Words: Patricia Podorsek Photos: Monica Tindall
Walking along Jalan Bukit Bintang is always a little like salmon spawning season: Hundreds of bodies rushing upstream and downstream, working hard to find food, find mates, really, in all good intent, fulfilling their destinies. It’s a little frenetic in its pace, and stepping into the soothing elegance of Starhill Gallery is always a welcome reprieve. And to have tea at Newens Tea House takes elegant indulgence to a new dimension entirely.
The only outlet in Southeast Asia, Newens has a unique history. The original Newens can be found in central London, a fixture of flair near the River Thames since 1860. They boast a recipe for “Maids of Honour” tarts that can be traced back to the garden of Henry VIII himself, and a tyrannical fit over the exceptional baking skills of the attendants of Wife #2, the infamous Anne Boleyn. I’ll let you learn the details yourself during your next visit. The story alone (and a taste of the tarts!) is worth a trip all by itself.
But to entice you even further, Newens is offering a special series of events in 2018, A Journey Through Tea. Their afternoon tea sets are pretty epic in their own right, but now each month will have a theme-based tea available daily from 2:30 – 5:30 pm, served tableside in their sumptuous high-backed chairs while tendrils of piano melodies curl around cushions and tables.
January’s designation is a Traditional English High Tea. Served on delicate china from a classic three-tier curate stand, we begin with the savories. Finger sandwiches of thick-cut smoked salmon, zesty pastrami and classic cucumber grace the lower plate and offer a bit of substance after a day at work.
To complement the snacks, freshly-brewed orange pekoe tea is poured, prepared according to strict time limits to avoid an overly bitter outcome. Bronze in color and grassy in aroma, these young tea buds offer a slightly sweet finish on the palate.
For the pastry course, fresh-baked scones are served with real Devon clotted cream and blueberry jam, always a favorite at teatime. The signature Maids of Honour tarts make an appearance, with the additional flourish of apple in one and chocolate in another. Prepare yourself for sweet, buttery, flaky goodness upon their arrival.
Lastly, the sweets course delivers a variety of flavors and textures. The English trifle layers freshly whipped cream with strawberry compote and tops with fresh berries. The lemon tart brings the same superior quality of pastry as the earlier tarts but filled with creamy citrus. (Can we call this a tart tart?) Red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting rounds out the plate.
Looking forward to February, Newens High Tea will feature Spring in China, in celebration of Chinese New Year. Although we arrived about two weeks too early, we were fortunate to have a sneak preview.
Festive favorites are colorfully presented and artfully arranged in a bamboo basket. On the savory side, Shanghai-style chicken and vegetable potstickers complement a crispy puff filled with barbecued chicken. Delicately-scented osmanthus jelly crunches with bits of embedded water chestnuts. A selection of cakes will satisfy the sweet tooth, including a corn-flavored nine-layer cake and chocolate cake with an orange-cream center. Good wishes are bestowed upon guests with pineapple cake, that symbol of prosperity, and chocolate lollipops that bear the message, “More Wealth Coming Your Way.” This is never bad news to hear!
The featured tea is the exquisite and rare Pai Mu Tan tea. Also known as White Peony tea, young buds are collected and dried with minimal processing. Pale in color, this very natural brew offers an aromatic drink with both fruity and floral undertones.
High Tea can be observed between 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. each afternoon, but that is not the only time to drink tea. Sixty types of tea from around the world grace the Newens Te House menu, including black, green, herbal and ayurvedic varieties. Lunch and dinner can also be ordered alongside the tea, drawn from all the kitchens that Starhill boasts. And if you just don’t have the time to enjoy the serenity, Maids of Honour tarts are available for takeaway: 4 pieces RM58, 9 pieces RM110.
The Journey Through Tea monthly specials run at RM150 nett.
Newens is open daily from 10:00 am – 11:00 pm.
Newen’s 2018 Journey Through Tea
January: Traditional High Tea
February: Spring in China Tea Set
March: Cherry Blossom Afternoon Tea
April: Tea with Anne Boleyn
May: Joyous May Afternoon Tea
June: Summer Holiday High Tea
July: French Connection
August: Arabic Delight Tea Set
September: Malaysia High Tea
October: Octoberfest High Tea
November: Halloween High Tea
December: Christmas High Tea Set