Ah, tea at The Adolphus. A blissful experience to say the least. The atmosphere, the service and the food all represent the best of what afternoon tea has to offer. Don’t get me wrong, there are a number of tea services in the area that are lovely, delicious and relaxing as well. (In fact, see Raya’s review of our experience at The Arboretum here.) But there’s just something about the regal décor, the tea captain in her tuxedo with tails, and the classical pianist that makes one feel as if the letters HRH (His/Her Royal Highness) precede their name.
The experience begins as we are escorted to a cozy sofa surrounded by lush greenery. On a coffee table in front of us sit two formal place settings (see photo) and a plate of three small cookies to whet our appetites. We are handed a list of teas to peruse and asked if we’d like champagne. (Yes, please.) The tea captain, Michelle (who has been in her position for five years and knows everything about tea), explains that we should choose three flavors to be shared between us. Raya and I decide on Pear Caramel, Rainforest Mate, and a special chocolaty blend carried only occasionally, Decadence. Michelle then decides which will pair best with each course and serves them accordingly. First up, the Rainforest Mate and a plate of finger sandwiches for each of us. The tea is simply delicious with a perfect balance of spice and fruit. The flavors of mint, rose petals, apple, pineapple chunks, star anise, lemongrass and cloves blend together to create a flavorful yet delicate result. In between sips, we nibbled on smoked turkey with tarragon dijonaise on whole wheat bread, English cucumber with Boursin cream cheese on house made white, fresh mozzarella with vine ripe tomatoes, balsamic reduction and fresh basil, curried chicken salad on a mini croissant and egg salad on brioche. The turkey had just the right amount of smokiness and the cucumber was good, nothing special, but definitely good. The tomato mozzarella could have used a bit more cheese but was still delicious. Not a fan of curry, I was surprised that I actually enjoyed the curried chicken salad. It had just a hint of the Indian spice which gave it a little kick but not so much that it kept me from enjoying it. And the light, fluffy croissant made it even better. Our favorite sandwich by far was the egg salad. The soft bread and not-too-mayonnaise-y egg mixture combined with the tiny crunch of chives was heavenly.
My favorite course paired Pear Caramel tea with scones and clotted cream. The Adolphus makes their scones the traditional way, with golden raisins. “To eat them like the Queen,” Michelle explained, “they should be cut in half lengthwise, then covered with marmalade followed by the clotted cream.” We, of course, followed instructions. The scones were fantastic, not too crumbly, and the jam and clotted cream just sweet enough. We couldn’t decide what we liked better, the scones, or the tea with its incredible aroma and peachy, caramel flavor.
And last but certainly not least, dessert. Michelle served the Decadence tea and told us that while she usually feels tea should be served without milk, the chocolate notes of the Decadence tea are enriched by it. We tasted it both ways (with and without milk) and enjoyed each for different reasons. If I were drinking it alone, without all the sweets at my fingertips, I’d probably use milk, which makes it similar in taste to a light hot chocolate. But the plain version was just as enjoyable, and even better, with the pastries. The miniature treats, as you can see from the photo, were almost too pretty to eat. Almost. I started with the chocolate mousse and was pleasantly surprised to find raspberries on the bottom. It was rich and creamy, and the chocolate didn’t overpower the raspberries. Yum! The raspberry chocolate cake was light and fluffy, but because the mousse had the same flavor palette, it would have been nice to have something a little different. It was delicious though, so I really can’t complain. Lemon desserts can sometimes be too sour but the next confection wasn’t too much of anything. In fact, it was a perfectly-textured citrus pyramid atop a buttery, crunchy wafer that melted in our mouths. If you like pecan pie, the pecan diamond will not let you down with its crunchy, gooey goodness. And just when we thought we couldn’t possibly ingest one more thing, out came the creamiest, most decadent truffles ever. We somehow managed to gobble them up. Go figure.
After about two hours, we were stuffed. But it was worth every single bite.
Tea at The Adolphus is offered Thursday through Saturday from 3pm to 4:45 and is $38 per person (which includes tax, gratuity and parking). Champagne is not included but definitely available. Make your reservation well in advance as they fill up quickly. Call 214-742-8200, ext. 3174.