So I ask my sister what she wants for her birthday, and she says she wants me to take her out for a traditional English tea. I thought of the Ritz of course, but with their old building out of commission, somehow it's "not the same". Can anybody recommend a suitable alternative? Is there any place that approaches that combination of tradition, formality and deliciousness?
Thanks again, everyone, for pointing me at the Bristol Lounge -- it was just the thing -- comfort, luxury, and elegance without the old-Boston stuffiness of the Ritz. Forgot to ask for the parkside table, but we were just as happy looking at the beautiful room and listening to the pianist. And the food!...let me just say, this experience is NOT about tea. Four kinds of sandwiches, two of tea cakes, three sweeter treats, all in bite-sized portions exactly calibrated to satisfy two, all beautifully shaped and garnished, and almost all absolutely delicious. Devon cream, lemon curd, or strawberry jam for your scone, and your choice of honey, rock candy on a stick, or any of four more conventional sweeteners for your tea. I never missed the Ritz crumpets. And for you barflies -- can't speak to the quality of their drinks, but the bar looks to be a seriously relaxing place to hang out.
For the curious:
Apricot scones - fabulous - and I'm not a scone fan; but these were not too sweet, not too dry, and not overflowing with apricots.
Cranberry-walnut bread - good example of the genre.
Crab-avocado - tasty enough. Not a combination I've tried before. Might make this at home sometime.
Chicken - I didn't eat them and my sister wasn't impressed.
Shrimp salad - wonderful - tasted fresh and intensely shrimpy without being fishy.
Cucumber-Boursin - fine and fun, a little bland, the overlapping pattern of paper-thin cuke slices impressed me more than the taste.
Creme brulee - cute and sweet, but I guess it's hard to do pastries that small without a fairly dense crust.
Fruit-white chocolate tart - elegance in miniature: a little square pastry base spread with soft white chocolate and topped with 3 blueberries, a half-slice of kiwi and two raspberries.
Glazed brownie triangle - not my favorite chocolate treat, but gets points for not being overly sweet or dense.