It all began a few years ago, when I discovered a friend (and former coworker) enjoyed afternoon tea as much as I did. We spent the entire summer visiting hotels all over Manhattan, spoiling ourselves with sandwiches, scones and many, many pots of tea. Over the years, Jee has continued to visit or revisit places around town for tea but a full-time job had pretty much kept me out of the loop and I’ve managed a few rare visits.
However, we managed to squeeze a teatime session recently during my very brief break between jobs and a too busy April. On a grey Monday afternoon, we met up at one of the earliest places we went for tea — the Astor Court at the St. Regis hotel. It had been a highlight and one of my favorite places those many years ago and I’m very pleased to find that it’s still an outstanding place to have afternoon tea.
The Astor Court has been renovated since our first tea there. Gone were the pastel upholstery, floral patterns and piano. The colors are a bit bolder and less feminine with metallic hues everywhere. It’s more fitting and appropriate to accompany the King Cole Bar in the back of the dining area.
Despite that, the service was still excellent. We both chose the traditional afternoon tea service (no caviar or champagne); I went for the Golden Assam tea while Jee picked the Osmanthus Oolong. Instead of the bright, shiny silver teapots I remember from the last visit, the tea arrived in white porcelain pots this time (at least we won’t accidentally touch hot metal). Because I was still under the weather, I added some lemon to my tea though I would normally drink it straight.
The sandwiches were less traditional than they were in the past, and it wasn’t a bad thing at all. There was a good variety and all were very tasty. We were served a Maine Lobster Roll with Caviar on brioche; Scottish Smoked Salmon with Lemon Dill Butter on pumpernickel; English Cucumber with minted Cream Cheese on brioche; Egg Salad with Watercress; and a Curry Chicken Pate with Savora Mustard and Cornichon. I don’t think I could possibly choose a favorite!
The scones and pastries were brought out on a tiered tray. The plain and raisin scones were warm from the oven, and served with clotted cream, berry preserves and lemon curd. Delicious. Thankfully, the scones weren’t too big otherwise we wouldn’t have room in our stomachs to sample the pastries. The pastries were fewer but slightly larger and much more manageable: rose and pistachio macarons, miniature chocolate mousse cups and cherry and pistachio financiers. A sweet (but not too sweet) way to end the meal. Neither of us finished the pastries but we did taste each of them and we were pretty full by then.
I’m so glad we had this chance to revisit the Astor Court at the St. Regis for tea. It had been far too long between visits and hopefully, it won’t be several years again before I return.