Tag Archives: british

High Time for High Tea @ The British House, Qianmen

Did you know there’s a Harrods in Beijing? I had absolutely no clue. Probably to do with the fact that it’s not technically called Harrods but rather “The British House”. The celebration of all that is upper-class British can be found just a two-minute walk from Qianmen, in the same neighbourhood as Capital M used to be.

The Scones

Maybe there’s something about the Qianmen location that makes for particularly outstanding scone production. To this date, the scones you can find at TBH are the best I’ve had in Beijing. They’re sizeable for one, and you get one each of classic and raisin. They’re fresh, they’re fluffy and they come with delicious cream and strawberry jam, that the efficient and courteous staff will refill upon request and without hesitation.

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That’ll be scone within seconds

The Tea

They have a fine selection of loose leaf British teas, as well as some special options for the more adventurous. Sadly, the rose tea I was most excited about was not available on the day. Small disappointment, but the fresh peppermint is definitely a reliable choice for someone like myself who isn’t the biggest fan of black teas.

Sanis & Cakes

The Sanis turned out to be tiny bites, that were gone in one quick swoop. Egg salad, salmon, ham and cucumber are definitely very traditional choices. Indeed, the overall afternoon tea experience was probably one of the most “genuine” in the British sense. No weird Matcha flavours or crazy concepts here, just good old fashioned high tea as it was meant to be. My only complaint re the sani bites is that they were indeed a bit minuscule. Granted, the big scones will fill you up, though I personally wouldn’t’ have minded swapping the trifle for larger savoury options. The trifle was the only item that I wasn’t that impressed by, just a bit bland and boring, but the red velvet cake and the mille feuille made up for it by being simply delicious.

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Scrumptious scones, sanis and sweet treats

The Place

The tea set and crockery was simple and elegant, with the unmistakable Harrods H, and was an indication of the overall décor. Very light and tasteful, it was a great place to just sit an entire afternoon and relax. Which we did. In fact, I managed to reach a level of relaxation, I have failed to replicate at any of the other locations we’ve been to for tea. I think it was just the right amount of food to fill you up but not make you feel like a stuffed duck plus the lovely environment and the friendly staff, who were helpful, on the ball and never pushed us to vacate the exceedingly comfy sofas we were parked on.

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*Downton, where all the lights are bright*…that’s how the song goes, right? No?

In conclusion, if you’re looking for the Downton Abbey experience, look no further. This is definitely the place to relax traditional British style. And once you’re done you can go downstairs and buy all kinds of overpriced Best of British items in an attempt to feel really regal.

Costs: 168 rmb for 2 scones, 4 sanis, 2 sweet treats, a strawberry trifle + refillable tea

Address: 煤市街廊房头条交叉口东北角北京坊西区4号楼1层101

Phone: 010-63132122

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Marks and Spencer Fails in China and So My World Ends

Okay, that is maybe an ever so slightly overdramatic title…those delicate millenials and their FWPs (first world problems). But let’s get real for a minute here. When the news hit that Marks & Spencer will, in the near future, be closing down ALL of their China branches, it was as if my heart had shattered into a thousand Mince-Pie-shaped pieces, and here’s why:

My previous traumatic M&S experiences

Ah, I remember it well. I must have been about 13 and in that phase when holy England was the be all and end all. I was yet to become jaded by the experience of actually having lived in England, its rent prices, food prices or just prices of any kind, and of course… Brexit. Our regular visits to my English family in Harrogate and London had instilled in me the impression that England truly was all about Afternoon Tea at Betty’s, lengthy trips to the ever so slightly nippy beach and fancy barbies with the neighbours, you know, the white garden fence, splendid backyard, sophisticated kind of mingling associated with the British middle and upper class. In short, I grew up under the impression that all of England was posh. It was like a Disney movie sprung to life. Oh, the joy.

Okay, well, wot’s any of this got to do with M&S, you’re surely wondering, for I have once again wandered off on a tangent. M&S represented all this poshness (poshity? poshure?) and when I was around 13, it actually opened in my German hometown of Frankfurt/Main. Right on the main shopping street. There it was in all its middle-aged clothing range and egg-salad sani glory. Oh, goodie! It was the treat of treats for my mum and me, when we were out on a weekend day shopping, to pop into M&S (because as Brits, you pop, don’t you? Such sophistication) and browse the underground food section, settling most of time on ginger snaps and shortbread. And then, a year or so later, guess what? It closed. Turns out that in cool, eco-aware and money-saving Germany, posh was about as out of place as, say, durian. Though much less offensive to the nose, M&S just didn’t make it in Germany. It took me quite a while to get over the heartbreak.

Rediscovering M&S in the UK

And then just like that, a decade later I found myself in golly old England, as a student. Now, I must admit from my previous comments, it might seem that I did not enjoy my life in England. I’d like to assure you that I did love many aspects about it. But I came away with a much more grounded, balanced view of the nation. Especially after a year in Newcastle, which was bonkers as da yoot like to say nowadays. There’s only so many toppled over drunk womens’ nickers you can see, before you decide it’s time to call it a day. But for all the things there were about life in the UK that weren’t as Victoria Beckham as I initially thought – the binge drinking, the weather and the cost of alcohol to binge drink away the depression brought on by shitty weather – M&S was always there, my steadfast companion that reminded me that somewhere in the United Kingdom, there were still people upholding regal Britain. Mr Li and I once managed to spend 100£ after a particularly enthusiastic M&S shopping spree. Hey, there were cherries, don’t blame us. Not conducive to weight or spending control, but all the more fun for a bit of nostalgia of the posh days of old, M&S just was all that’s British. Living in Britain meant, I had access anytime I wanted. And just like that, said access that had been feeding my addiction to overpriced but ever so fancy nuts with Chilean chili and Peruvian pepper coating, and other exclusive spices combined with regular items to suddenly make them a “must-have”, was cut short by my return to China.

Shanghai = M&S Paradise

Once I’d moved to Nanjing, it quickly became apparent that getting my M&S fix wasn’t going to be easy, but there was hope. Shanghai, just an hour on the high-speed train, was proud home to not only the shop and an imported food section, but an actual M&S café, where they’d whip up frozen quiches and fish & chips. It was the bees knees. Now every trip to Shanghai would be accompanied by a massive stock-up on teas, freshly baked bread, and anything on offer that particular day. One work trip, just around Single’s Day, I went crazy in the clothes’ section and returned home with an almost entirely new wardrobe. I ended up in Shanghai just often enough to make the binge shopping last until the next time. And so, every visit was really special, to be treasured to the max.

There and Gone in a Flash – The M&S Beijing Story

So, then I moved to Beijing. No M&S. The notion! Scandalous! But the good news was on its way – 2016 saw the opening of our very own Marks and Sparks. And not far from my office either. Half the time, I would pop in there (popping again, see, see, I AM posh!), not to actually purchase anything – god no, have you seen the prices?! Especially when you’ve been to M&S Hong Kong… – but simply for the M&S feeling. That warm feeling of my British side, that envelops me whenever I set foot in there. No M&S café in Beijing either, to my utter disappointment, but beggars can’t be choosers and so I found myself more often than not headed straight for the “about-to-expire-and-therefore-actually-cheap” section.

Once I had just gotten used to being able to buy Mince Pies and fancy chocs, though, the terrible news came: M&S will be shutting down all of their China branches in the foreseeable future. ALL OF THEM? For the next few months my British friends and I would mourn our future loss over lunch frequently, and speculate when the big shut down will be, and proclaim that we will clear the damn thing out – but only once the final sales are on. And then we’d giggle and acknowledge that maybe always buying from the “about-to-expire” section was part of the reason they are shutting down.

And there you have it – my grand M&S love story – can you believe you read it all. Every word. I’m certain you did 😉 It’s taken me a 1000 words to very non-succinctly state a simple but sad truth: M&S was, is and always will be a little piece of my “other” home, and without it, wherever will I get terribly posh and overpriced flatbreads? It’s a real issue…

Here’s to M&S, just too posh for the harsh world out there…I love you.

M&S marks and spencer uk british england china