I will start this post off by saying the Waldorf Astoria Chicago is quite possibly my most favorite place on earth. Everything about this hotel reflects the utmost in beauty, elegance, and luxury. Following a world-class experience during my last stay for my birthday, I just knew I had to return for their new 2016 Afternoon Tea Series. Afternoon Tea might have my heart a smidge more than the fabulous Waldorf, so I couldn’t wait for my favorite girly activity.
Tea is hosted in the Lobby Lounge, a small, quaint room off of the main lobby. Beautiful, white china, plush gray chairs, and near black wooden accents complimented each other to perfection. With drapes pulled, light jazzy music from the speakers, and soft, yellow lighting, it was almost as though I had been carried away from the busy Chicago streets outside. Tea service began with my choice of about 11 different teas. I was torn between Magnolia Blossom Oolong, Georgia Peach Nectar Rooibos, Bourbon Vanilla Chai, and Lemon Berry Meritage. Okay, it’s safe to say, I’m terrible at making decisions, especially when all of the options sound so yummy! I ultimately selected the Lemon Berry Meritage and boy was that a good choice. It was exactly as I’d imagined. A tea that was both sweet and tart at the same time with a beautiful deep pink color.
Then my favorite part arrived, the treats! As with most tea service, three tiers of goodies are standard. One with sweet pastries, one with savory bites, and the third with some form of scone coupled with clotted cream and jam. Now given my dietary restrictions (a nut allergy and a pescetarian), there are often a few things on a standard tea menu that I can’t enjoy, however, I am always more than accommodated- that only minimally applied here. I began with the savory bites, as I always do, to allow myself to end on a sweet note (my favorite part). I enjoyed deviled eggs with chives and balsamic caviar, beet cured salmon with pickled vegtables, and asparagus over burrata. These items were wonderful, however, instead of giving more of the menu items I could have, I just remained without two additional savory dishes. This was disappointing. Next, the “hot cross buns,” a sweet bread drizzled with a white icing. These were pretty dense and just okay alone, however, when coupled with the clotted cream and berry jam, they were excellent.
I saved the best for last, or so I thought. The sweets included mini, and I mean mini, cream puffs, mini berry scones, raspberry pate de fruit (basically raspberry candy), and some sort of caramel custard. I was unimpressed to say the least. I understand my nut allergy altered the menu, however, I usually have outstanding sweets at other tea services in spite of this. These treats were just blah.
For anyone looking for a traditional afternoon tea, this was certainly not that. No harps, no standard finger sandwiches and scones. Tea at the Waldorf Astoria is a modern take on a classic and it has a lot of potential, but it’s not quite there yet. All in all, the experience was just okay. The service does not compare to that which I equate with the excellence of the Waldorf Astoria and the selections and accommodations for those with dietary restrictions was minimal. I am unsure how much longer the tea series will continue, however, with so many other great options for Afternoon Tea in Chicago, the Lobby Lounge needs to make some serious adjustments to keep up with the competition. Until then, I’m off to the next sweet experience…