20090426: 5-star brunch

Sunday Champagne Brunch at the Intercontinental Hotel

Time: Every Sunday from 11:30am to 3pm at the Chengdu Intercontinental Hotel

20090426_brunch_ic_hotel_dessert3We strolled into the lobby and the tai chi masters practising their art instantly set the mood of focused relaxation.  Instead of joining in (this is encouraged and tai chi clothes are for sale), we, enthusiastic partakers of brunch, made our way forwards to take up our positions with balanced poise, and controlled grace at a table next to one of several trees in the buffet area.  The high glass ceilings and clever design make the brunching area light, spacious and completely unstuffy, and the outdoors feel is enhanced by real (unstringed/unstrung) birds flitting from tree to tree.

The tables and chairs are generously dimensioned – there is certainly no feeling of being cramped or squeezed in. That privilege was reserved for the food in our gourmands’ stomachs.  As the 4-piece jazz band struck up the first of their musical pieces, we eyed the classically simple place settings and the champagne flutes, and knew we were in for a thoroughly relaxing brunching experience.  The Champagne Brunch premiered on Easter weekend and after a successful start, has grown still further in popularity. On offer is the range of food you would expect from a 5-star buffet, including sushi and sashimi, and other south-east Asian classics including spicy prawns, a range of Chinese foods including light and crunchy spring rolls and ribs.  There is also a (subtly spicy) kebab stall, an egg station with a licensed ovular specialist, the traditional English breakfast elements, fresh fruit, 6 flavours of ice cream, barbecued meats, chocolate fountains in which to drizzle/dip fruit (or a naughty finger), freshly baked bread, locally source foie gras, a specialist congee stand, a counter where fresh juice is made to order, from oranges, pears, a variety of melons, ku gua (must be good for you) and celery.  Chocolate mousse juice was not available.  One of the most drool-inducing items of furniture we have seen is the trolley being wheeled around, containing tender roast beef with tasty gravy.  The most eye-catching section of the buffet is the fresh seafood section, with its range of mussels, prawns and oysters, next to various cold meats, cheeses and nibbles, such as tomato, mozzarella and olive oil snackettes, and melon wrapped in and prosciutto.

My brunching partner and I showed the expected professional commitment in our determination to report on this high-class feast, and we tried almost all items listed above, and can confirm the efficacy of harnesses used to lift bloated eaters from their chairs and lower them into a taxi.  The only slight criticisms we would raise are the inevitably limited range of cheeses, and the slight weakness of the coffee.  However, given that you’re coming to enjoy the champagne and the whole range of other foods, these are quibblettes of the most minor variety.

Shellfish at the Intercontinental Hotel brunch in Chengdu, April 2009
Shellfish at the Intercontinental Hotel brunch in Chengdu, April 2009

The highlights are numerous, the highest of which for most is the regular top-ups of Moet et Chandon champagne by the smartly aproned champagne waiters and waitresses.  For three-and-a-half hours of decent bubbly accompanied by high-quality buffet brunch, value for money is impressive, although 298 RMB (plus 15% tax, making around 360 RMB) may initially be wince-inducing.

Since we were due to play sport immediately after our meal, my fellow tester and I decided to finish with a light dessert, until we examined the array of temptations on offer, which deserved more than slight attention.  My favourite was the white chocolate mousse with a sponge base, all topped with a raspberry sauce (not only because of the health benefits of berries), and the mini Black Forest Gateaux (Black Thicket Gateaux?) which demanded a repeat performance, twice.  Before we reluctantly made our way past the jazz band, past the tai chi masters and towards the increasingly narrow-looking lobby entrance, there was just time to revel in the delight of a cheeky little raspberry blancmange, served in an espresso cup, topped with a cherry, and a chunky and flamboyantly lengthy pendant of chocolate, which draws the eye to this light and not-too-fluffy dessert, a delectable climax to this hugely enjoyable brunch.

Also worth mentioning their ‘Cook for mum’ event on Sunday 10th May 2009 which will allow children, under the guidance of the chefs, to create and serve a set menu for their mums.

Many thanks to Tom for inviting to us to review this.