The St Regis hotels almost needs no introduction if you’ve seen the right Hollywood movies but as we don’t have any in Australia and there’s only one in Japan, I was definitely curious to see what made this hotel almost synonymous with the word ‘fancy’ in pop culture.
In Osaka, the hotel is a quiet pocket of luxury in Honmachi, about 1.5km from Osaka’s famous Shinsaibashi and Ebisu-bashi Shopping Streets and the philosophy driving the space is that it ‘should feel like home’. It does, if ‘home’ means high ceilings, luxe furnishings and a life where afternoon tea is a ritual and natural thing. For us ordinary folk, this was a bit of an escape into the life of the Astor family, who founded the chain.
Afternoon tea at the St Regis Osaka happens in the St Regis Bar, which is a beautiful, high-ceilinged space, full of light and surprisingly understated. It feels like you’re in a wing of a private library that just so happens to have a well-stocked bar and an absolutely gorgeous contemporary artwork taking up an entire wall. The artwork was created specifically for the St Regis Osaka when it opened in 2010 and depicts key landmarks of Osaka in traditional Japanese screen print style, with a generous covering of gold leaf.
Afternoon tea will set you back 4900yen but make no mistake — this is an incredibly filling affair, to the point where I literally couldn’t finish everything myself, and was full all the way to dinner even after an entire afternoon of wandering around the Shinsaibashi and Ebisubashi area afterwards (with quite a lot of heavy items on my back).
First, to address the actual ‘tea’ part of afternoon tea. I got to try the Rikyu, a subtle, unique tea custom blended for the St Regis and named after a famous Japanese tea master in the Edo period. You’re meant to squeeze a tiny petal of yuzu citrus into the tea, which starts off subtly sweet, changing into a more flowery flavour before tapering off into a slight bitterness.
The Morgantau tea was definitely my favourite though – it has a beautifully sweet smell like orange blossoms or honeysuckle and is just incredibly light, sweet and fragrant to drink. I ate it with the yuzu citrus chocolate which had a lovely citrus-y ganache in the centre and looks adorable to boot.
The afternoon tea has a good combination of sweet and savoury finger food (and – as expected of Japan – themed to its upcoming seasonal event which was Halloween for me), though it favours the sweet a little more. On the whole, I’d say the range of food was pretty good – there were a couple of standouts and nothing that tasted bad, but definitely a couple of desserts that felt a bit like ‘fillers’ (though if you’re a fan of tiramisu or vanilla berry tarts or caramel, you’ll probably still enjoy them).
I can say I genuinely never thought I’d sit here and write an enthusiastic sentence about scones because they’re usually the high tea food I eat sparingly (filling but usually very one-note!) but the St Regis scones were genuinely the best I’ve ever tasted in my life so far: fragrant and subtly sweet with lovely crust and a ‘crumbles in your hand’ softness but also satisfying dense. I even enthusiastically piled on the clotted cream which was surprisingly light and not oily or fatty at all, offset by the tart taste of the Australian (!) jams. I was genuinely sad I couldn’t finish them all but I had to control myself so I had enough stomach space for the rest.
My favourite savoury item probably the spinach bagel sandwich with duck which used a vinaigrette dressing to cancel out the oiliness of the duck skin (though I would have liked the entire thing to be warm) and the dollop of salmon mousse and mushroom duxelles on a tiny soft breadroll, complete with tiny sprig of dill.
I loved the carrot mousse, which was aerated to give it that light, fluffy texture and had a sweet, delicate balance of the sweetness of the carrots and the savoury flavours of the herb jelly on the top. The La France Bavarian cream had a beautiful puff pastry, along with small, jellied pear pieces inside the custard-like base which was quite refreshing. They all look like bite-sized pieces but, trust me, it adds up!
The ‘Blackcurrent Mont Blanc’ or, as I nicknamed it, the ‘Batman moon thing’ was also very memorable as a vivid punch of tart blackcurrent cream, on top of a profiterole-cross-cupcake like base.
Afterwards, I got to take a wander through the other St Regis dining areas, which are characterised by their elaborate lighting fixtures, which form a focus against very understated and simple furnishings. The ‘Koryuu Niwa’ (dragon garden) is a rock garden just outside the lobby, designed to look like two dragons dancing. I may not be able to justify splashing out for a stay at the St Regis just yet, but if the attention to detail in the afternoon tea is anything to go by, it might just be an experience worth saving up for.
St Regis Osaka
3 Chome-6-１２ Honmachi, Chuo, Osaka, Japan
Phone: +81 (0)6 6105 5659
Web: St Regis Osaka
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of the St Regis Osaka.