“Hello” to the merry month of March and “Goodbye” to our common accessory, the Mask. Some celebrate the Wearing of the Green and honour St. Patrick with a parade on March 17. Mathematicians celebrate March 14 as International Pi Day by eating a pie. Others recall Caesar, betrayed by his best friend Brutus and stabbed to death while he spoke in Parliament. Beware the Ides of March.
We’re shedding our winter scarves and hats, and venturing out for some light socializing. In Yorkville, the buzzword on weekends is, “Let’s meet for Tea.” Would that be Afternoon Tea or High Tea? You might assume they are one and the same. And you might further assume that this lovely repast is just for “the ladies.” Wrong and wrong.
In the mid 1800s, breakfast and dinner were the two daily meals taken. Anna, Duchess of Bedford complained of having that sinking feeling in late afternoon and asked for tea and sandwiches to be served in her boudoir. The fashion caught on with socialites who enjoyed lounging on settees in the drawing room and sipping Afternoon Tea. But then it all came down to Class. While the rich could pause mid-day for a pick-me-up, the blue-collar worker could not leave his job for a spot-of-tea.
And when they came home at 5:00 they wanted tea and “substantials,” which meant that a hot dish or two would be served along with scones and pastries. They sat at dining tables that had high-backed chairs, and enjoyed the High Tea.
Yorkville is home to major hotels and interest-worthy restaurants that serve Afternoon Tea. You can also transition your Afternoon Tea into High Tea with an additional indulgence or two.
The Tea Room at Windsor Arms Hotel has been offering an absolutely delightful afternoon tea for decades. So popular, that they have not relegated it to weekends, but have four services daily: 12:00, 1:00, 2:30 and 3:30. The fireplace and magnificent crystal chandelier cast a lovely glow on the white clothed tables and sparkling tea cups in the purple walled salon. It was right here that Richard Burton proposed to Elizabeth Taylor (2nd time) in 1967. First, a pot of tea. Shall it be Tibetan Tiger, Darjeeling, Kenyan Green or classic Earl Grey. I love the freshly baked plain Scones as well as Lemon Cranberry Scones. And the selection of savories includes Goat Cheese with Caramelized Shallot Quiche, and Smoked Salmon on a mini croissant with fresh dill and salmon caviar, as well as the classics. A seductive selection of petit fours calls for another pot of tea. This Afternoon Tea is a mood changer. And isn’t that what it is supposed to be? Mon–Thurs $55. pp. Fri–Sun $75.pp
Moscow Tea Room is a newly-opened romantic charmer on one of the most iconic corners in the city, Avenue Road and Yorkville. A restaurant with a unique and precious menu all week, keeps Saturday and Sunday afternoons reserved for Tea. If you appreciate red velvet banquets, gold cutlery and sugar bowls, and a vast selection of rare teas such as Lightening Wood Oolong or Darjeeling Crystal White and Champagne by the glass, you will love it here. The three-tiered stand holds warm scones straight from the oven paired with luscious cream and berry jam, a decadent array of gorgeous pastries and tea sandwiches, including lobster salad, smoked salmon, curried chicken salad and more. Say that it’s 4:00 oclock and you’re still hungry, a quick look at the menu offers everything from caviar to beef tartare. $65.pp
Joni at the Park Hyatt Hotel offers a Tea menu that is like a romp through a garden of delights. The selection of special tea from Sloane Tea is intriguing. They have spread out an array of delicacies, with not a cliché in the bunch, that seem to say, I dare you to choose only one. Among the Savories are Foie Gras Cream puff, Shrimp Roll and Croque Monsieur, while the Sweet menu entices us with unique sweets including Black Sesame Choux, Rosewater Marshmallows and Yogurt White Chocolate Cheesecake. And if there is room for an indulgence, how can I not try Black Truffle Brie Gougere, or Scallop Crudo with caviar and Champagne sauce. A choice of three menus: Pastry in the Park $128 for two; Tea at the Park $188 for two; Indulgence at the Park $588. for two, includes two glasses of Dom Perignon. Saturday and Sunday only.
Sara Waxman is an award-winning restaurant critic, best-selling cookbook author, food and travel journalist and has eaten her way through much of the free world for four decades, while writing about it in books, newspapers and magazines. She is the Editor in Chief of DINE and Destinations magazine.