Friday, November 27, 2009

Afternoon Tea at the Montage

Last weekend it was my mom's birthday and we've been talking about going to afternoon tea for some time. I researched all the places I could find in Orange County and in LA. From everything I read I finally settled on the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills. We wanted a sit-down service, not buffet style, which is offered at some places such as the beautiful Huntington Gardens in San Marino (a little town near Pasadena).  I think our choice was a good one. We've had the pleasure of having afternoon tea in London, at places like the Dorchester Hotel, and we knew that experience would be hard to live up to.

First of all, the setting. The hotel itself is gorgeous. It is only a year old, so everything is in pristine condition. We spent some time walking around before we sat down just to take it all in. The room where the tea is held daily, the lobby lounge, is much nicer than the name suggests. When I hear "lobby lounge" I think of people waiting around with their bags listening to a mediocre piano player. This is not the case. The room is large and one wall is floor to ceiling windows that look out into the garden.  The seating is all plush sofas and chairs with low tables. The place settings were beautiful as well. Everything from our plates to the sugar bowl was china hand painted specifically for the hotel. There was also a harpist, which made everything seem fancier.

There were basically 2 "levels" of tea service to order, with the only difference being that one includes a glass of champagne in addition to the tea, scones, finger sandwiches and desserts. With it being my mom's birthday, we went for the champagne. Our waiter was very knowledgeable about the teas, which was helpful since there were so many choices: many varieties of black, green, and white teas. My green tea had a tropical flavor with an interesting curry-like flavor in the background.  I loved the tea my mom ordered, called Meli Malo, it was a white tea with flavors of citrus fruits and plum. I need to find out where to buy it! The scones were the perfect texture and just how a traditional English-style scone should be. I sometimes forget that the scones at Starbucks aren't the best representatives for what scones originally set out to become. We each had one "plain" scone and one apple spice scone. Both delicious alone, or with the Devonshire cream, lemon curd and strawberry preserves served on the side. 

The finger sandwiches and desserts were great as well. We each had one of six different types of sandwiches, so there was no fighting over them or looking ridiculous attempting to cut them in half. There was a curried chicken salad inside a tiny pate-a-choux cup, egg salad, heirloom tomato, smoked salmon, cucumber, and asparagus with a salami type meat. The standout from the dessert options was definitely the French macarons, which came in vanila and chocolate raspberry varietites. The other fun surprise was the cake they brought out for my mom's birthday. It was a rich chocolate layer cake with vanilla buttercream filling and ganache on top. At this point, we were bursting at the seams and looking forward to the walk back to the Mosaic Hotel, where we stayed the night. From start to finish we had a lovely time and I hope we'll be back someday.

As a side note, one of the funniest things is watching the men in the tea room. They always look like they can't quite get comfortable and they seem to be looking around, afraid that some macho college buddy will come in and give them a hard time for drinking tea from pretty cups. Do you have a male spouse, significant other or family member who enjoys afternoon tea?

Coming up: a review of Craft LA (Tom Colicchio's restaurant) and Crumbs bakeshop.

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