First published on 4 Apr 2012. Updated on 4 Jul 2013.
From classic afternoon tea at The Peninsula hotel to a gorgeous Chinese version at Maison de l'Hui, Shanghai doesn't lack for afternoon tea options. Time Out put them to the test
How much 68RMB/person
When 2.30-5pm daily
Where Nestled beside a lily pond in green Jingan Park, this Southeast Asian restaurant has one of the loveliest natural locations in the CBD.
What you get A soft drink, juice or coffee plus your choice of two miniature appetisers from a list of mostly deep-fried foods like shrimp spring rolls, and two desserts including a bite-sized banana cake. Service is passable when you can get it, but staff clearly lack management.
Verdict Though the offerings are uninspired, this is a price we’re willing to pay to sit by this lotus-covered pond in the shade of a white umbrella and watch the busy Shanghai park goers among the weeping willows and pine trees.
Bali Laguna 189 Huashan Lu, near Yanan Lu, See address details
How much 218RMB for two people, including service charge
When 2.30-5pm daily
Where The Palm Court lobby lounge of this 1930s Art Deco boutique hotel.
What you get A three-tier stand of pastries by talented pastry chef Kent Liu, previously of the Shangri-La Singapore and The St. Regis Shanghai. Liu’s English scones with clotted cream and jam are masterful, as are the maple eclairs, strawberry macarons and more. The additional plate of open finger sandwiches is lacklustre in comparison. Also included are tea or coffee and a glass of sparkling wine for each guest.
Verdict This is a remarkable deal for a generous spread of scrumptious pastries plus drinks. Our only quibble is the lobby lounge feels a bit like a public hallway. If you request nicely, you might be seated upstairs in the plush and more private second level.
The Langham Boutique Hotel 740 Hankou Lu, near Yunnan Zhong Lu. See address details
How much 128RMB/person plus 10 per cent service charge
When 2-5pm daily
Where A magnificent and imposing three-story mansion once owned by Shanghai’s most infamous gangster Du Yuesheng.
What you get A three-tier stand of some of the most exquisite Chinese dainties we’ve tasted, from walnut pastry to steamed red date cake. The silken almond custard and luscious mango pudding are truly stellar. You also get a choice of tea or coffee.
Verdict This is an exceptional setting for a meal, and during the afternoons there’s nary a soul here so you get an entire mansion to yourself. On a fine day, take the third floor terrace, on a rainy one, a grand private room.
Masion de L'Hui 168 Julu Lu, near Chengdu Nan Lu.See address details
How much 128RMB/person plus ten per cent service charge
When 2-5pm daily
Where Three on the Bund’s casual top-floor eatery with its wide outdoor terrace and that postcard-perfect Pudong skyline.
What you get A cake stand is sadly absent. Rather, tea is served on two plates (one savoury, one sweet) with a choice of tea or coffee. Executive chef Dalia Florence’s French roots are felt throughout, from the mini baguette with sheets of Parma ham, olives and a sprig of rocket, to the mimosa (a traditional Italian sandwich) with crushed eggs, frisée and truffle. A raisin scone also gets the French treatment, served with Chantilly cream and mixed berry compote.
Verdict Not one for traditionalists, but this tea is great value considering the location and the delicious nibbles.
New Heights Seventh Floor, Three on the Bund, 17 Guangdong Lu, near Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu. See address details
How much 210RMB/person plus 15 per cent service charge
When 2-6pm daily
Where The Living Room on the 87th floor lobby of the second-highest hotel in the world. Some tables have views that look out over the top of the Jinmao Tower, so book a window seat.
What you get A two-tier stand accompanied by an elegant china tea set painted with poppy heads. You can choose tea, coffee or one of the fresh juice blends. Savouries include a house-smoked salmon sandwich with Boursin on laugen bread and a mini gammon and brie panini. The sweets have French accents, with an orange cream financier, Cassis macaron and moist cannelé.
Verdict A delectable tea with jawdropping views – and it’s not ridiculously expensive. This is where we bring our favourite visitors if we want to impress.
The Park Hyatt Shanghai World Financial Center, 100 Century Avenue See address details
How much 396RMB for two people plus 15 per cent service charge
When 2.30-5.30pm daily
Where The dark, authentic Art Deco Jasmine Lounge at the back of the hotel, which is busy most afternoons.
What you get The plate of six savoury items – think barbecue pork puffs, egg sandwiches and shrimp quiche – seems almost tokenistic compared to the three-tier stand of sweets – scones, macarons, madeleines, petit fours, a berry compote, an Opera cake and a lemon tart.
Verdict There’s no arguing with the quality – but this is definitely one for those with a sweet tooth.
Fairmont Peace Hotel 20 Nanjing Dong Lu, near Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu See address details
How much 250RMB/person (340RMB with Champagne) plus 15 per cent service charge
When 2-6pm daily
Where The tinkling of a live piano wafts through The Peninsula’s light-filled Art Deco lobby at high tea time – a place to see and be seen.
What you get Lovingly presented across three tiers and in elegant silver and porcelain, this is afternoon tea with exquisite attention to detail. Savouries include a bite-sized mushroom and truffle quiche, a cucumber sandwich presented as a sushi roll, and a layered smoked salmon sandwich sprinkled with capers. Two types of scone are served with clotted cream, strawberry jam and lemon curd, while a mini cheesecake and a so-moist-it-melts raspberry macaron compete for our favourite sweet.
Verdict With its opulent Art Deco setting, stunning eats and near-perfect service, The Peninsula offers the quintessential Shanghai afternoon tea.
The Peninsula 32 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, near Beijing Dong Lu See address details
How much 98RMB/two people
When 2-4.30pm Mon-Fri
Where The popular Cantonese restaurant set on the verdant grounds of Dingxiang Gardens.
What you get There are three sets to choose from, all offering dim sum dishes and soup plus a milk tea or coffee for each guest. The shrimp dumplings are tasty and plump but a bit oversteamed, while the fruit salad comes squiggled with mayonnaise unless you request otherwise. Long boiled duck soup is good and the black pepper beef ribs are chewy and juicy.
Verdict Though the food is only decent, the very friendly service and lovely natural setting make this affordable tea worthwhile. From the floor-to-ceiling window you look out on green lawn, a pond with pagoda and scholar’s rocks, spreading magnolias and tile-roofed villas.
Shen Yue Xuan 849 Huashan Lu, near Wukang Lu. See address details
How much 338RMB/person plus 15 per cent service charge
When 2-6pm daily
Where The Waldorf’s intimate first floor Salon de Ville – the ‘news room’ of the Shanghai Club of old – is now clustered with Baroque furniture, gilt-framed oil paintings and draped in red velvet curtains.
What you get A three-tier stand crowded with delicate morsels. The highlight of the bottom plate, which includes a mini quiche, curry puff and salmon cream cheese roll, is the delicate cucumber sandwich (sans crusts), which comes with a slice of tomato and topped with an asparagus spear. Buttery scones are served with two types of cream – mascarpone or clotted – and homemade strawberry jam. Of the sweets, the Waldorf’s signature Red Velvet cupcake is slightly dry, and is outshone by a mini custard tartlet that’s topped with fresh blueberries.
Verdict An afternoon tea worthy of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novella. The grand Bund setting, discreet-yet-omnipresent service and moreish eats makes this one of the best teas in town.
Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund 2 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, near Guangdong Lu See address details
How much 168RMB/person plus 10 per cent service charge
When 2-5.30pm daily
Where The historic villa which was once the British Consulate, now painstakingly and opulently decorated by the eccentric and talented restauranteur, designer and antique collector Wang Xingzheng.
What you get A plate of sugar cookies apparently direct from the can, a small slice of cake and tea. Service is a shambles.
Verdict A crying shame. This is one of the most extraordinary villas and gardens in the French Concession. If this place had a good chef and manager, there would be a waiting list. As it is, it’s mostly empty. It’s more than worth a visit to tour the grounds, but there’s little reason to sit down.
Yongfoo Elite 2 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, near Guangdong Lu. See address details