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Tea Room Buffet @ Huntington Library...worth it?

Tea Room Buffet @ Huntington Library...worth it?
I am curious if the food at the Library is good enough to make time for.
Has anyone eaten here before?

The Tea Room Buffet costs $19.95, only accepts reservations and has an admission charge of $15. This meal would cost $35. Is it worth it?

Here is a copy of the menu:

Chicken Curry on Wheat Bread
Cucumber Mint Tea Sandwich on White Bread
Sliced Egg and Watercress on Egg Bread
Parma Ham and Asparagus on Marble Rye
Atlantic Salmon with Caviar on Pumpernickel
Brushetta on Crustini Baguette
Carrot and Ginger on White Bread

Asian Turkey & Broccoli
Tri-Color Tortellini with Cauliflower
Watercress and Mandarin Orange and
Minted Cucumber

Freshly Baked Scones
Seven Layer Bars
High Tea Lemon Cookies
Chocolate Brownies
Lemon Bars
Chocolate Cups
Fruit Tartlets

Also included:
Domestic and imported
cheeses and crackers
Fresh cut fruit
Hot brewed tea or coffee

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  1. Admission is free on the first thursday of the month (that's when i usually go).

    If you have time to stroll in the gardens (which are really amazing!!!) and see some of their collections, it's very worth it. Otherwise, if you're not interested in the grounds/museum - just go to a hotel/other tea place and save some money. The food is not amazing - but it's quite good and it's a nice atmosphere right next to the rose garden (which should be in bloom).

    1 Reply
    1. re: dtud

      The wisteras covering the pathway to the Japanese garden are in full bloom as well... what a sight...

    2. I had this tea recently. Over all, I liked it.

      You must make a reservation. I just showed up and had to make a "reservation" for an hour later or so. Fortunately I did want to see the Library. Unfortunately I was feeling peckish.

      Is it worth $35? Probably not. But if you are there anyway, I'd say it's worth another $20.

      The tea itself was excellent -- among the best English-style tea I've ever has in the US. (Green tea is sort of a different beast, in my opinion.)

      The food is overall quite good but seems quite "americanized" to me. The scones are pretty sweet. Sweetened whipped cream is served instead of clotted cream. Some kind of thick, probably sweetened, cream-type thing was served w/ the strawberries. I didn't have any, because it looked like that marshmallow flavored sauce that kids put on ice cream sundaes. When I was last in England (granted, about 25 years ago) cream was never sweetened and seldom whipped.

      The cheese was fine but not impressive. The only recognizably English cheese the day I was there was Sage Derby. There was also Brie (which I'll grant is eaten often enough in England), some kind of Swiss, what I think was an American Cheddar, and a couple more that were not memorable ... possilby Jack and pepper Jack?

      The fruit and sandwiches were the most successful. Egg salad and watercress is one of my favorite sandwiches, and these did not disappoint. The salmon was nice as well. I don't ever really like cakes and such (cf. my disdain for the overly sweet scones) but the fruit tartlet was fine.

      One overall complaint is that the buffet table is refrigerated and it keeps the food too cold. I know there are health regulations blah blah inspectorcakes but ... come on. Cheese really needs to be served at room temp.

      As to service ... the host seemed not very interested in helping me. There was a huge table in the corner with no one sitting at it. I offered to sit there and let him seat other parties at the other seats. He responded with "we don't do that." Hence my improvised reservation. When I came back at the appointed time he claimed my reservation was another half hour later. I would have none of it. This time he gave in and seated me (at one of several empty four-tops). There was a party finishing at the aforementioned huge table. There were plenty of empty seats. They left and another party was seated at the huge table. Still plenty of empties. Grr. The actual servers, on the other hand, were helpful and efficient. (Not that there's that much "serving" going on what with the buffet table. But they kept the table stocked and kept everyone in tea and water.)

      1. i think the tea buffet at the huntington is more like the tea cafeteria.

        i'd go to the gardens and library (don't miss the conservatory, beautiful), then drive up the street to the SCARLET TEA ROOM www.scarlettearoom.com. slightly more expensive, but a the food quality and atmosphere is far and away superior.

        there are some recent posts re: tea at the HUNTINGTON and they mostly differ from opinions on this board:


        at the very least, make a reservation at both places (you'll need them on the weekends) and check out the buffet at the HUNTINGTON and cxl if you don't like what you see. it's pretty apparent when you go. SCARLET can be your back-up plan.

        good luck!

        1 Reply
        1. re: revets2

          We went here last Easter in hope of avoiding maddening crowds @ Ritz-Carlton, etc. and I thought the food was rather awful, the tea delicious. The Gardens and Library are so fabulous and worth a trip, but certainly the tea room is not a destination. Fine if you just want to snag a bite while you're strolling the gardens. I agree that Scarlet Tea Room much prettier and better food. For lunch the Cafe at the Huntington Gardens does a good job. I've had some quite good salads/sandwiches and they have hot offerings as well. Pretty to sit outside the Cafe while you eat.

        2. The garden and museum is well worth the admission, but if you want food, you are better off at the cafe on the grounds than the tea garden.

          I think revet2's description of "tea cafeteria" nailed it spot on. I mean if you want to stuff yourself silly with mediocre food that's fine. But if you want nicer service, sandwiches that actually looked tempting (instead of looking like a kid put it together), and better atmosphere (you can't see out to the garden) you won't find it there.

          For that kind of money I'd rather go to Chado at Old Town. Haven't tried Scarlett, so can't comment.

          1. Just back from the Huntington Tea Room. We were appalled at the tea service: three teas: orange pekoe by Red Rose, English Breakfast (no provenance), and de-caf! It was hot, so we passed on hot tea and tried the iced tea. At least it was brewed, but it had an off, smoky flavor. So, I went back to English Breakfast hot tea. Certainly said the staff, in a minute or less I had a nice big pot of ... well isn't that part of the problem. What can brew in a minute? Whoa, where did the tea strainer go? Can't I see my leaves? It was too-strong, sort of like mud. With cream and sugar and water added, it was passable. If you're going to serve tea, people, care about the tea!

            On a cheerier note we were pleased with the selection of Harney's tea bags at Noah's New York Bagels (Rosemead and Foothill) this morning. And I'll plug our favorite: The Tea House on Los Rios in San Juan Capistrano http://www.theteahouseonlosrios.com

            1 Reply
            1. re: cbjameson

              Just saw your posting...I'm a DC hound heading out to the west coast Labor Day weekend. We're spedending Saturday in San Juan Capistrano and celebrating my mother-in-law's 60th birthday while out there. She's a HUGE fan of tea and tea houses, so we'll likely check out The Tea House on Los Rios, per your posting.

              I'll post separately for dinner rec's in SJC...Thanks.

            2. My friend and I went today (Sept. 9, 2007) and although we had fun enjoying each other's company, were not at all impressed with the tea and the food.

              Sure, there were some lovely sandwiches (my favorite were the salmon on pumpernickel and the parma ham on rye.) And we both enjoyed the Bruschetta, although it tasted suspiciously like Trader Joe's bruschetta. The tarts and brownies were quite yummy, but, the fruit was freezing cold and tasteless.

              The teas were boring and bland. I would have liked to have brewed my own, rather than been given a pot, pre-brewed and lukewarm. And the service was sub-par. Our waitress hurried us along, barely pausing when we tried to flag her down to ask for a fresh pot of warm tea, as ours had become bitter and cold.

              One other major complaint - the staff is extremely eager to move the tables along. Maybe this isn't the case on the weekdays, but after about an hour and twenty minutes, we were approached by a staff person and told that we had been sitting there for awhile and that they needed our table for a large party and could we be ready to leave soon? Considering this was a buffet, and that there were SIX EMPTY tables in the room, I hardly thought this sort of rude behavior was necessry.

              To be honest, if it weren't for them rushing us out, I probably wouldn't be writing this review. But I found that to be so tasteless and low-class...what a disappointment.

              Is it worth the money? Absolutely not. But if you're there, already, and you're hungry for some mediocre food, go for it. It's probably better than the cafeteria.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ariadreams

                I worked at the Huntington for a few months (my dream job!), and I would eat at the cafeteria quite often. I really enjoyed the food! The short order cooks make a delicious turkey burger and quesadila. The soups, which they make fresh everyday, are also very good. They have a butternut squash soup that they make once or twice a month that I still crave. They also have a case of pre-made sandwiches and salads, and on weekends and sometimes on Monday they offer the same finger-sandwiches and scones that they serve in the Tea Room. Just don't get any desserts, they aren't very good. I didn't actually eat at the Tea Room till after I left that job! It was nice, but I didn't feel like I missed anything while I was working there. If you are spending the whole day at the Huntington, the cafeteria is not a bad choice for lunch. Definitely try some soup.