13
Dec
09

Afternoon Tea Chinois. Or, why am I a sucker for anything served on a multi-tiered plate?

In a perfect world, afternoon tea would be served every day. Imagine breaking at 4PM for your daily dose of crustless cucumber sandwiches followed by fresh-from-the-oven pastries. If only. In reality, afternoon tea is more of a special occasion thing–like when you want to take someone out and have hours to linger, without heading to the Melting Pot.

Here’s the spread from the “Afternoon Tea Chinois” at the Willard Intercontinental. Both the decor and the food were inspired by the terra cotta warrior exhibit currently at NatGeo. The Willard offers a good selection of Chinese teas, along with the more traditional standbys like Earl Grey. We had the green passion (fragrant, light) and the oolong tea (bitter, a nice complement to all the sweets).

I was curious to see how they’d do afternoon tea with a Chinese twist. Some places slap a few Mandarin oranges onto lettuce and call it Asian chicken salad. Would the Willard’s interpretation be as simplistic? (Excuse the poorly lit photo.)

Actually, no, but they could have taken it further, especially with the desserts. I enjoyed the finger sandwiches more than the sweet stuff–unusual coming from a sugar addict. The Asian-style chicken salad and Chinese eggplant ones were packed with flavor. A big plus: they offered us seconds on the sandwiches.

The middle tier held two scones per person. While the five-spice scones were pretty bland, the cranberry-orange ones delivered, the crunchy top giving way to a flaky center. They were served with a delicious lemon curd, Devonshire cream, and raspberry and orange marmalades.

Onto the dessert tier. It’s a little sad when the macaroon from the Trader Joe’s freezer case beats your house-made chocolate-hazelnut one. Oh well. The green tea meringues, spiced marshmallows and Chinese fruit petit-fours were also ho-hum. But I gotta give them credit for their Mandarin mousse sitting in an edible white chocolate spoon, if more for presentation than flavor. 

The tea is held in the hotel’s Peacock Alley–proof that this town is really all about spin. We were basically seated in a hallway off the lobby flanked by the corridor to the bathrooms and the doors to a ballroom. Hmm. While Mr X-sXe enjoyed the people-watching opportunities, I was distracted by the chilly draft coming in every time the hotel’s back doors opened (hey, it was 40 degrees today and I was freezing my tokhes off). Thank goodness for the extra sandwiches, which helped redeem my opinion of the Willard’s afternoon tea.


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