Three tiers of afternoon tea delights. Photo from Raffles Makati

Raffles Makati’s charming afternoon tea doubles as an art exhibit

With the theme “Harmony in Forms,” it features the works of esteemed artists Impy Pilapil and Hans Brumann.

Raffles Makati’s The Writer’s Bar is known for its creative afternoon tea themes. Last year, for instance, tea lovers were delighted with honey- and sakura-themed offerings. And with Raffles serving afternoon tea for more than 100 years and counting, you know you’re in for a few hours of premium tea and exquisite treats every time you reserve a table.

Harmony in Forms is Raffles Makati’s newest afternoon tea offering.

Opening another year of delightful afternoon tea offerings is Harmony in Forms, which the premium hotel describes as “a fusion of exquisite culinary craftsmanship and captivating visual arts.”

Art meets afternoon tea

Gone are the days when establishments that offered afternoon tea were a rarity. It’s no longer difficult satisfying a craving for an hour or two of elegance, sipping tea while nibbling a scone, with hotels and even a well-known tea brand hosting their own versions of this timeless English tradition. 

What makes Harmony in Forms unlike any other of its kind, however, is that it doubles as an art exhibit. Imagine sipping your tea and relishing your canapés and macarons amid mesmerizing art pieces. This high tea couldn’t get any more haute than that. 

The afternoon tea features the works of esteemed artists Impy Pilapil and Hans Brumann.
Photo by Johanna L. Añes-de la Cruz

The theme is but a reflection of how the hotel has always been a supporter of the arts. “I am delighted to share that within the walls of Raffles Makati, we proudly showcase a collection of 1,600 masterpieces by local artists, a testament to our unwavering support of the artistic brilliance within our community,” says Anne-Sophie Hurtaud, Raffles Makati’s director of food and beverage, during the afternoon tea’s press preview. 

Harmony in Forms showcases seven sculptures by renowned jeweler Hans Brumann and three pieces from the Aquabella series of Impy Pilapil, one of the Philippines’ most celebrated multimedia artists. 

Anne-Sophie concludes her opening remarks by emphasizing how the  collaboration is not just an event. “It marks a historical union of creativity and expression. Your contribution (Impy and Hans) to this exhibition will undoubtedly resonate as a milestone in our shared artistic journey.”

In an interview with The Post, Impy shares how she felt “very flattered” when she was invited by Raffles Makati to be one of their guest artists for Harmony in Forms. “I felt that, compared to a gallery, it’s a very cozy, intimate place. What came to mind was my Aquabella series which I haven’t exhibited before but I’ve done the pieces in 2011. Maybe they (artworks) waited for a more intimate place and it happened and I’m very happy.”

The Aquabella series is inspired by the ocean which has always made Impy dream about life underwater. “The magnificent phenomenon of the aquatic world has fueled this fascination since childhood. From this I have found continual inspiration to create works depicting its beauty and mystery,” she says. 

Impy—who is a sculptor, serigraphist, muralist, and stage designer—says that she “never” creates any work for an exhibit. “I create almost every day and when I’m invited, I look at the pieces that have a kind of story and theme. So when I’m invited, almost always, I’m ready. There are already artworks that I can exhibit which I haven’t shown anywhere.”

Over savory canapés and piping hot tea, Impy shares how she creates art works every day. “Not necessarily finish an artwork,” she clarifies, adding, “But I have my ideas in my sketchbook or my maquette and I continue to implement them with the materials that I use. Somehow they adapt through time, through the years, and I’ll have a whole body of work that has a theme.”

If Impy was flattered upon receiving Raffles Makati’s invitation, the Swiss-born Hans, on the other hand, was surprised. “Usually, I do these things in my gallery or in my office. The clients come to see me there. This time, it’s me going to another place.”

Asked to describe the works he selected for Harmony in Forms, he says that they are made of hardwood and mother of pearl. “That’s what I’m known for in the whole country. So why not show what I do?”

His style is known for seamlessly combining the sleekness of contemporary sculptural design with a dash of whimsicality and a keen eye for color, treating every material with utmost reverence, regardless of whether it’s gold or diamonds, wood or mother of pearl.

Considered by many as the country’s foremost jeweler, Hans, just like Impy, always feels the compulsion to create—with the octogenarian even trying his hand at carpentry by way of designing wood furniture. “I still design jewelry but create artworks as a hobby. I always love to do new things.”

A harmony of forms—and flavors

In keeping with the art-inspired theme, Béla Rieck, Raffles Makati’s executive chef, and his team created a menu that is influenced by the materials used by Impy and Hans in their chosen works. 

In so doing, Chef Bela tells The Post that he dug deep into the works of the guest artists. “Stone, glass, wood, and paper, these are the products she (Impy) prefers to work with. That was my angle in creating my high tea creations. We tested them internally many, many times, and we thought we have something new we can bring to the table here.”

Stone, for example, is the inspiration for their mini stone oven pizzettes with Kalamata olives and chorizo. Some of the treats were cooked using wood, such as the wood-smoked salmon canapés and wood-charred pineapple tartlets.

Then there are the macarons topped with sugar glass, steel-cut foie gras terrine with red apples, steel-blueberry cheesecake bites, Vietnamese paper-wrapped marinated truffle chicken, paper-thin flower petals on double chocolate, and limestone lemon tarts.

Completing the accompaniments are the mini mushroom quiche and pistachio eclairs, afternoon tea staples such as lemon-coated scones, natural scones, and clotted cream (Raffles Makati’s are so good I had to ask for two extra jars), and a selection of jams, preserves, and honey.

Chef Béla adds that he also made sure that none of the treats have the same shape. “I want to give the best experience in terms of the harmony of the different shapes and the choices of flavors and structure. Two years in the Philippines, now I know crunch is very important.”

Without seeming contrived, the elements come together in harmony, complementing, instead of overpowering one another, much like the works of Impy and Hans that are on display. The creations also stand as a testament to chef Béla’s own culinary artistry. Smoking the salmon gives it a slightly sweet flavor. Truffles lend the chicken a distinct earthy note, while the Vietnamese paper wrapping gives it some crunch.

It is three-tiers of harmony, not only in forms, but also in flavors. 

Asked what she thinks of chef Béla’s creations, Impy whispers in a conspiratorial tone, “Second serving na namin ‘yan.”

The Writers Bar welcomes guests daily from 2 to 11 pm. Reservations are required for the Harmony in Forms afternoon tea which is available from 2 to 3:30 pm and 4 to 5:30 pm. Sets for two start at P3,200 inclusive of a choice of premium TWG tea or coffee. Optional upgrades for mocktails, cocktails, and champagne are available.

The new lifestyle.