establishments in Bellavita – Salon de Thé de Joël Robuchon and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. Donned in only bermudas and polos, we are obviously too shabbily dressed for the main restaurant. So it was to the tea salon to pick up some of their pastry creations.
This is the beginning of a series of reviews meant to be up much much later. Well, they really ought to have been done up long time ago. Life’s such an irony I know. Just earlier, I read an entry on someone’s visit to Pierre Herme in Paris and his take on the French pastry master’s macarons, analogising it to one of life’s many first times, those viriginal encounters which change one’s perspective of things and never to look back at the old ways again. That most certainly struck a chord which resonated deep within as I recall those precise moments, one of which was fairly recent. Not with Pierre Herme though, but at Sadaharu AOKI’s dessert boutique in Taipei last year.
We planned the trip way before the actual date, as we do with most of our overseas excursions, ensuring that our itineraries would allow us to maximise the experience with the minimal amount of time we had. Been to Taiwan for a number of times now, this was my first visit to experience the country’s pastisserie scene. We had a number of places in mind, from smaller and more local dessert shops and cafes, to international names like Joel Robuchon and Jean Paul Hevin’s joints which recently anchored in Taipei. However, top on our list were the two dessert salons by Sadaharu Aoki. As some of you already know, I’m a big fan of his work, with attempts to reconstruct some of his creations. But his pastries and desserts remain elusive and somewhat mysterous, with very little recipes in circulation. Even those which are going around the internet and even publications are somewhat dubious in terms of their genuinity. So this trip to Taipei was the perfect opportunity to experience firsthand how his masterpieces are like. And sampling we most certainly did. This would definitely go down as one of life’s many first times. Konnichiwa Aoki san, Hajimemashite, dozo yoroshiku onegaishimasu!