with Executive Chef Massimo Pasquarelli and Executive Pastry Chef Terence Pang
The Ritz-Carlton Singapore is one of my favourite comfort destinations. It’s a delight to stay there but also to visit and enjoy on Sundays when work is over, or when one needs a civilised sit-down garnished with stunningly delicious food. They are famed for their Sunday Brunch, which must be on every traveller’s Bucket List, but they also present a seasonal Sunday Afternoon Tea.
Spring Weekends Afternoon Tea is held in the striking Chihuly Lounge (named after the artist whose impressive glass sculpture graces the wall), and those seasonal teatimes are destined to become as famed as the aforementioned copious brunch. The Ritz-Carlton does whatever it does well, with flair, innovation and good taste.
Executive Chef Massimo Pasquarelli works with talented Executive Pastry Chef Terence Pang to present this Cheese-themed Tea. That might conjure images of a menu comprising a hefty selection of cheese sandwiches, cheddar as main ingredient for cheese on toast, an individual macaroni cheese, and perhaps a traditional cheesecake to follow. Yes, it’s difficult to see how cheese can be incorporated into sweet confections in any quantity. But I was expecting something special – this is The Ritz-Carlton, after all.
This menu is evidently a melding of mind and skill. Both Chef Terence and Chef Massimo have respect for ingredients, and an afternoon tea allows them to show those foods to delicious advantage, introducing a little culinary whimsy to the proceedings. They have devised thirteen desserts that contain cheeses, such as Baked Vanilla Camembert Cheese Cake, Cheddar Raisin Scones, Citrus Cream Cheese Rolls (tangy and fruity and unmissable), and Coffee and Soft Guanaja Mascarpone Cheese Cream (guanaja gives the final product a more intense chocolate flavour).
But one does need savoury to act as a warm-up for those memorable lactic sweets, and there were plenty of canapés on offer, all of them laced with Chef Terence Pang’s evident Asian influence. Cucumber and Cream Cheese Sandwiches started that cheesy homage, but there was plenty more on those non-dessert tables: Beef Pastrami with Pickled Gherkin in a Mini Croissant; Salmon Confit with XO Sauce and Salmon Roe was a triumph; and Scallop Sushi topped with Japanese Mayonnaise and Tobiko was luxurious. That shellfish made a second appearance with Steamed Scallop Siew Mai. These and a host of other ‘starters’ would have been sufficient to fill even the most practised of post-meridian grazers but we had strolled by those desserts at the entrance and it would have been rude not to try a few.
I asked Chef Massimo how he devised the theme for this unique Spring Afternoon Tea. ‘We change the theme four times a year, which follow the seasons. For Spring, it was based on the life of the cow, sheep and goat. In the Winter the animals stay indoors and are fed on just dry grass. In the Spring they are let out and they start to eat fresh grass again. I have a childhood memory of the first 15 days of March when the flavour of the milk was totally different. I remember two desserts: one was bread with sugar, and the second was milk – my grandmother collected the milk in a cast-iron pan and scooped the mousse from the top, and added sugar.’
Cheese is a traditionally European ingredient: how does Massimo reconcile that with working with such a talented Asian pastry chef as Terence Pang?
‘We started work on the menu in November. Terence is someone who is very passionate and it’s been very easy to get ideas together. Before we are able to offer this menu to the guests we need to have it clear in our own minds. If we see that there is excitement about the theme then it means that it makes sense.’
At the Ritz-Carlton Singapore the Sunday Brunch and the Tea have an Asian accent. I wondered if that was a difficult step for this very European chef. ‘I went back to basics. At the end of the day it’s all about passion, whether the chef is French or Chinese, and even if he doesn’t speak English, you can see it in his eyes, you can see how much of himself he puts into his food. That’s how I got into Chinese cuisine – I followed those Chinese master chefs, looked at their benchmarks, and came back to the kitchen to see how we could improve what we were doing here.’
Having planned this Spring Afternoon Tea late last year, Massimo and Terence must now be planning the next season’s theme. ‘Yes, first of all we have to define Summer, and come up with a new concept. After the Cheese theme, the next one I want to present is a sunny Summer landscape, perhaps with a corner of blue sky …something with coconut, maybe. Every quarter I want to come up with something different, with the theme coming first and then the recipes.’
These two executive chefs have formed an enviable culinary partnership. They creatively and comfortably straddle both Europe and Asia in a fashion that transcends that rather hackneyed description ‘fusion’. They combine the best of ingredients from across the globe and offer their guests plates of extraordinary culinary artistry and imagination, and the results are harmonious and memorable. Their handiwork is almost too delightful to eat. Almost.
This cheese-themed Spring Weekend Afternoon Tea can be enjoyed between 2.30pm and 5pm on Saturdays and Sundays from 2 March to 26 May 2013.
Priced at $52 for adults
and $26 for children (six to twelve years).
The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore
7 Raffles Avenue
Phone: +65 6337 8888
For dining reservations:
Phone Restaurant Reservations
at +65 6434 5288
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018