This past week on a sunny, but chilly November day I met up with sister-in-law Dorothy for another afternoon tea adventure in Boston. Our destination this time was the Langham Hotel on Franklin Street not far from Downtown Crossing.
We had decided that, before heading to Beantown, an IKEA stop was in order, so we met up in Attleboro MA, and partnered up in my Subaru. We made it to Stoughton's IKEA in no time and, after a leisurely stroll through the store (which was not very busy on a Wednesday morning) we made our few purchases and then - on to the big city!
Driving north and exiting into Boston off I-93 has always been a challenge. The nexus of interstate, Mass Pike, service roads, and poorly marked exits is soooo confusing! Needless to say, we got all turned around and ended up heading west on the Mass Pike. But, we were able to take the U-turn back into Boston and, with Dor's guidance, we exited at Copley and handily made our way to the Boston Common Garage to park.
A brisk stroll across the Common led us to Winter St. on through Downtown Crossing, where we saw the Macy's Christmas tree being decorated, and eventually to Post Office Square and the Langham.
We soon found ourselves in the Langham’s lobby, which, as it turns out, is also home to The Reserve, where we would be enjoying our afternoon tea experience. We found the ambience inviting with a casual yet elegant feel. A very pleasant spot to while away a couple of hours.
I had made a reservation ahead of time, and it turned out that we were the only ones there at 2 pm for the "Tiffin Tea". In the photo above you'll see in the far upper left corner our white table-clothed spot.
Once seated at our table with a view back out toward the lobby we were presented with the menu as well as the Harney and Sons tea selections for the day.
There were a few additional specialty tea selections as well.
After savoring the aroma of a number of the tea choices Dor opted for pomegranate oolong, and I went for one of the specialty blends, a black tea likened to an English Breakfast (the one on the top right above).
Not long after we had made our tea selections we were served two plates, one with our tea sandwiches and the second with our sweet treats. We wondered where the third plate was and were also disappointed in the lack of the classic three tiered server placed directly on the table, which typically serves as a center piece.
But have no fear - a basket of warm scones arrived and was placed on the table-side server stand where we could access it easily. And, of course, it was accompanied by three classic garnishes - strawberry jam, clotted cream and lemon curd. Oh boy, we were in for a treat!
After the obligatory 3-minute steep (with mini hourglass timer table-side) our server poured our tea, and we started in on the sandwiches, which were presented simply and attractively on Wedgwood china.
The standard fillings of egg salad, chicken salad, cucumber and salmon were all delicious, although a couple of the breads were a bit dry. Dor and I agreed that the highlight was the oh-so-moist and slightly sweet Boston brown bread with salmon - an unexpected but tasty combo! It brought back memories of my mom baking Boston brown bread in cans oh those many years ago.
We paused a bit, sipping our delicious teas, before starting in on the scones. They were just the right texture, broke apart nicely with a perfect crumb, just ready to be topped with the quintessential garnishes.
As I observed the somewhat pale exterior I thought a brush with milk or egg wash and a sprinkle of sugar before baking would have added that just-right final touch to these otherwise stellar scones. And, although the jam, clotted cream and lemon curd married nicely with the buttery crumb, the curd could have had a brighter, more lemony flavor.
On to the sweets!
The tartlet was a pleasing combination of a smooth sweet potato custard filling, gooey marshmallow atop and a crisp crust, although the aftertaste of the crust was bland and not terribly flavorful.
The most disappointing of the group was the iced autumn spice cake - very dry with an unappealing mouth feel and little flavor.
The pecan shortbread was right up my alley - crisp, light and buttery! Perfect with a cup of tea!
While the cranberry white chocolate cheesecake pop had a nice texture and flavor, the pop thing is a bit too trendy for my tastes. But hey, that's just me!
All in all Dor and I found this tea experience a notch above the Boston Harbor Hotel (see my post from 9/24/14) in terms of the over all flavor of the food (especially the scones!). The teas were delicious, but we noticed how quickly the hot water in our teapots became cold. We missed the tiered food centerpiece and thought the service in general could have been a little more attentive.
Yes, The Reserve offers a calm and pleasant atmosphere, and afternoon tea is a great way to enjoy a relaxing couple of hours in Boston.