Bali: The end of the road…Now to unwind…

When we first spotted the island of Bali from the ferry port on East Java at Banyuwangi, we thought we were nearly there. It’s really very close to Java, about the same distance as the Humber Bridge covers, near my home town of Hull…

Bali seen from Banyuwangi on East Java

The ferry across costs an amazing 60p or so, and we felt a sense of relief and elation at this apparently easy crossing to the final leg of our journey.

Banyuwangi ferry port

One hour and a half later, we were just pulling in to port at Gillimanuk. I have never ever experienced such a slow ferry. I think we did stop several times on the way over, but for most of the route (that can’t have been more than a mile or so) we seemed to keep to an extraordinary 1 mph – it must take some skill to drive a vehicle that slowly for such a long time.

By the time we disembarked, it was nearly dusk. We wandered over to the little bus depot a short walk from the harbour and saw a bus for Denpasar. The thing is, said the driver, we only have seven passengers, and I need 15 to set off…

Now, we’d come across this kind leave-when-youre-full approach to public transport elsewhere, but this was different. In China, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, there tended to be a steady stream of people looking for transport. At Gillimanuk, one new passenger came after one hour. And after two hours, we still only had eight fares.

At that point, the bus driver offered to leave immediately if we’d pay twice the fare. since bus fares are dirt cheap in Indonesia, we kind of wished he’d asked two hours earlier, but we set off on one of the longest, windiest island roads I’d ever experienced. Only about 80 miles, but it took nearly three hours, meaning our arrival in Denpasar was nearer midnight than 11pm, about four hours later than we had hoped.

Our last travel leg proved therefore to be one of the most difficult of all over the 110+ days of the journey.

We spent all the free time we had on Bali checking out the final tea and coffee venues for review.

But we were determined to have a photo taken on the beach at our last stop. So, here we go…

AnitaBeachBali

SimonBeachBali

We managed to find a quiet, mainly-locals beach on the other side of Denpasar from Katu or Seminyak. And we kind of liked this statue of a fisherman standing by the beach. He kind of encapsulated how we’ll be now we’ve settled on east coast Australia, looking out to sea wondering about our next journey…

SeaFarerLookingOut

So, that’s it.

25 long distance bus journeys

22 trains

14 private car journeys

12 mini buses or mashrutkas

10 planes

2 shared taxis

1 ferry

after we left Yorkshire, we made it to Australia…

There will be other posts, but that’s it for now, folks. Our journey is done. Time to unwind off the road for a while.

You get tarot with your tea at Biku on Bali

I don’t know if Biku Tea lounge on Bali is busy every day, but they were turning people away the day we pitched up hoping to go for their mystical high tea. We got lucky with a table for two, though sadly the tarot card reader was fully booked that day, so we didn’t get a chance to hear her predictions on our future beyond The Road.

Inside Biku tea room in Seminyak, Bali

We took a taxi out to Biku from central Denpasar, though the district it’s in – Seminyak – is full of western tourists and the beach is not too far away, so Biku may well be within walking distance for many holiday makers on Bali.

Biku tea room on Bali

We’d come here on recommendation from the tea-loving community in Jakarta, because Biku is another of those rare tea shops in Indonesia that serves up tea grown and produced locally.

There’s certainly a great range of teas on the menu, with black, green and oolong teas grown on Java, and more Indonesian tea in their basic breakfast blend (even the Assam is likely to have been grown in Indonesia, after the Assam tea plant was introduced to the islands in the 19th century). They also have some imported teas, all carefully managed by Tjok Gde Kerthyasa, a tea master himself who’s based in Bali, but is connected to the wonderful Sydney-based Tea Craft (which I must try to visit soon).

Indonesian tea on the menu at Biku Tea Lounge on Bali

So the tea menu at Biku was exciting enough.

The afternoon tea (or High Tea) menu even more so. We have both loved it when tea houses in South East Asia offer both a ‘traditional’ western afternoon tea (with scones, jam and cream etc) and an eastern or local version.

So it is with Biku, and as an added bonus, if you go for the Asian High Tea, you get it served on wonderful cups and dishes with elephant motifs and simple, clear decoration (whereas the tableware for the western afternoon tea is very colonial and floral).

Elephant motifs on the Asian Tea plates at Biku

Floral plates for the western afternoon tea at Biku

The savoury side of the Asian High Tea is interesting, with samosas, spring rolls and curried egg sandwiches. But the sweet part was even more exotic, with date scones served with mango jam, a sticky rice sweet filled with peanut paste and a wonderful fruit called salak. So the Asian Tea is our top tip if you go to Biku, especially if you’re a visitor.

Asian High Tea in Seminyak at Biku

Hey, when else are you going to get an afternoon tea like that? Oh, and make sure you book ahead if you want that tarot card reading. The ‘Mystical High Tea’ is served from 1-5pm, but the resident card reader is in demand so she’s probably very good. And I don’t think she reads the tea leaves…

Traditional western afternoon tea on Bali at Biku

This was a great way to end our journey from Yorkshire with a slap-up afternoon tea, and lots of local flavour.

It’s the 42nd tea room we will be reviewing across the 25 countries of our journey (there were 66 coffee shops, suggesting coffee has been easier to find, though there’s a blog entry in that discussion, since most tea places in China were not really tea rooms in the western sense of the word so can’t be reviewed as an afternoon tea experience).

Amazingly, with all the tea, coffee and cake consumed over 17 weeks of this journey, I lost 5 kilos, but that’s more to do with the efforts of carrying heavy luggage, the miles we walked finding the coffee shops and tea rooms, and the heat we encountered in most of the countries.

So, thanks to Biku, you rounded off this epic journey beautifully, and just in time for us to get to the airport for our night flight to Australia.

Head into Denpasar for coffee on Bali

When we finally got to Denpasar (via that snail-paced ferry from Java, and the tortuous bus route along the island’s windy roads) we found ourselves in the middle of Bali’s capital in a resort hotel frequented mainly by Indonesians, and well away from the touristy parts like Kuta or Seminyak.

There are countless coffee shops – probably run by Aussies and New Zealanders – over by the beaches, but we were treated to some quality local coffee culture within a short walk of our hotel in the centre of Denpasar.

Playboy's coffee house in Denpasar

First up, we found the rather dubiously named Playboy’s Coffee House, its image of the bunny rabbit’s head making us wonder what sort of joint we were entering.

The Nuova Simonella coffee machine reassured us, though, as did the house blend advertised, which married some local Aceh and Flores beans with a Yirgacheffe from Ethiopia. So some thought had gone into the coffee, and it showed with the resulting cappuccino, a delightful start to our day in Denpasar.

Coffee in Denpasar at Playboy's

It was quite a late start, mind you. At 10.15am, we were the café’s first customers (they open at 10am) so don’t dash along here for a crack-of-dawn cuppa. But if you are on the beach and fancy a coffee in Denpasar itself, Playboy’s could be the place for you.

You couldn’t find a friendlier pair than Steve and Eky, who run the show, either. The decor and fittings all look pristine and sparklingly clean, as if the place only opened a few days before, and there’s a nice touch, with Eky’s badminton championship medal from 1997 standing on the counter by the wall, showing there’s more to life than coffee…or at least there was all those years ago.

Outside seating at Playboy's Coffee House in Denpasar

There’s good air-conditioning here, or a terrace out the front if you prefer to bathe in the warm air, and a room at the side which is covered by a roof but otherwise open to the front. So, lots of options, and I’m guessing they are more of a nocturnal venue than early morning…

Playboy's for good coffee in Denpasar

Which brings me back to that name: I asked the owners why they had chosen the name Playboy’s. ‘For fun’, they said, and to create a concept for the menu, which does indeed include lots of interesting innuendoes, though we didn’t try the Nutty Naughty, the One Night Stand or the First Fruit.

We stuck to their basic coffee and cake, and were very happy with that for our morning cuppa in Denpasar.

As we walked back towards our hotel, happy to have found good coffee on Bali, we passed by another coffee shop, which drew us in with its announcement that they roast their own coffee.

Golden Honey coffee roastery in Denpasar

Golden Honey is an ‘artisan coffee roastery’ but also specialises in pizza! Again, we were the only customers in there at 11am, and with pizza not really on our minds, we decided to stick to the coffee, but wondered again if this was more of an evening venue, where people come for dinner and then finish their day with a quality coffee.

Golden Honey coffee shop in Denpasar

As you’d expect from a place that roasts their own, the coffee was good, all Indonesian this time, which we also like to see, though I personally preferred the brew they gave us round the corner at Playboy’s (the thing is, it’s always hard when a venue is the second coffee shop to be visited in a short time frame – the joy of having the first caffeine of the day means the 2nd cup has to be extraordinarily special to gain the same effect on the senses…).

Coffee from Bali at Golden Honey coffee roastery in Denpasar

I loved the concept, though: locally roasted, using Indonesian beans – our coffee made even from a Bali crop – and selling bags of the best on the counter. Once again, I couldn’t resist, and we came away with yet another bag of beans, this time from Bali of course.

So, that was our last coffee on the road on an odyssey that began with Loustic in Paris and ended with Golden Honey in Denpasar. Our next coffee would be at Adelaide Airport, when we arrived the next day into Australia.

Poster in Golden Honey coffee shop in Denpasar

But there was still tea to come in Bali. More on that tomorrow…

Taking tea in Jakarta: Indonesian tea, where possible

One of the great things about social media is that it allows you to connect with people you’d never otherwise know, and then if you happen to be travelling through their home town, it gives you the chance to meet for real. That’s what happened with Ratna Somantri, the head of promotion at Indonesia’s Tea Board.

Ratna’s enthusiasm for tea is so infectious that she has built up a 600-strong network of Indonesian tea lovers, many of whom meet up monthly just to discuss (and drink, of course) tea.

We arranged to meet Ratna on our last day in the Indonesian capital, not knowing that she had arranged a get-together of half a dozen others from Indonesia’s tea industry, so we had the pleasure of afternoon tea in Jakarta with tea growers and tea distributors from all over Java. Now, that made for a surprise tea party, making us want to return for one of their monthly big meet-ups next time we’re over.

Ratna is a great champion of Indonesian tea, but is far from her goal of seeing Indonesian grown tea on the menu in cafés and tea rooms all over the country and premium quality tea brought to everybody’s palate in her own country.

In fact, she reckons the TWG tea room in a trendy shopping mall in Jakarta is one of the few places you can actually order a pot of Indonesian tea. And that’s why she arranged our meeting for tea time at the the glitzy TWG Tea at Pacific Place. There’s a fantastic range of teas on offer there, more than 500 types, but only two Indonesian teas on the menu, so we got to taste both of them…

Indonesian tea served at TWG tea room in Jakarta

We also tried the afternoon tea itself, with the classic tiered tray, delicate sandwiches, pastries and little cakes, all of which had a tea theme or tea as one of their ingredients.

Afternoon tea in Jakarta at TWG Tea House

This is a really good place for afternoon tea in Jakarta, though it’s got a fairly exclusive glamorous look to it, and it’s not the cheapest place in town for a cuppa.

What made it extra special for us was the company. There was Alexander, the organic tea grower, who invited us back to visit his plantation next time we’re in the country; Retna, who plied us with samples of her wonderful teas, also grown on Java; and others whose names I didn’t note down (much to my shame – sorry, because we had some great conversations with all of them!).

Meeting members of the Indonesian tea community in Jakarta

The good news for tea lovers planning a visit to Jakarta in 2015 is that there will soon be a new tea room opening soon. Gaia Tea & Cakes is the brainchild of Ratna herself, and it should be a wonderful platform from which to showcase more Indonesian teas than are available anywhere else at the moment.

Our other afternoon tea experience in Jakarta came at the rather splendid Hermitage Hotel in the Cikini district.

This is a new hotel in a recently renovated 1920s building; a really stylish place for taking tea. Sadly, as Ratna pointed out, their very good afternoon tea does not offer any chance to taste tea grown in Indonesia, even though you can choose from a number of other teas supplied by the same TWG company whose tea room we visited in Jakarta.

The eastern option for afternoon tea at the Hermitage Hotel in Jakarta

What we liked most about the afternoon tea at the Hermitage was the option to choose an eastern afternoon tea with spring rolls, curry puffs, a delicious moist sponge cake and some gooey green stuff with coconut, which we couldn’t identify but tasted wonderful. as an alternative to the western style tea, with sandwiches, quiche, mini eclairs and macaroons (but no scones!).

Traditional afternoon tea in Jakarta at the Hermitage Hotel

Tea at the Hermitage is only served between 3pm and 5.30pm but it’s well worth it, though we wondered if their price of about £7 (GBP) was just an introductory offer to draw people in. If not, it’s tremendously good value too.

It’s just a shame that they’ve gone for big corporate suppliers (even if they’re good ones like Illy for coffee and TWG for tea) when there are fantastic local suppliers who could make this a real showcase for all things Indonesian.

Still, for a country that is so associated worldwide with coffee, Indonesia is looking like it’s going places for tea. If we revisit in five years’ time, I like to think tea will be much more widely available and drunk in many more venues than now.

In the meantime, we are still trying the tea samples our Indonesian tea friends gave us, and very good they are so far, the red tea being our favourite at this stage…

Coffee in Jakarta: quality, history, branding and something Swedish

Once we’d decided to cut Sumatra out of our itinerary, we actually had a few days to spare in Jakarta. We made the most of them with some fantastic coffee finds, bringing together all sorts of reasons for liking a coffee shop.

Most people in the west will have come across Java coffee or Sumatran, but once you’re in Indonesia, expect to be hit with the subtleties of coffees from East or West Java, from South or North Sumatra (Aceh being a popular coffee source tragically associated in my mind with the tsunami 10 years ago, but not usually thought of as a coffee region on the northern tip of Sumatra), and then the wonderfully exotic Papua, Flores, Bali or Sulawesi.

We may only have gone to Java and Bali on this journey, but our appetite has been whetted for future trips to other islands, for the tea as well as the coffee. Indonesia, we’ll be back!

Our first experience of coffee in Jakarta was actually our favourite. Tanamera Coffee has everything I look for in a coffee shop: friendly, welcoming staff, coffee roasted on-site, a good vibe and buzz from happy customers, not to mention good air con to escape the Jakarta heat and excellent wifi.

Tanamera Coffee in Jakarta

Oh, and the coffee, was exceptionally good, too.

Best coffee in Jakarta at Tanamera Coffee

Tanamera Coffee was not that easy to find, mind you. If you’re not local to Jakarta, you may not realise that Thamrin City Office Park is not the same as Thamrin Plaza shopping mall or Thamrin City Hotel. And our taxi driver gave up pretty quickly, forcing us to ask about five people before someone had heard of the coffee shop…

Once you find Thamrin City Office Park, you can’t miss Tanamera. And if it’s anything like the day we were there, you’ll see a crowd of people outside sipping their coffee. It’s a mixed crowd, by the way, with as many westerners as locals, so word has got around the community clearly without the need for bloggers like us!

Outside Tanamera Coffee in Jakarta

All the coffee on offer was sourced direct from the farmers, all over Indonesia and roasted at the back of the premises here. You could choose between a single origin or a blend for the espresso machine.

Sacks of coffee at Tanamera Coffee in Jakarta

We loved this place and lingered for much longer than we would normally (partly due to the torrential rain that began to fall shortly after we arrived, forcing us to order a second coffee).

Tanamera Coffee in Jakarta

A really good coffee shop in Jakarta. Thanks to Aga for making us welcome (and thanks to Aidan the Aussie from WA who we didn’t get to meet, but who had the idea of setting this place up in 2013.

Bakoel coffee shop doesn’t appear in most people’s ‘top coffee shops in Jakarta’ lists, but we loved the place just for its sense of history.

Bakoel Koffie founder

It was founded in 1878 by a guy called Tek Sun Ho, whose portrait still stands proudly on the wall of their branch in the leafy district of Cikini. It has a Dutch name (Bakoel Koffie) and makes the most of its Dutch colonial past, with photos of the coffee shop from 1920 and 1938.

Inside Bakoel coffee shop in Jakarta

The building still has a colonial feel, with ceiling fans rather than air conditioning, a leafy garden at the back and lots of old coffee making equipment around the place.

Bakoel coffee beans

There’s a choice of three blends on offer for your coffee: Black Mist, Heritage 1969 and Brown Cow, using blends of Sumatran, Java and Sulawesi beans. Yet another rain storm forced us to stay here for a second coffee, too, doubling our usual daily caffeine intake, but this is a great coffee shop for feeling a connection to history…

Bakoel Koffie in Jakarta

We don’t usually review coffee shops that are chains, preferring the individuality of the small business run by its owner or at most a place with two branches. But in Jakarta, there are several local chains, and we came across Anomali Coffee because we needed an early start one morning and these guys open their doors by 7am.

Anomali Coffee in Jakarta

The coffee was good, the atmosphere perhaps a little too big and urban for my liking, but I did love their branding. These guys have the best designers for the packaging of their coffees, so good that we bought a small pack of their Aceh beans to bring home with us.

Great packaging design at Anomali Coffee in Jakarta

And it’s at Anomali Coffee that we realised the variety of Indonesian coffee you can get. They had probably the widest range of coffee for sale from a fantastic list of Indonesian islands, enough for a European visitor’s mind to boggle, especially as I’d never even heard of Flores or Toraja and had no idea that Papua was a place for coffee…

Indonesian coffee map

On our last afternoon in Jakarta, and on our way to afternoon tea (but more on that on the tea in Jakarta blog tomorrow), we stopped by Crematology in Jalan Suryo.

Map of Stockholm on Crematology coffee shop wall

The coffee here too was excellent, the venue spacious and relaxing, but my curiosity drew me to the wallpaper over by the bar, which appeared to be a map of Stockholm, all in Swedish.

As I was paying, I casually asked why they had a map of Stockholm on their wall, and the barista suggested I ask the owner, who was sitting just by the wall.

CrematologyCoffeePortrait

20 minutes later (and by now running late for that afternoon tea…) I was still chatting with Elliot Davernas, the Swedish guy who set up the Crematology concept.

If you like an ethical approach to your coffee, Crematology has to be the choice for coffee in Jakarta.

Elliot has a hands-on approach to managing this coffee shop, and prides himself on prioritising home-made rather than factory produced, even for the furniture that fills the coffee shop. In fact, one week from the opening of this place, he told us, they didn’t even have a bar to work from because Elliot wanted all hands on deck to MAKE the bar from the solid block of wood he had acquired – all part of the team-building spirit that makes this one of the most egalitarian places to work in Jakarta, with jobs rotated regularly and everyone able to do anything to keep the place running.

Elliot’s passion is not only contagious, it’s addictive. I reckon even I would have joined in with the furniture making if I’d been on his team, though I’m not sure they’d have had such a smooth surface if I’d put the finishing touches to it.

It’s a shame I didn’t have  time to try more of the coffees and cakes on offer here at Crematology. But I’m really glad I asked why they had that map of Stockholm on the wall. After all, I always liked a coffee shop with a good story to tell. And Elliot can certainly tell a few of those.

But it did make us late for tea. And that was an even more special occasion, about which more to come in tomorrow’s blog entry…

Jakarta – from colonial Dutch to shadow puppets and English practice – in pics

We were fascinated by Jakarta, though horrified to see on Australian TV since we finished our journey, that the city is sinking at an alarming rate. We headed straight to the old town, once known as Batavia, for a spot of lunch in the 2nd oldest building down there.

Cafe Batavia in Jakarta

Café Batavia is a bit of an institution in Jakarta, with its beautiful colonial architecture and its live music scene. There’s a real 1920s feel to the place, in the decor and the music…

Cafe Batavia in Jakarta

Turn right out of the café and right again to follow the original canal that the Dutch built here hundreds of years ago. There is still one Amsterdam-style bridge.

Dutch canal bridge in Jakarta

We didn’t take many photos round here because we were so overwhelmed by the dreadful conditions people were living in. Levels of poverty we had not seen anywhere else on this long journey through 25 countries, and we were told that things have improved in recent years!

But there’s something about heat and damp and pools of water (from the daily rainstorms as well, presumably, as the flooding from sea levels), with rubbish floating on top of everything, that made this whole area utterly depressing and made us turn back fairly quickly – something we had very rarely done in the whole four months of the journey.

Back at the main square, on which you’ll find Café Batavia, there are lots of vestiges of the Dutch presence here. A post box.

Dutch post box in Jakarta

A gravestone.

Dutch gravestone in Jakarta

Makes me want to read some sort of novel set in Dutch colonial era to get more of a feel for how life was both for locals and colonials in those days. Any tips most welcome…

This was the first time in Jakarta for both of us. Our previous ‘knowledge’ of the place being purely based on that 1980s film classic ‘The Year of Living Dangerously’. One of the most powerful scenes in that film introduced us to Indonesian shadow puppets, so we were delighted to meet the manager of Wayang Museum, who is a 4th generation puppet maker.

Indonesian puppets in Jakarta

Shadow puppets in Jakarta

He showed us round the museum dedicated to the puppets and told us countless stories of the background to the characters and the different generations that created new versions of the puppets.

It was transfixingly fascinating, and we were easily led to the market stall afterwards where we bought a pair of puppets for our new home in Australia (only to have them picked out by Australian customs, who encouraged us to chuck them out, though we opted for the expensive treatment of them because we love them so much and the craftsmanship was so extraordinary – we’re still waiting for them post-treatment by Aussie customs!).

Back outside in the main square, Jakarta was alive with people enjoying a warm Sunday afternoon. There were lifesize puppets doing a special local dance, usually in pairs, a kind of busking, but looking deeply traditional, too. We loved it.

Puppets in the main square of Batavia/Jakarta

Puppets2

Puppets1

And clearly, every English language college, every English school lesson had tasked its students to grab any native speaker and conduct an interview, to find our views on Indonesia (difficult to say much in depth after less than 24 hours), where we planned to go, and where we were from.

Jakarta English language students

It’s actually a really good teaching idea. Just funny that every single class seemed to be doing it, and we must have done six interviews in the short hour or so we were in the square, running away from a 7th in order to get to that puppet museum before it closed.

We’ll cover the rest of our thoughts on Indonesia through our coffee and tea blogs, to follow in the next few days, as the story of this great journey nears its end…

There’s more to tea in Singapore than a trip to Raffles

We couldn’t resist a visit to Raffles in Singapore, not for a Singapore Sling, but for Afternoon Tea. With only 24 hours in the city, though, that meant we didn’t get to revisit the wonderful Tea Chapter in Neil Road for a Chinese tea experience (you’ll have to see the Fancy a Cuppa blog entry for our views on that).

It also meant we didn’t manage to get to Smitten Coffee & Tea Bar, which is out by Robertsons Quay and looked really hard to get to on public transport in the time we had. That was a shame and it goes top of our list for next time we’re in Singapore, because its concept reminded me of the wonderful Bean & Bud in Harrogate for its focus on both coffee and tea…

So for this trip, it was Raffles and only Raffles.

We quickly found out that the done thing for afternoon tea at Raffles is to reserve a table, as elegantly-dressed couples and groups sailed past us into the tea room, while we were asked to wait.

In fact, we were told, it would be 45 minutes before a table was free and, they added, with local taxes and service added (the so-called plus-plus), our afternoon tea would come to some £50 a head (as if that would put us off, when we’d travelled so far…).

Fountain in grounds of Raffles in Singapore

So, we sat and waited in the sultry, but leafy grounds of the hotel and watched people coming and going, some dashing by on their way to their (presumably reserved) tea, others just coming in for a selfie in this hotel of all hotels in Singapore.

In the grounds of Raffles, Singapore

Some of the Trip Advisor and Google reviews of afternoon tea at Raffles do speak of the confusion over just what afternoon tea consists of, what you are obliged to have, and how much it all costs. Some even say they were forced to have the champagne tea, taking the price way over what we had been quoted.

There was never any question of champagne for us (maybe we just didn’t look the champers types), but when they came to serve us and spoke of the eat-all-you-can buffet in the other room, with spring rolls, fruit and other delights, we told them we actually just wanted a regular tiered tray afternoon tea with a pot of tea of our choice. Was that possible?

Indeed it was, they said, and that would cost us less than the initially quoted about £100 for two, coming in at nearer £30 a head…

Slightly bemused by the pricing system, we sat and waited for our tea to arrive, taking in the atmosphere. We enjoyed the old colonial feel and the notice that spoke of this (the Tiffin) dining room having been the best ‘east of Suez’, though there’s something about the stuffiness of those exclusive colonial hang-outs and the fawning nature of the service in them that would put us off going too often.

Afternoon tea at Raffles in Singapore

Actually, the afternoon tea was quite generous (five little sandwiches each, macaroons, little pastries, mince pies – being near Christmas), with a quality pot of tea (Darjeeling for me, English Breakfast for Anita), and a delightful harpist strumming away in the background.

Cream and jam without scones for afternoon tea at Raffles in Singapore

The mystery, though, were the dishes of clotted cream and jam that sat untouched on the table next to the tiered tray. Untouched because…there were no scones to spread them on.

I ventured over to the waiter to ask whether there were scones, since we had jam and cream. Oh no, they’re on the buffet, we were told, along with the spring rolls and the fruit…

Hmmm. I’m not sure what the Colonel and his wife would have made of that in colonial days, but we smiled to ourselves and made do without, only for the waiter to appear suddenly with a plate of four scones for us, thrown in gratis, I think because by this time they were at the end of the afternoon tea time and most people were turning to Singapore Slings.

Still, I can confirm that the cream and jam are very tasty, and the scones good quality. It just seems bizarre that they are part of the full buffet rather than the tiered tray of afternoon tea. Ah well, when in Singapore…

To be fair to the staff, as the afternoon came to an end, and we were virtually the last tea drinkers left, they did become a lot more relaxed and friendly. I just wish we could get away from the stiff formality of such elegant places. They could learn a thing or two from our favourite posh afternoon tea place in London: the Palm Court tea room in Piccadilly somehow manage that great service, with elegance and friendliness rather than starchiness…

RafflesEastIndia

And one final gripe about Raffles. I know it’s the tropics and you can’t really avoid them, but the tea room was abuzz with flies, mostly quite small, but somewhat disconcerting as they wander over your sarnies or macaroons before you take a bite.

Other than that, it was a beautiful afternoon and actually well worth the cost. So a hearty thumbs up from us for afternoon tea in Singapore at Raffles. There is more to tea in Singapore than Raffles, but at least once in your life, do give it a go.