High Tea at St. Regis Astor Court -- NOT recommended
I treated my mother (75) and daughter (11) to High Tea at the Astor Court on January 28th. Overall, several aspects could have been better and I doubt we will return. While the food was okay, the service was ungracious and unprofessional.
When we arrived, the Maitre’d glared and said coldly to me, “We have you reserved as a party of two but I see you are three.” I definitely made the reservation for three, so the mistake was not mine, and since we were immediately seated anyway there was no need to say anything. An unpleasant, unfriendly greeting is no way to start things off. The maitre’d might have smiled and said warmly, “I am happy to see you have an extra person in your party. We will be delighted to seat you.” Since the room was nearly empty when we arrived and not entirely full when we left, I did not get the sense that our need for a larger table than expected was a big problem.
We had just sat down and were looking over the tea menu when our first course arrived. We weren’t even fully seated – the table needed to be moved closer to the small couch so my daughter could reach her plate and my mother’s chair needed to be pushed in – but we had to put down our menus and eat immediately while the quiche was warm. I would have much rather had some time to get comfortable, read the menu, place our tea order, and secure a glass of water before beginning the meal.
As we ate our quiche, the waiter came frequently to ask for our tea order, so we ended up gulping our food and reading the menu simultaneously. The lengthy menu is a pleasure to read and I would have liked to ask about the white teas and see if there were any premium herbal teas for my daughter, but there was no time. The first course was thus utterly ruined, and left us all feeling pressured. Of course, no drinks had yet arrived.
We hadn’t quite finished our quiche and still had not received our tea when the sandwiches were served. This was about five minutes after we first sat down. The server mumbled rapidly to me the type of sandwiches we had and departed; I’m sure my mother and daughter could not hear him. At this point I called the waiter back and asked if we needed to be finished within a certain amount of time and why we were being rushed. He assured me we could take our time, and we were not rushed from that point on.
By the time the tea arrived, steeped, and we poured it, we were done with our sandwiches and still didn’t have water. The sandwiches were tasty and beautiful but given that four quick bites finished them off, that course seemed a bit meager. None had much filling and they had clearly been made some time ago – the bread was hard and dry on two of them.
Things improved when the tower of baked good arrived, and this course was quite enjoyable. We were regularly offered more hot water and the service was solicitous. None of the baked goods were fresh or warm, but the small lemon pound cakes were terrific, the best item served at the meal. The petit fours had no particular taste and the pistachio meringue cookie was soggy and inedible.
I did notice that parties at adjoining tables were rushed as much as we had been. Two tables “caught up” with us even though they were seated about half a hour later. And we were certainly not dawdling. I would say we were seated for about 1 ¼ hours max.
I had been told there would be piano music during the tea. Instead there was guitar music for about half the time we were there. Oddly, when we were finished it took quite a while to get the waiter back to receive and settle the bill.
I have to agree. I took my wife there last year and found it deeply mediocre. I was surprised by how shabby the room looked and how sloppy the service was. There were several tables with dirty dishes still on them when we went in to the dining room. That's fine at a diner, but disgraceful at a place charging this much. The food was blah, but the tea *was* good. It was no better, however, than that weird tea place that used to be in the DKNY shop. Anyone know what happened to that place?