Afternoon Tea is perched on Sogo Zhongxiao’s second floor and overlooks Zhongxiao East Road — and the department store’s outdoor “It’s a Small World” clock, which is based on the popular Disneyland attraction and goes off with music and dancing dolls every hour. Fortunately, Afternoon Tea’s bay windows are soundproof and diners can enjoy their drinks and very sweet cakes and pastries in peace. The popular restaurant (we had to wait almost half an hour for seats on a Saturday afternoon) is as frilly as its fruit tarts, with rattan chairs, crystal chandeliers, flowers on each table and a giant mural of a cherry blossom filled garden.
I ordered an original apple pie (AT原創蘋果派, NT$150) and pot of hot caramel tea (焦糖, NT$120). Afternoon Tea’s version of apple pie is actually more like a layer cake, with slices of caramelized apples nestled in between syrup-soaked sponge cake and mounds of fluffy whipped cream. The confection sounds like it would be overwhelming sweet, but it is just right, with the whipped cream tempering the sweetness of the apples and cake. It paired very well with my pot of caramel tea, which is actually black tea with a hint of rich caramel aroma and not candy-like at all, even with sugar cubes and cream stirred in.
On a separate visit, my dining companion and I split a plate of spaghetti with tomato cream sauce, chicken and spinach (雞肉菠菜蕃茄奶油意大利麵, NT$210) from Afternoon Tea’s selection of pasta dishes. The savory chicken sausage was delicious, even though the price was a little high considering the rather dainty portion.
We selected our drinks, pineapple with honey jelly (黃金鳳梨薄菏伯爵冰, NT$150) and strawberry and raspberry julep tea (草莓覆盆莓伯爵茶凍, NT$160), because they were the most interesting looking selections on the refreshment menu. Both were so filled with jelly, fruit and cream, however, that they would have worked better as desserts instead of complements for our food. The tartness of each frozen pineapple chunk was lost in the honey-flavored jelly and juice; the strawberry and raspberry julep tea, which featured fresh fruit and berry syrup, was more refreshing, even though it had little in the way of actual tea.
If you are happy with your Afternoon Tea experience, you can take some of the restaurant’s atmosphere home with you by shopping in its relentlessly frou frou gift shop, Afternoon Tea Living. It is crammed with bone china tea sets, very flowery table linen, delicate glassware, Liberty-print bags, little silver spoons and other kitchen accoutrements, including handmade glass chopstick rests, decorated Pyrex measuring cups and a clever little plastic banana holder for people who are willing to spend NT$300 to avoid squished fruit.
Address: 2F, 45, Zhongxiao E Rd Sec 4, Taipei City (台北市忠孝東路四段45號2樓)
Telephone: (02) 8771-8417
Open: 11am to 9:30pm; closes at 10pm on weekends
Average meal: NT$350
Details: Chinese, English and Japanese menu; credit cards accepted
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