There are bone-china teacups, tiered silver trays, rainbow-bright macaroons, suited waiting staff catering to every whim, epic views across Tokyo and a piano tinkling in the background.
So far, so afternoon tea at the Ritz-Carlton — apart from one anomaly. At center stage, the two pampered diners are not elegantly dressed ladies, suited salarymen or retired babyboomers: they are two sugar-high toddlers.
The Ritz-Carlton in Tokyo is celebrated for many reasons — its sprawling urban views from the apex of one of the city’s tallest skyscrapers, its unwavering five-star service, its elegantly luxurious interior.
But in my eyes, there is perhaps one area in which it trumps all other hotels: the fact it is so child-friendly that it even offers a special Kid’s Afternoon Tea, which it bravely states (cue drumroll) is open to little people “of all ages.”
It was this disbelievingly confident claim that my friend and I recently decided to put to the test — by taking a pair of rampaging 2-year-old toddlers to sample their afternoon tea special.
And so, dressed up in the toddler equivalent of the dictated dress code of “casual elegance” (as recommended on their website) — spotted skirt and blouse for my daughter, trousers and striped top for her best friend — we headed to the Tokyo Midtown hotel.
I had my reservations the moment the lift doors opened on the 45th floor: The children charged out with a shriek and with their in-built radar for mischief, made an immediate beeline for the large water feature at the end of the lobby.
Cue a baby buggy-laden dash past artworks, flower arrangements and bemused guests as we arrived just in time to prevent them from leaping, fully clothed, into the fountain.
Fortunately, the staff did not bat an eyelid and — errant toddlers retrieved — we were seated at a low table immaculately laid out with china and silverware, surrounded by a plush sofa and armchairs.
After ordering fruit juice for the little ones (and tea for the grown ups), we took off the toddlers’ shoes so they would inflict minimum damage to the luxurious soft furnishings they were already scrambling on.
The first mishap? Within seconds of the juices arriving (in not so child-friendly glasses), one was spilled across the pristine-white tablecloth. Staff, however, helpfully whisked away both drinks to transfer them into the toddlers’ own plastic sippy cups (as provided by their mamas).
And then came the food. The kids were momentarily halted in their tracks as a silver, tiered tray of goodies was ceremoniously placed in front of them — a beautifully-presented assortment of mini burgers, vegetable potage and fried prawns at the bottom, with sweets such as strawberries and chocolate macaroons at the top.
With widened eyes, they tucked in with vigor, to the relief of their mamas, who in turn, were treated to the Heavenly Tea set — a grown-up version complete with rape blossom and soy milk quiche, shrimp and olive sandwiches plus a cornucopia of tartlets, eclairs, macaroons, scones and jams.
The most challenging part was perhaps dealing with the children after they were full of food (and sugar) and were wildly curious about exploring — just as we were hoping to sit and relax for a moment.
Fortunately, that’s when the view came in handy. A good half an hour was spent with the two squashing their noses against the glass window as they looked at the surrounding buildings, chubby fingers pointing at the tiny cars on roads below and the distant planes over Tokyo Bay.
The only caveat? Our proximity to a table of salarymen clearly trying to conduct a serious and very grown up meeting, who were most likely disturbed by the two toddlers (if you are reading this — apologies).
On the plus side, the atmosphere of adult self-restraint was lightened with the unexpected arrival of a family with children, who were also indulging in afternoon tea — a further reflection of the hotel’s family-friendly appeal.
Overall, it was a deliciously indulgent and surprisingly fun experience for toddlers and mothers alike, with staff behaving with gold-star-level tolerance toward their wayward mini guests.
Having said that, I confess, it was with a sigh of relief that we entered the lifts to leave — the bedraggled toddlers’ “casual elegant” outfits may have been covered in Afternoon Tea debris, but we were simply happy to have miraculously, averted any breakages, high-octane tantrums or impromptu fountain swimming sessions.
Kid’s Afternoon Tea and Heavenly Tea both cost ¥4,300 per person and are available daily from noon to 5 p.m. in the 45th floor Lobby Lounge of The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo, 9-7-1 Akasaka, Minato-ku. For more information call 03-3423-8000, or visit www.ritzcarlton.com/tokyo.