Thursday, April 9, 2009

Tea at the Ritz

I could barely contain my excitement as my boyfriend and I walked through the elegant entrance hall of the Ritz in London. It may seem silly to some, but it’s not everyday that one gets to take afternoon tea at the Ritz, an institution synonymous with aristocratic elegance and the glory of a bygone era. Being a hardcore tea drinker (although I have always been perplexed by coffee aficionados), I love afternoon tea: an affair which the Ritz is famous for taking to decadent heights. As we walked down the gilded hall, the soft lull of music guided us to Palm Court, the Ritz’s stately and bejeweled tea room.

Once seated, I looked around the room. Despite the price (about sixty-six dollars per person), the twelve week advance reservation requirement, and it being a Wednesday, the room was packed with elegantly dressed individuals. Neither jeans nor sneakers were to be seen in this crowd of cocktail-dress wearing and coat and tie bearing customers—the Ritz has a very strict dress policy. I savored the old-world charm of the room: the gilded ceiling, the crystal chandeliers, the waiters in tails, and the ever present tinkle of china and conversation. The place exuded charm, refinement and over all luxury. I was definitely ready to start.

Within moments our waiter appeared with menus and a three-tiered silver cake stand, which was quickly covered with dainty, no-crust sandwiches on the bottom, freshly baked scones with preserves and clotted cream in the middle and topped with delicate little pastries. Our teas were prepared in silver teapots and served in fine bone China designed exclusively for the Ritz. Feeling very posh, we started eating, as we thought logical, from the pastries down.

It was only half-way through devouring our pastries that I noticed that we were the only ones consuming our sweets—everyone else was nibbling away at their sandwiches. Feeling very plebian for neglecting some rule of afternoon tea, which I later tried to Google, but never found, I too started nibbling on these crustless bites. Waiters, rushing about the room, refilled trays with more sandwiches, scones and sweets than I thought humanly possible for any individual to consume.

After eating and drinking tea until we were about to burst, we finally had to beg our waiter to stop placing more food in front of us. Two hours in Palm Court left me satiated both physically and spiritually. I had drunk in enough of the beautiful décor, the melodic piano music, the superior service and the wonderful sensation of feeling swank and special. The Ritz is definitely more than tea, it’s an experience.

If, unfortunately, time, distance and price make afternoon tea at the Ritz in London impossible, do not despair, there are options in Philadelphia for even the snobbiest tea drinker. The Four Season on Logan Square offers tea every afternoon from 3 to 4:30 in its Swann Lounge. Additionally, the Rittenhouse Hotel’s Mary Cassatt Tea Room and Garden also offers an English style tea daily from 2-5pm. However, for a different type of tea experience, try Ray’s Cafe and Tea House in China town, where you can enjoy their bubble tea or their famous coffee (if that’s how you roll), while nibbling on Taiwanese fare.

1 comment:

  1. Alexandra Neumann

    its as if you were drinking tea right next to me, nothing to be added or extracted... Magnificent!!!
    Ditto experience. Cheers



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