I am, if you will, a connoisseur of afternoon tea. My sister, Jeanette, and I have made it “our thing” and my other sister, Alison, and now Brian have gotten in on the gig.
Jeanette and I have tried tea at this venerable Washington institution before and were disappointed by a staff who clearly thought us too unsophisticated to be at the Mayflower: our teapots were left unfilled with tea leaves seeping themselves to sludge and tea sandwich crusts were dried out from a too-early preparation. When Brian and I went today as part of our Thanksgiving weekend treat, I was counting more on the setting to impress than the actual tea.
The Mayflower Hotel is simply gorgeous. It’s historic, classic, and feels like the world of Old Money. I love it. However, the flowers were a day past needing their stems freshly snipped and blooms re-arranged, and the emptiness of the room because of the “reservations only” policy to discourage drop-ins made it seem a little less chic than you’d hope for dropping $80 on an afternoon drink and snack.
But just barely less chic.
The walls have murals and faux marble painted on the columns, and the soft yellows and greens with the contrasting dark green water glasses make for a relaxing setting. Had the harpist been playing in her Juliet balcony suite, I could have completely wasted the day there gorging myself on treats and tea.
Much to my dismay, our server was the same as the one Jeanette and I had when we visited. His awkward English was a disadvantage to himself only when he tried to make a joke (He set out our tea and said, “Well, what are you waiting for?”) but he was present to ask how things were going once or twice and fill our teapots with hot water after every fresh cup.
The food and tea (and a glass of champagne too!):
We started with a glass of champagne that was really quite delicious – nice citrus on the back end and not too sweet. It also went well with the sandwiches offered.
I was disappointed at first glance at the list of tea sandwiches: salmon, vegetarian, duck with goose liver mousse, and mozzarella with roasted red peppers on pita. I’m a traditionalist when it comes to an afternoon tea, and sometimes a gal just wants sliced cucumber and cream cheese on fluffy white bread with the crusts cut off. Brian, however, was thrilled and declared the salmon tea sandwich one of the best salmon dishes he’s ever had. I think it was the whipped cream cheese mousse on which the piece of salmon was resting. The pastries, however, were exactly what I was looking for and I was bummed I’d wasted valuable stomach real estate on the aforementioned sandwiches.
Brian joked “signature” banana bread was his favorite, and he was spot-on. The éclair was good and the black currant scone just okay, but a raisin brioche and coconut macaroon were swoon-worthy.
I ordered Earl Gray tea (I can’t help myself – I tend to go for whatever tea is strongest and seep it until it looks like a cup of coffee) but this tea was STRONG. I actually had to spoon water from my water glass into my teacup to make it drinkable, although it was fine once I did that. Brian had Chamomile Citrus and added milk to make it more British.
I suggest The Mayflower for afternoon tea for the wonderful setting, “wow” factor, and incredible coconut macaroons.
Best for: Impressing out-of-towners and Anglophiles.
Worst for: Coffee-drinkers.