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Aug 19, 2007 07:08 AM

Four Seasons High Tea

Ever since I was a little girl, high tea at the four seasons has been a semi-annual treat. My mother especially likes this place now, because she is celiac and they always specially prepare here a gluton-free tier of goodies for her (including scones). But last time the service was definitely below average - I don't know what went wrong. We got our pots of tea quickly after we ordered, but the food took sooo long that I had finished my whole pot of tea by the time our tiers of treats came along. So I asked for more tea. The new pot of tea took so long I didn't get it until after I finished eating.
I was very annoyed with the timing but didn't make a big deal out of it front of my mom.
Only thing to note is that my mom's celiac tier of treats looked better than mine!

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  1. First, I have to get my little pet peeve out of the way - it's afternoon tea, not high tea. I know that "high tea" sounds like it must be a fancy thing, but it's actually a working-class suppertime meal.

    Okay, now that that's off my chest, I have to say (again) that my own last experience at the Four Seasons, back on Valentine's Day, was a sore disappointment as well. I know full well that Valentine's Day is not a great day for dining out - which is actually why we decided to do tea rather than a dinner out, and they were not unusually busy. It was a horrible, wet, snowy, sloppy day and we arrived ready to splurge a bit and be pampered, only to get service with all the warmth of a morning rush at Dunkin Donuts.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Allstonian

      Boy, I would be bummed by both your experiences and would expect better for the 4 Seasons. . I had a lovely time at the Park Plaza Swan cafe a few months ago. With a large group, they offer as many different teas as you'd like so that you can compare them and they have some world class teas available. Tip, get the unique plantation varieties instead of their house blends, which are good but less interesting.

    2. I recently had afternoon tea at the Wenham Tea House and I was blown away. Everything was delicious and the service was outstanding. A great option for the North Shore!

      1. I recently had drinks at the Bristol Lounge and noticed many servers who have been there for years, so I'd be surprised if there's been any significant degradation in service. But I've always felt that their service was at a particularly leisurely pace. That doesn't excuse their performance on your last visit, but if any place knows how to take constructive criticism, it's this.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Blumie

          I echo Blumie's sentiments. It is the Four Seasons; I would expect that they would be responsive to any feedback, positive or negative, from their customers. That being said I would also expect to recieve very good service there. I am sorry you both didn't enjoy your last visits.

          1. re: Blumie

            Speaking only for myself, my problem was not leisurely service, it was cold, nearly unfriendly service. My experience with tea at the Bristol Lounge is only occasional but goes back nearly 25 years; after this past visit, I'm not at all sure I'd bother to go again.

            Also, I'm genuinely puzzled - how exactly would you recommend that I provide constructive criticism, and to whom?

            1. re: Allstonian

              I was with Allstonian at this tea, and I can confirm that if anything, the problem wasn't "leisurely" service, but the exact opposite. From the hostess who sat us to the busboy who cleared the table, there was a palpable sense of "You're an imposition and we want you out of here as soon as humanly possible." You would think we had shown up without a reservation ten minutes before the close of service. This was not leisurely, this was not perfunctory, this was verging on actively rude. Never again.

          2. I went today; a birthday tradition that I have shared with my daughter, since her 5th and my ???- she is now 14, and we only missed one year, when we couldn't get a reservation because our birthdays were on a weekend when the Rolling Stones were staying there. Anyway, I was quite hesitant, after reading these, but for the sake of tradition, we decided to give it one more try. She is more adventurous than she used to be, but still loves the cucumber sandwiches best of all. When I called this morning to make the reservation, the woman asked if it was a special occasion, so I mentioned my birthday. At that time, I asked if it would be possible to get a few extra cucumber sandwiches, if they were offering them today. She said she would try. Imagine my surprise when she called back a while later to see how many. I asked for three extra. We were running a bit late, so I called en route to see if we could make the reservation for 30 minutes later; they said of course. We arrived on time, and were seated by the window. A server came by promptly to take our tea order, and verified that we wanted the extra cucumber sandwiches. Another server came by shortly afterwards with our pots of tea. I did miss having the small pot with the tea strainer, but it wasn't a big deal. I had to ask for lemon, but then I didn't have to wait too long for it. The food came shortly afterwards; I think there used to be more of it, but this was plenty. TThe top plate had happy birthday written in chocolate and a lit candle. This was where the only service issue came in- he didn't bring the Devoshire cream, lemon curd, and jam. A hostess walked by shortly after we received our food, and I noticed the omission. I asked her if they still had them, and she said someone would bring it right over, which they did. As for the food, the top tier was a cranberry scone, and a piece of banana walnut bread. Both were good- I liked scone best, daughter opposite. Middle was a rolled up smoked salmon on pumpernickel, cucumber sandwich, and an egg salad. Bottom was an earl grey roulette, an apricot tart of some sort, and some kind of square with fig. All were good; the roulette was the best, though I didn't really pick up the earl grey flavor. It was a little surprising not to have something rich and chocolatey, but I liked what we had. I don't really remember him coming back to see if we needed anything, once we got the missing accompaniments, but we didn't, so it wasn't a big issue for me. Clearing the plates and taking care of the bill moved along pretty well. All in all, it was much nicer than what the other posters experienced. I have done the Ritz and Intrigue, but there's something special about a tradition like this, especially when a teenager is still excited about it, including the preceding Swan Boat ride!