I didn't organise an event at this location as I was going to attend with some friends from out of town and thought that if it was outstanding I could always organise a Chowhound trip later.
My first and abiding impression of the Ritz Carlton is location..location..location...the lounge was indulgently and elegantly decorated with period reproduction furniture, Victorian paintings and Chinoiserie. The tables were decorated with wedgewood peacock teasets, silver cutlery and a vase of fresh flowers. In addition a professional harpist played lilting tunes throughout the afternoon.
My friends and I ordered the traditional tea. At $26 per person it comprised: a large pot of tea (choice of Darjeeling, Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Scottish Breakfast and a selection of green and herbal teas);and a multitiered tray of sandwiches, scones, mini pastries and shortbread.
The tea, an excellent looseleaf English Breakfast, was served properly with a pot of hot water, a creamer of milk and a bowl of assorted brown and white sugar lumps. The sandwiches were also very good. There were three types: cucumber, blue cheese and walnut; proscuitto and tomato; and smoked salmon.They were the best sandwiches I have eaten so far on the tea trail, superior in quality to both Nieman Marcus and the Mandarin Oriental. However, with three fingers allocated to each person there wasn't enough of them.
The scones, the main reason for my visit, were a disappointment. Hard and filled with raisins, they weren't up to the standard I would expect from the Ritz, especially considering it is a European chain. Served cold, they were obviously made a day earlier. They were also served with whipped cream rather than the obligatory devonshire clotted cream, which made a real difference in taste. The scones at the Mandarin Oriental were superior by comparison as they were made immediately when ordered and came to the table hot and crumbly.
The pastries were also uneventful. Mini fruit tarts, carrot and banana cakes lacked taste and detracted from the subtlety of the traditional tea. The same could be said for the shortbread. Petite fours or light strawberry tarts would have made a better finish to the meal.
In conclusion, you can go to the Ritz for decent tea, sandwiches and atmosphere but forget about the scones.
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