Come December, The Lobby at the Peninsula lifts itself from the pages of lore and transforms into a living incarnation of every Christmas movie you ever loved: a storied hotel, a thousand glowing lights, a mountainous evergreen tinseled and dressed. To gild the lily is to take something lovely and drench it in gold, and you would think that a space that inspires hour-long queues during the other eleven-twelfths of the year would be magnificent enough—but, well, then you see The Lobby bedecked in holiday spirit, and you decide that enough maybe wasn’t enough after all.
I’m normally skeptical of high teas, which seem all panache and no substance. (My friend Scott, who is obsessed with them, cites this as evidence that I will never be a society lady.) And even at my most slippery, I would be lucky to convince anyone that the Peninsula does not play up the spectacle. But once in a while, I, too, aspire to faux-upper-crust status, and I will brave the tourists and the eyerolls for the chance to feel elite.
Kerri and Linda were kind enough to entertain my pretensions, and I’m glad they are patient people. We spent five hours at tea. The most extravagant tasting menus can be finished in less time. It’s been over a year since we went, and I still have not asked them if they regret the decision.
That said—if you happen to be in Hong Kong at Christmastime, do drop into the Peninsula. If you have the time, do stay from afternoon to dusk, and watch the sky dye itself violet-black. The evergreen tree and the strings of lights sparkle irresistibly against the dark, and for a moment, the magic of every kitschy Christmas movie is real.
The flagship Peninsula Hotel, dating from 1928, evokes a colonial nostalgia most exemplified by its afternoon tea. Guests at the hotel may place a reservation, but The Lobby is open to visitors who queue up for seats. Tea and scones with clotted cream and jam are the most noteworthy parts of the set, which also includes savory sandwiches and miniature cakes. The food may not be spectacular, but the setting undeniably is.
The Peninsula Hong Kong, Salisbury Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Mon-Sun: 14:00-18:00 (afternoon tea)
Around 390 HKD per person (excluding drinks)