Last Updated: September 27, 2017
An indulgent affair like high tea calls for an equally exquisite locale, and few amaze quite like Marina Bay Sands.
Likewise, no high tea set or buffet is ever complete without scones and tea, so it’s a good thing Renku Bar and Lounge – which rests within the hotel lobby of Tower 1 – does both beautifully with their enticing High Tea Set ($48++ on weekdays, $53++ on weekends).
Nestled within high, curving wooden walls, Renku Bar and Lounge exudes sophistication and elegance. High-backed armchairs dot the lounge, amidst cosy clusters of comfortable, slump-worthy chairs.
What immediately stood out was the tea service. For a die-hard Harry Potter fan like me, the tea service cart brought to mind the cheery lady touting her trolley of snacks on the Hogwarts Express. And like Harry Potter’s magical world, Renku’s tea service is truly enchanting.
Julie was the tea master of the day, and you could say that brewing is her special-tea. Her cheery disposition is just as striking as her tea knowledge — ask her for recommendations on tea pairings, and she’ll be quick to point out complementary tea blends.
I tried a total of six different tea blends — and that’s not even half of their tea selection! Except for the two tea blends exclusive to Marina Bay Sands, all the tea blends are provided by a local tea company, ETTE Tea. Some advice: pick your blends wisely and trust the recommendations, because some tea blends go better with savoury bites, and some don’t.
I tried Marina Pearls, which is one of the two tea blends exclusive to Marina Bay Sands. A green tea blend infused with a lovely jasmine fragrance, this light floral tea instantly captured my fancy. What can I say; I’m a floral tea kind of girl. I only realised belatedly that this tea, as light as it was on the palate, would go wonderfully with the sweet desserts at the end of the high tea.
Another notable tea blend is the Durian Lapis, exclusive to Marina Bay Sands. The name immediately intrigued me — how could something as rich and heavy as durian be incorporated into tea? The answer: very subtly.
With spices like cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg, this uniquely Singaporean tea blend hits your palate like a less intense version of Masala Chai. What really sets it apart is the subtle durian fragrance that arises from the freeze-dried durian pieces mixed into the tea blend.
Did I mention that Renku allows you to customise your own tea blend too? You get to choose the tea base (black, green or white), and the herbs or flowers you want to add in. Being the basic floral b*tch that I am, I went for a white tea base and added jasmine and rose.
I was very impressed by their service at this point. Having run out of jasmine flowers, they actually went to get more from the herb garden so that I could have my floral tea. Dedication indeed!
Also, I really loved the name of the tea blend. Merah Putih literally translates to “red white”, and you could even say the blend of the two forms a pleasantly pink hue. Light on the palate, this tea blend smelt like a romantic bouquet, and sipping on the tea conjured images of strolls through Botanic Gardens on a breezy afternoon.
Like I said, no high tea set is complete without scones, and Renku’s scones are to die for. Warm and fluffy, these golden pastries come with a crispy, glazed top layer. Biting into one of these buttery goodies is sure to transport you to the cobbled streets of England.
Initially, I was sceptical — having reached the pinnacle of scone-dom in York, I didn’t believe that any other scones in Singapore could compare. Renku’s interpretation of the classic British scone, however, was light on the palate but beautifully soft and crumbly.
Served with clotted cream, strawberry preserve and the restaurant’s special orange butter, these scones are truly the ultimate teatime treat.
With a consistency closer to whipped cream, the clotted cream lifts the scone’s buttery taste. But the highlight is definitely the orange butter. Sprinkled with freshly grated orange peel, this spread adds a refreshingly bittersweet tinge to the scones. You’ll surely go back for seconds!
For some reason, miniature food always gets my attention. Finger sandwiches are a delight to my senses, especially with flavours as intriguing as truffle egg or tuna and olives. Renku’s high tea offers a spread of finger sandwiches which varies daily. I tried four from the list – Truffle Egg Salad, Prawn Avocado with Tobiko Aioli, Black Forest Ham with Honey Mustard, and Albacore Tuna with Olive Tapenade.
If I had to choose (and this was a hard decision to make), I would pick the Prawn Avocado with Tobiko Aioli as my favourite.
The avocado complements the prawn paste perfectly, bringing the creamy texture to new heights. At the same time, the tobiko surprises you with briny goodness popping in every bite. The clean taste of the avocado grows stronger if you chew for longer, which I didn’t quite get in my first bite because I admittedly (and over-eagerly) swallowed everything too quickly.
The Truffle Egg Salad is another combination that caught my attention.
The truffle fragrance was a tad too strong, to begin with, although it might have been because I didn’t expect such an authentic, strong truffle taste. Take your time chewing on this; you’ll definitely wanna savour this as the egg and truffle flavours blend together. The cucumbers also add a refreshing crunch to this rich sandwich.
As delectable as the finger sandwiches are, you’d be wise to pace yourself and not overeat, because there is still a ton of sweet desserts to enjoy.
From chocolate bonbons to cakes, Renku’s dessert tray can be overwhelming even for a sweet tooth. Where would you even start?
For me, the Dark Chocolate Dipped Candied Orange & Lemon Peel proved to be a wise choice. Slightly bitter and tart, this helped to prepare my palate for the impending sugar rush.
The Salted Caramel chocolate bonbon comes with a caramel fudge centre that can be overwhelmingly sweet. Luckily, the salt undercuts this sweetness. The Peach Tea variant is more balanced, with a burst of peach tea flavour from its liquid core.
The Almond Pecan Cake is equally arresting in its fragrance; the cake base is surprisingly moist, with a marzipan-like flavour. I especially enjoyed the nutty crunch from the whole pecan nut atop the cake.
Finally, the Coconut Congolais takes the cake — it’s both crunchy and chewy, and sinking your teeth into it guarantees a mouthful of moist coconut flakes. The coconut fragrance even lingers long after you’ve washed the caramelised taste from your palate.
At this point in the buffet, I was already quite saturated with sweets, so the Mochi made for a good break from the rich and decadent flavours.
Mildly sweet, the red bean paste was speckled with actual red beans. The chewy outer layer even brought a complementary texture of sticky rice to the Japanese sweet.
Of the four cakes I tried, I especially enjoyed the Yuzu Cream Cheese Mille Feuille. The tart taste of the lemon jelly perfectly cut through any cloying sweetness, while the layers of puff pastry created a more noteworthy texture. The flaky layers even added a bit of crunch to the soft, creamy cake.
With such a diverse spread of savoury sandwiches and delectable desserts, Renku’s high tea is one dining affair that gets my raised pinky of approval. Besides, all those bespoke tea blends are simply irresis-tea-ible.
Expected Damage: $48++ – $53++ per pax