Review: Afternoon Tea @ the Ritz-Carlton Huntington (Pasadena)
Following up on this post ( http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/... ), I'm posting review of the Afternoon Tea @ the Ritz-Carlton at Huntington. For starters, if you want to go - make a reservation about 2 weeks ahead. It gets booked up fairly fast (presumably by the hotel's guests.)
I went with 2 friends (both tea-philes too), only valet parking is available at the hotel (a shocking $12, which turned out to be $5 after validation) -- though those who don't mind a quarter- to half-mile incline walk can park a block downhill (check the parking signs, however.)
The afternoon tea takes place in the Lobby Lounge, a well-sunlit room which looks out onto a giant lawn and a background scenery of the San Gabriel Valley. A live pianist was there, playing a mix of pop, contemporary and classical tunes. The couches and chairs were very comfy, with plenty of soft cushions to boot. The china are gold-rimmed and imported from England, a nice touch.
All 3 of us elected to have the Royal Tea ($37), which is basically the Afternoon Tea ($29) with a few alcoholic extras. We started off with a fizzy Champagne Kir Imperial cocktail, delightfully tart and crisp (actually tasted like a carbonated cosmopolitan.)
The teas we got (each pot pours about 5 cups) were also good but became awfully bitter over time because the cheesecloth-wrapped leaves were left in the pot (the server did offer later on to dilute the tea with more hot water, which helped a bit.) I had the "Ceylon Sapphire" - good black teas with a touch of maltiness (and goes well with sugar and cream,) and my friends opted for the more adventurous "Wild Blackberry" and "Ginger Twist" ~ both good in their respects but definitely no-no for traditionalists (and not as good with milk.)
Our first three-tiered plate consisted of 5 kinds of savory finger sandwiches, all meticulously arranged to be small works of edible art. Selections include parma ham with apple chutney on walnut raisin bread & poached shrimp with citrus cream and sprouts on sourdough. Beautiful and delicious as they are, the portions were too small (each finger sandwich can easily be consumed in a bite, and the 3 of us were all used to more than 5 bites of savories in afternoon teas.)
The second three-tiered plate consisted of various cakes, cookies and pastries, raisin mini-scones, and thin slices of lemon poppyseed poundcakes. One of my friend wished she had more tea sandwiches instead, and I agreed that none of the sweets were particularly good (it wasn't bad overall, but we were expecting something more outstanding ~ esp. given the creative touches in their savories.)
The meal was finished off with a goblet of strawberries and cream topped off with a dose of liqueur (Chambord and/or Grand Marnier). I had the Chambord and it was quite good (I also had a taste of my friend's Grand Marnier and felt that the liqueur was too strong.)
After tax & tips, it came out to $46 pp (+ $5 for parking, thank goodness we carpooled) -- the experience was 'ok' to 'not-bad', MUCH better than Millenium-Biltmore but nothing really special, so probably not likely to go again, especially with so many other tearooms [many that are cheaper] we have yet to check out.
... next stop for us: in 2 weeks, we are heading to the Regent Beverly-Wilshire ;) will keep you guys posted.
I've been to tea at the Huntington Gardens, Ritz-Carlton Pasadena, Peninsula Hotel in BH and the Beverly Hills Hotel and a few places up in San Francisco...
Avoid the Huntington Gardens. Although tea is brought to your table, the cakes and sandwiches are served buffet style-- refrigeration and sneeze guards and all. Not so nice, not so fresh, and not inexpensive either.
My favorite of all was the Beverly Hills Hotel. That hotel is so cute to begin with, plus the service was very polite and thorough, the presentation beautiful, the tea selection unique, and the pastries delicious. Great people watching too. The only drawback is that the room it's served in is a bit dark and there aren't enough windows...
Peninsula hotel was nice too... service, tea, and pastries comparable to BHH and the room is much more airy with views of the gardens. But overall I still felt more comfortable and taken-care-of at BHH.
My next destination (when it finally cools down around here!) Jin Patisserie in Venice. Anyone has been there yet? I'm getting kind of bored with the standard tea service fare and am looking forward to trying her Asian-influenced tea and pastries.
Been to the Huntington Gardens too and the tea was fairly good (it was a rose-flavored black tea when we went), but yea--food was definitely sub-par.
I've been to Jin before -- the tea & food portions are modest (enough to make me feel satisfied, but not full). I do love the selection of teas (Le Palais des Thés from France, they have a store in Beverly Hills) which has very good fusion flavors that brings out the tea & fragrance well (my favorite is the du Hammam, a flavored green tea with subtle fruit jam and floral notes.) The pastries & sweets are generally good too (flavors may be too eccentric for some.)
And if you're still hungry, there's quite a few dining options just down the street (Lilly's for example) -- or the various snack shacks by the beach.
I wasn't sure if Beverly Hills Hotel had one (didn't find it on their webbie) --- but I'll probably hit Peninsula next and then BH Hotel. Thx for the heads-up
So it sounds like they are not filling the pots via samovars anymore? They used to have huge silver samovars lined up at one end of the room, with a different brewed tea in each, and filled the little teapots from them. That was so lovely and elegant, and the tea itself was some of the best tea I've had. But that was way back when there was a lot more floor space in the tearoom, before they tripled the number of tables in there.
Great review -- thank you. You summed it up nicely.
I completely agree that they don't give you enough savories -- and the sweets and scones are good - but they lack an element of 'wow'. (For mouth-watering scones, try The Pennisula in Beverly Hills)
As for the tea (you picked my favorite!) and they've always been wonderful about refilling or getting me a fresh tea pot.
I'm looking forward to your Regent Beverly Wilshire review!