It’s worth taking time to have afternoon tea at the Raffles Hotel [http://www.raffles.com/EN_RA/Property/RHS], Singapore’s most venerable pit-stop.
Afternoon tea here is not just a snack, or even a meal, but an occasion, with all that you might expect from a top-of-the-range internationally famous institution – elegant classical decor, white tablecloth, cake-stand, napkin carefully placed on your lap not once but every time you leave the table, and a harpist. Lots of attentive waiters and waitresses, all of them clued in to the fact that I’d ordered Assam tea, which came in a dainty silver pot that poured slowly and with dignity. Because I was on my own, someone brought me a magazine, unsolicited, in case I got bored.
The cake stand was, I was told, simply to start things off. The buffet included hot dishes, of which the most remarkable was a savoury carrot cake with dried squid. (I can remember being astonished, around 1985, to discover that carrots will make a sweet cake, to which I was introduced by a Canadian lady called Cathy; here the concept goes full circle.)
It’s important in these circumstances to pace oneself: the sandwiches (inevitably with the crusts cut off) are moreish; the cakes even moreish, and a man comes round with a basket of scones at regular intervals. I lost track of the number of small pots of Assam that came my way as I gazed at the elaborate cast-iron Victorian fountain outside the window.
This is the sort of life-enhancing moment for which you simply don’t ask the price. When the bill came it was S$57.65, which my credit-card company translated as £26.29.