In lieu of getting each other gifts we would inevitably return this year, my friend Kim and I decided to celebrate the holidays by going out for a fancy meal. We settled on afternoon tea and after asking around, it seemed that L'Espalier was the place to go for just that.
L'Espalier offers what they call a "fantasy tea party." There are three different tea menus to choose from, all based off of fairy tales and nursery rhymes. Beyond the names, the fantasy aspect is nonexistent. In fact, the whole tea service, though good, was presented somewhat awkwardly. Beginning with our arrival. We came in through the Mandarin Oriental hotel. To get to the restaurant, you walk through the hotel lobby, upstairs, down a hall, through Sel de la Terre (another restaurant) and then into a round vestibule area. In the vestibule, a gentleman took our coats and told us to have a seat in the lounge until our table was ready. Being that we were the only people we could see in the restaurant, and had made a reservation, being asked to wait was somewhat confusing. A few minutes later, the gentleman reappeared and showed us to one of two tables directly off the lounge area, separate from the regular dining area. It was private, which was nice, but it was also a bit like being seated in a hall.
We both opted for Red Riding Hood's Basket, which is the full tea, sandwiches, tea service and pastries. We also both chose the Darjeeling tea.
The tea came first and was promptly followed by the sandwiches. They had no issue replacing the ham and cheese on my order with a plain grilled cheese. The waiter (dressed in waiter garb) who brought the tea seemed confused about who was getting what and had to return to the kitchen before bringing us the service, making him the first of three waiters who made it half way to our table, stopping and returning to the kitchen and finally returning to our table.
The sandwiches themselves were very tasty and quite filling for the small size. I found the lobster salad to be disappointing, as that it didn't have a lot of flavor and the lobster was stringy.
The pastries consisted of a signature L'Espalier swan cream puff filled with mocha cream, an almond cookie with pomegranate seeds, a fig bar, chocolate decadence cake, cranberry scone and panna cotta. Not being much of a sweets person, this part might have been slightly wasted on me, but I enjoyed the chocolate cake, panna cotta and scone. Their having replaced our knives and forks with spoons (of multiple sizes) made cutting the scone and spreading the clotted cream, jam and honey a bit difficult.
|milk and sugar service|
All in all, the afternoon was lovely, but I think that was more a product of the company and conversation than the tea event itself. While the food itself was tasty, the situation of the table and seemingly confused waitstaff made the whole event something to scratch your head over more than walk away wanting more. L'Espalier has most likely deservedly earned its stars for their food and presentation (which I've never had, way out of my budget), but did not make much of an impression for afternoon tea.