Afternoon Tea in Beverly Hills or OC
I've had afternoon tea at the Beverly Hills Hotel--great ambience since it's served by the piano in the lobby of the hotel (which means, there's good opportunity for people-watching and you'll no doubt see a celeb walk by). Food and tea were both decent, but a notch below the Ritz in Pasadena. Still, I'd recommend it and go back myself.
With dinner in OC, I would drive down before traffic gets really horrendous, not during (which would be after tea). I don't think the Ritz Carlton does tea anymore, but here's a link to other tea houses.
The McCharles House in Tustin is charming, but it's been ages since I've eaten there. The other cute one is the Los Rios in San Juan Capistranco, which is a charming town to walk around anyway. Again, can't speak to the food.
Again, I'd be more worried about traffic than who has the best food for tea!
I went to the Regent, I would not recommend this place for afternoon tea. First, if you do not have reservations for afternoon tea, you cannot get afternoon tea. I have never heard of this sort of policy. We got a table, and just had coffee and dessert. The service is not very good. The food was decent, but far from spectacular.
You could also try the tea service at the Rose Garden Tea Room on the grounds of the Huntington Library, located in the city of San Marino. While this may not be in BH or the OC, it is in between the two, and you could make this a stop on the drive down. The Huntington Library is also a beautiful place to take out-of-town guests anyway. Here's their menu:
The location is very elegant in a beautiful room next to the rose gardens. And the service is buffet style so you can fill up if you want to.
Depends on how much time they have and how prepared actually -- reservations are practically required there... and it can get quite crowded esp. if there's a special occasion group there (with people making a beeline for the buffet). The food & tea's only OK for me. And probably not worth the $40 ($10 to get into park & ~ $30 for the tea) unless there's time to actually tour the gardens.
the regent beverly wilshire tea is actually fairly light - everything looks really pretty though (I DO recommend springing the extra $10 for TheBlvd tea with their signature Blvd cocktail with fresh squeeze berry puree)
I also heard good things about the tea @ the Peninsula Hotel & at the Beverly Hills Hotel (haven't tried either myself)
Paddington's Tea Room is also interesting (though fairly pricey) -- Chowhounds seem to have mixed opinions about this one though.
In the OC, the only place I know of that's interesting is Sweet Diva in Brea (north OC)
an afternoon tea in BH will fill you up so that you may not want dinner....
if you are shopping in Beverly Hills, the most convenient would be the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel. A beautiful 3 course- sandwiches, scones, pastries- high tea. at the intersection of Rodeo Drive and Wilshire.
if you are just looking for a nice lunch in BH- there are TONS of choices......
Jack and Jills
Neiman Marcus has a nice restaurant