Thursday, May 19, 2011

Travel Thursday: Afternoon Tea at the London West Hollywood

my cup of Earl Grey tea

While I was in Los Angeles a few weeks ago I scored an invite to try the new menu for Afternoon Tea at the London Hotel's Boxwood Cafe.  Having an undying love for Afternoon Tea, from the scones to the finger sandwiches to the sweets, I was beyond excited to check it out.  Plus it gave me the opportunity to scope out the swanky London Hotel which opened just after I moved from LA.

My love for tea wasn't something I had as a child.  I wasn't the little girl who would have tea parties with my dolls, in fact I didn't really play with dolls, I was a Barbie and My Little Pony kind of girl.  No, my obsession with the proper tea party came a bit later, after college specifically.  The summer after I graduated I spent a week travelling Europe with a good friend, we flopped in hostels, slept on trains, did it all on a budget and had a great time. At the end of our week she flew home and I flew to London to meet up with my mom.  Still on a student's dime, I took what felt like an endless tube ride to meet up with mom at the Grosvenor Hotel, what a change from the hostels I had been staying in! I happily went up to our room, took a nice hot shower, pulled on a fluffy robe and immediately asked mom if we could get tea, scones and clotted cream.  I had traveled quite a bit at this point in my life, from my student budget travel to more upscale versions with my family but for some reason when mom and I planned our trip to London I became obsessed with the idea of scones and clotted cream.  Luckily mom was willing to indulge. So we ordered tea up to the room, I don't remember any of the specific treat of flavors, I just remember loving every minute of it.  How dainty everything was, how proper, such a change from what I had dined on during my trip up until then. We proceeded to get afternoon each day we were in London.  It was all I had wanted it to be and my love of the afternoon tea was born.

the lovely flowers from our table
Back from my flashback to London and onto the London Hotel.  We arrived at the cafe and were directed into a gorgeous room at the back with so many floor-to-ceiling windows that you felt like you were out among the treetops.  It's my understanding that they don't generally hold tea in this room, but I have to say they should.  It was a perfectly special room for an Afternoon Tea.

it's always the right time for bubbly
A server immediately came along with a glass of bubbly which I happily accepted.  Can you do afternoon tea without a glass of bubbly or sherry? Sure.  But why would you? I'm happy that the folks at the Boxwood Cafe were on board with my thoughts.  We were next asked what kind of tea we'd like.  I was a bit surprised by the short tea list (Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Chamomile, Organic Peppermint, Floral Jasmine and Tangerine), I used to having at least a couple pages of tea choices.  I've been to many an afternoon tea and this is by far the shortest list I've seen.  The server then came around with large pots or carafes which he served us the tea. I was bummed that there were no adorable little tea pots for each person at our table. The tea did taste very nice though and I soon got over my disappointment at lack of teapots when the food started to arrive.

flaky scones, Chantilly cream and blueberry jam

A traditional 3 tiered serving plate was placed in the center of our table and to say it was overflowing with treats is an understatement.  At the top were small scones, plain and black currant with small bowls of vanilla creme Chantilly and blueberry jam.  You already know I'm a fan of scones and these scones were perfectly buttery and tender.  They were delicious on their own and made even better with the Chantilly and jam.  I loved the small size of the scones since there was so much other food I felt able to try each version and not feel too full for everything else.

adorable finger sandwiches

The second tier was full of finger sandwiches, my second favorite part of afternoon tea.  For me an afternoon tea can be made or broken by the finger sandwiches and these absolutely made this tea for me.  The egg salad was delicately spiced with curry and had a perfect peppery bite of fresh arugula.  I love roast beef and paired with the horseradish cream it was simple and yet exactly what it should have been.  Next was ham & cheese with butter lettuce, another winner.  I saved what I anticipated being the best bite for last, smoked salmon.  The bright salmon was perched atop a slice of English cucumber, dill cream and round of black pumpernickel bread.  The soft bread, with the rich cream, crunch of cucumber and salty, smokey salmon was perfection in a bite.

perfect smoked salmon and delicious egg salad

At some point while we were devouring the first two tiers of our treats, another platter came out.  So by the time we got to the bottom and sweetest tier, which on it's own was overflowing with sweets, we had even more on a separate platter. The first thing I noticed about all of the sweets is how intricate and gorgeous each dessert was.  They were truly too pretty to eat, almost.

the first dessert tray raspberry tarts, chocolate caramel tarts and shots of panna cotta

panna cotta, I loved the little shot glass presentation for these.  It was the perfect size with just a few small spoonfuls of cooked cream atop a sweet berry sauce.  The chocolate caramel tart, topped with pearlized beads of chocolate was lovely and delicious.  I then headed over to our additional platter of treats.  The gorgeous opera cakes topped with delicate chocolate butterflies stole the show looks wise, but I'm a lemon tart girl all the way.  The tang of the lemon curd in that same buttery crust from the raspberry tart was a dream and I couldn't be happier that it was my last bite of the day.

the second dessert tray with delicate chocolate butterflies that
look like they are straight from the Garden
The Boxwood Cafe is running it's special Garden Afternoon Tea through the end of June every day from 2:30pm to 4:30pm, make sure to get in there to taste these Garden inspired treats.

London Hotel
1020 N. San Vicente Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90069


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