So it’s been a year since I’ve last had a proper afternoon tea. Though, I suppose “proper” can be rather subjective; maybe what I really want is a more traditional afternoon tea with the real sandwiches, scones and some miniature pastries. That’s not quite what I had recently when Jee and I went to the Whitby Hotel.
My office is on the street as the Whitby so I’ve been watching all the construction and decorating happening both inside and out of the hotel as workers prepared it for its opening a few months ago. It took me some time before I did some research about the hotel but what caught my attention was that they were offering afternoon tea. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical about how well it would be since the hotel is located on a side street instead of busy Fifth Avenue, where most of the grand hotels are. When Jee finally returned from her winter hiatus in Florida, I suggested we meet up and try the afternoon tea here.
We had picked a date in advance and unfortunately, it was one of those weekends where subway construction had put a dent in my plans. It wasn’t as terrible as it could be and despite the unavoidable detour, I arrived first. The hostess led me to the back room—the Orangery—which was airy and light, and filled with furniture that definitely reminded me of being in an English garden. It was a nice surprise because when seeing that room from the street, one could not see how lovely it really is.
Jee was a bit late, coming over from an art show on the west side but it was so good to see her after so many months. I had more than enough time to peruse the menu and knew exactly what I wanted. We both shared a large pot of their in-house English Breakfast Blend but ordered different food. Jee went with the more traditional Whitby Tea while I chose the Healthy Afternoon Tea. There was a slight hiccup in service (they brought out two traditional tea sets by mistake), but overall it was fine. At least Jee had plenty of time to take all the pictures she wanted of the food and our lovely environs.
Both tea services offered the requisite scones, two per person (one plain, the other with fruit) with cream and preserves. Instead of clotted cream, the Healthy Tea substituted it with oat cream which was absolutely delicious and I couldn’t taste the difference at all. The tea sandwiches were not terribly traditional but tasty nevertheless. Jee’s plate came with a pretzel bite rarebit, walnut pesto palmier, grilled steak tartine and a cucumber sandwich. The healthy version offered sesame seed brittle with avocado and radishes, a pickled cucumber bite with smoked eggplant, a vegetarian biscuit BLT (mushroom instead of bacon) and a beet salad cup. I honestly enjoyed the savory options and it was all delicious and different.
Desserts were also of an interesting variety and how nice that there were no macarons for once. The Whitby Tea offered key lime icebox and brown butter hazelnut cakes, a calamansi flavored canelé, and a flourless Valrhona bar. Healthier sweets on my plate were a fancier version of an Almond Joy, a black forest quinoa puff with sour cherry, bananas foster and coconut cake, and an elderberry and Meyer lemon crisp. I tried to eat it all and I think I managed pretty well. What I liked was that the food was good and neither of us suffered from a food coma afterward.
I’d love to return and have the tea again, and it’s definitely on my revisit list. For those interested, the Whitby also offers a Champagne Afternoon tea as well. And now every time I walk past the hotel on my way to and from work, I can’t help think about the lovely space and their delicious afternoon tea. Till next time!