A frequent afternoon tea-goer, I visited L'Espalier for their "Fantasy" tea recently. I have searched far and wide for new tea places, and I decided to take my friend to this new one on her birthday. The menu looked fabulous (and filling) online, and when I posted on Chowhound about it, L'Espalier's tea got a raving review.
Let me just counter that notion!
WHAT A DISAPPOINTMENT!!!!
Although the setting is fair, I was beyond disappointed in the tea.
Table: small, do not expect the traditional 3-tiered tea setting to come out or your own tea strainer. The milk and sugar dishes were unpolished and smudgy. The napkins and dishware and plain and boring white.
Ambience: There was no music playing for the tea. A harpist would have been nice (like at the Ritz) or general music. You could hear others' conversations without trying. One of the candles was out and spilled over in the fireplace.
Tea: Although the tea was delicious, when I walked in, I overheard a woman requesting her tea to be reheated. When I was poured mine, it was lukewarm!! This is unheard of.. there should be steam. Also, no strainers were provided or teapots. Oftentimes, our teacups were left empty as the servers did not anticipate refills properly. All of this would have been alleviated with a more plentiful tea.
Food: When you go on the website and read the menu, it looks quite bountiful and a good value. In actuality, my friend and my own mouths dropped open when we saw the TEENSY WEENSY food that arrived. I have been to many teas, and this one was almost laughable in the minute portions. We felt like we were the storybook "Littles".
The web site tea menus lists the following:
Add a glass of Cuvée L'Espalier- $12.50
Swans on the Boston Common pastries
Lemon curd-raspberry tartlets
Miniature strawberry shortcakes
Assorted rooftop herb garden truffles: oregano, thyme, lavender and mint
Blueberries and mascarpone in a gingerbread shell
Viennese chocolate cake
Russian tea cookies
Mr. and Mrs. Mallard's orange flower-water macaroons
Traditional scones with clotted cream and honey
Chocolate covered strawberries
In actuality, all was got was a white dish with six dot-sized morsels on each side. It was explained to us that not everything on the menu is part of the tea. Selections from the menu vary with each tea.
We each got a 1 inch high x 1/2 inch "swan" pastry with no taste. We each got a tiny madeline cookie that was 1/2 inch (no joke!).. a tiny morsel flake! We each got a 2 inch diameter scone (usually they are 4-5 inches or so). We each got a 2.5 inch diameter viennese chocolate cake with a tiny bit of apricot on top (think: size of a dime) that was hardly visible. The tiniest strawberry dipped in chocolate. And, a nickel-sized truffle with caramel filling.
Overpriced: All for $23 each.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, I realize that a tea is not supposed to be as filling as a meal (although, oftentimes, I leave teas feeling stuffed.) However, this tea was an outrageous disappointment that left me feeling horribly unsatisfied and reluctant to fork over $50+ for the overvalued event. The food was unimaginative and tasteless, the servers unattentive and annoying, and the ambience pleasant but mediocre.
Please, for your own occasion -- go out and try afternoon tea. But let me suggest you do so at a better teahouse for a happier experience.
:) Thank you!
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