Best Places for Afternoon Tea?
Just as the subject line suggests, where would you recommend in Boston for afternoon tea?
I've been to:
Four Seasons, Bristol Lounge. Great tea, good food, beautiful view if you can get a window seat, service has been spoty in the psat though I haven't been to their tea since the renovation.
The Lounge at The Ritz Carlton: Similar to the Four Seasons' offerings. The service was a bit better though.
Boston Harbor Hotel - Intrique Cafe: My least favorite of the three. The tables were too small and the food seemed as though it has been prepared too far in advance, though the berries and clotted cream were the best I've had.
I also know that there are teas at L'Espalier (very interesting menu too if you look at their website), the BPL and the Park Plaza. There are some places that do tea in the burbs too but I'm not sure where.
I haven't had an afternoon tea in far too long - the last time I did was as my wedding rehearsal in May '02, and that was at the Colonial Inn in Concord. Nice, and it was a really fun party, but not an outstanding tea.
In any case, the Bristol Lounge at the Four Seasons has always been my favorite. I've done the Ritz (but not since well before *their* renovation) and not enjoyed it as much. The atmosphere isn't as relaxed/relaxing, and I prefer the actual tea service at the Four Seasons, which uses (or at least used to use) two china pots per person, one for the brewing tea and one for hot water to dilute the tea. The Ritz used a metal pot that I found uncomfortable to handle.
I've had the MFA weekday afternoon tea, which is served upstairs under the Sargent murals. It's organized by volunteers who provide the tea, cookies, and sandwiches, and so it varies from day to day and feels pretty homespun. I took my sister to the MFA tea last year when she visited Boston and considered it a chance to rest our feet and make a small donation to the museum. (Small plates, small donation--I want to say it was $7 a head but can't remember exactly.)
I love the tea at the Ritz, I get the Edelweiss (sandwiches and pastries) and the jasmine tea. It's enough for a full meal for me - I love the service and it's a more formal setting with excellent but easy going service. I usually go sometime in the winter and it's a nice cozy treat.
I'd be interested in the MFA tea if they have one in the back - that might be great for summer.
I've had good teas at L'Espalier and Upstairs on the Square. The disappointing aspects of both experiences had to do with service - even L'Espalier doesn't bring it's A game at teatime. My girlfriend says that the food at the Ritz is comparable to that at L'Espalier, but that the service there is better.
(Tangent: Best afternoon tea I ever had was at Claridge's Hotel, London.)