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Coffee & Tea 1

Afternoon Tea: Astor Court at the St. Regis Hotel

vvvindaloo | May 11, 200802:05 PM

I brought my mother and aunt to tea at the St. Regis yesterday as an early Mother's Day gift. I had originally planned on taking them to the Plaza, but then found out that the Plaza was having some sort of grand opening event and was not accepting reservations for Saturday. Well, I needn't have felt disappointed- tea at Astor Court was wonderful. The room was every bit as lovely as it appears in photos (though perhaps a bit smaller than I expected). Everything from the delicately embroidered white linen tablecloths, to the silver place settings, to the pretty settees (yes, we sat on very comfy little couches), to the soft live guitar strummings spelled elegance and leisure.
Afternoon tea costs $45 per person and includes a pot of tea (there are at least two dozen to choose from), several savory finger sandwiches, several small tarts/petit fours, and two or three scones for each person. The accompaniments include double cream (heavenly), a strawberry-raspberry jam, a perfect lemon curd that was not too sweet and not too tart, and one of the most divine preserves I have ever tasted: pineapple-banana-coconut-strawberry. There are two variations offered on this menu: "champagne tea" ($57pp), which includes all of the above and a glass of champagne; and "caviar tea" (I can't recall the price), which includes caviar. We all liked the idea of champagne with our sandwiches and tea with our sweets, so we ordered the champagne tea, which I think was just right.
Our server, Mohammed, was perfect. Incredibly polished and professional, he described the savories and sweets with grace and poise, as if he were reciting poetry. I was glad that I had gotten dressed and done my hair for the occasion :)
The sandwiches included: shrimp salad on wedge-shaped white bread; smoked salmon with dill cream cheese on brown bread pinwheel; spiced egg salad on wedge-shaped multigrain; sun-dried tomato and chevre on square-shaped multigrain; cucumber with mint cream cheese open-faced double-layered rectangular brown bread; and, my favorite, a curried chicken salad with sultanas on a round brioche puff.
All of the sandwiches were good (moist and fresh as can be), though I only had one small bite of the egg one, as I don't care at all for egg salad.
The scones were delicious, though perhaps not as light and puffy as I would have liked. The plain scone had rich, buttery flavor that was ever-so-slightly sweet. The rum raisin was reminiscent of soda bread, though denser and richer, and quite sweet, but in a delicate way. Of course, they matched beautifully with the cream and jams. As for the rest of the sweets, the miniature pineapple-almond loaf cakes were divine. The milk chocolate-caramel tart was creamy, smoky and sweet. But the real standout was the tiny lemon meringue petit four, which was tart and refreshing, with a tasty dollop of the browned white topping. Finally, the dark chocolate-espresso tartelette was so rich that I could only manage half of it by that point. This was garnished with a smoked pistachio nut, a fresh raspberry and strip of gold foil. Very pretty.
We enjoyed it all, and were even given extra glasses of champagne with our bill, the explanation for which was that they had some extra and wanted to offer it to us!

A note about the service: Mohammed has this way of showing up at the table at all of the right moments and letting us be the rest of the time, which was very nice. His manner was formal, but relaxed. When he invited us to take our time and enjoy ourselves, I felt as though he really meant it. Hot water was replenished and extra jams (and champagne!) were furnished without request.
By the time we left the St. Regis, I had completely forgotten why I had wanted to go anywhere else. We couldn't have asked for a better afternoon, and I think I may make Afternoon Tea a Mother's Day weekend tradition.

Thanks so much to all of you who helped me research tea options last month- we have a winner in the St. Regis.

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