Afternoon Tea at St. Regis New York: Astor Court
Afternoon Tea at the St. Regis New York Hotel, an historic Manhattan landmark at 55th and 5th Avenue, serves as the perfect oasis from the frenzy of New York City to the calm of a centuries-old British tradition – for Mother’s Day.
As my mother and I sat in the luxurious Petit Salon sipping various blends of teas and enjoying an assortment of pastries and desserts, it seemed like the chaos of the city just outside the hotel’s doors was hundreds of miles away. In fact, it was quite a jolt to our system upon returning to the city’s streets after 90 minutes of solitude.
We savored the opening course of delicate homemade finger sandwiches, including smoked salmon on pumpernickel bread (our favorite), cucumber with a hint of dill and cream cheese spread on olive pan bread, and chicken salad on white bread. Soothing sounds of a harpist who fill the acoustically-friendly dining room. Eye catching murals of Psyche, the Greek Goddess of The Soul, could not be more appropriate as this is a soulful experience that dates back to 1904 and which has become a very special ritual for generations of families.
Indeed, Afternoon Tea here is a time honored custom that seemed like it’s passed down as an heirloom from mothers to daughters. There is perhaps no better Manhattan venue for friends to share some quality time. For an hour or more, I’ve seen guests actually carry on a conversation while enjoying each other’s company. Perhaps because people are craving quality time together, Afternoon Tea has never been more popular as tea rooms in lavish hotels from Maine to Oregon offer guests brimming cups of black, green, white, oolong, and herbal teas.
Of course, the tea is the star attraction, and tea enthusiasts will find 23 different types at the St. Regis. There were popular black teas like the St. Regis Blend, combining Keemun and ceylon with blackcurrant and the essence of bergamot, and the T Blend, which infuses the best tea characteristics from the four corners of the world. Other tea selections include Pear Tree, a green blend from China perfumed with the essence of freshly plucked ripe pears, Osmanthus Oolong, delicately scented with rare Osmanthus flowers, and Jasmine Pearl, a highly prized white tea that consists of tops buds and leaves only. My mother and I wanted something very different than what we drink at home. She opted for a fruity, zesty Lemon Mango Tango and I had the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party a tea based in black tea with a lush red fruit flavors and vanilla.
Tea is served piping hot in individual porcelain tea kettles with matching cream containers and tea strainers on fine china. To complement the finger sandwiches, plain and blueberry scones, almond tea cakes, and assorted petits fours are served on a three tier silver stand. Each is baked daily at the hotel. Toppings for the scones include a very dense, luscious English vanilla Devonshire cream, lemon curd, and raspberry jam.
The petit fours or sweets from the second tier consisted of a very chocolate-y and dense, Gateau de Voyage cake that’s topped with a dark chocolate glaze, dried cherry, vanilla cream, a decorated white chocolate square with “Mom” written on it, and gilded with a dab of edible gold. (The chocolate square detail made my mother liked a lot.) The raspberry linzer tart had a wonderfully crisp crust with a robust, slightly chunky (in a good way) raspberry topping.
When we’re about to leave Astor Court, our maître d’ asked us to wait for a second and we were gifted with these lovely pink-tipped roses and sweets. It’s a great end note to a lovely afternoon tea.
With an ambiance that includes plush cushioned chairs and a very attentive staff, the St. Regis pampers their guests with a time-honored tradition. However, don’t be misled by the lavish exterior. This is not a stuffy experience. On the contrary, Afternoon Tea here is an unencumbered New York City tradition that everyone should put on their “must do” list.
To view more photos of this event, please view the slideshow below (or CLICK HERE for my photo set:
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