Monday, November 5, 2007

The Palm Court at The Ritz

The Palm Court
The Ritz
Mayfair, London

The Palm Court

With soft melodies from the romantic and mood-setting piano, violin, and cello in the lower court, this Afternoon Tea experience will remain one in a lifetime.

In all the glamour and majesty, and overall perfection, it is at last the Fifth of November, and before entering the court I awaited my date in the grand, luxurious waiting room of the lower Palm Court area, most suitable for lounge beverages and relaxing conversation. Sophisticated individuals in fine business suits and cocktail dresses sipped their champagne flutes ever so delicately, lifting up their eyes only once in a while to note who was staring at them. They know their life of refinement, and they know this is the place to live it.

The evening waiters prepared the lovely, fragile, and precious silver for the long-awaited reservations of tea at 7:30pm. While there might have been booming sparks of fireworks from the celebration of Guy Fawkes just next door at Buckingham Palace, we had not a care in the world... for we were in for an evening of sheer perfection, not to be surpassed by any other in the aesthetic of English Tea.

Champagne, Tea, & Treats
Glass of Ritz Selection Cuvee Privee NV

Of course, we were first greeted at our banqueting, cushion bench beneath the center palm of the court with two fine flutes of champagne. To think we would be having hot tea to follow! I never quite got to finish the champagne, because this experience was really about the "tea" aesthetic, right? This champagne was a treat... dry, sparkling, not sweet at all, but very nice.

Oolong Tea
"A Sophisticated Taiwanese black tea offering an amber hue, slightly nutty taste and herbaceous aroma"
As suggested by our waiter, I selected the oolong tea, which I must say was the ideal pick. The flavors and aromas of the tea with a tad of cream and brown sugars was so delightful. I can't get over the flavors of this choice. Meg's was lovely as well. She selected the traditional Earl Grey. It's a consistent pick, but I'm still happy with my choice.


Sandwiches:
Smoked Salmon (on Wheat), Ham (on White), Tuna Mayonnaise (on White), Cucumber with Cream Cheese (on White), Mature Cheddar Cheese (on Sundried Tomato Bread), Egg Mayonnaise (on Petit Pan).

What is tea with out the cucumber sandwich? I actually got away with not having the traditional cucumber because I spotted the smoked salmon, which was ever-so-lovely. This was on wheat bread and the salmon was so fresh and tender.. I loved it! I also tried the mature cheddar which tasted quite pure and fresh, good flavor, and I thought the sundried tomato bread was interesting. It's an unusual selection for a tea-bread, but I liked it on it's own. I wouldn't prefer it as a sandwich bread though with any other item besides a mature light cheese in the center. It went so well with the cheese, so the chefs did a great job with the pairing.

Tea Pastries:
Fruit Tart (left), Carrot Cake, Chocolate Macaroon, Napoleon,
Creme Sandwich, Lemon Zest Cheesecake

I was a bit disappointed that we weren't allowed to take the un-eaten pastries home at the end of the night because "they wouldn't stay fresh and taste the same for more than 2 hours past their serving" -- pathetic excuse from the Ritz, but you have to accept that... this is the Ritz. Doggy-bags are just not the "thing" to do here. I easily guzzled down the Napoleon with the white chocolate and cocoa swirls in the back, and Meg took the Lemon Zest Cheesecake from the far right. I tried the cheesecake, and boy was it lemon-y! The zest flavor was quite strong. It was chilled, but creamy, and in the center was a dense bit of lemon curd, while on the bottom was an extremely fine-line and firm bit of graham. My Napoleon was superb, and I preferred it to the cheesecake, I think because it was pure sweetness with chocolate and vanilla creme flavors :)

Freshly Baked Raisin & Apple Scones
with Devonshire Clotted Cream and Strawberry Preserve,
alongside Fruit Cake
The raisin scones were mildly sweet, and you can taste the milk and butter flavors, quite modest, but it gently adds to their appeal alongside the Devonshire cream -- simply superb and unbeatable. The fruit cake was lovely as well. It was dense and rich in raisins, with a tad of cream dappled along the top. How wonderful...
The scones were also served warm, fresh, and soft... ever so soft, not remotely rubbery or stiff at all. They were as fluffy as soft and warm dinner rolls.

Napoleon
Heavenly, absolutely heavenly. The top layer was thick in cream and sweet, while the flaky layers in between were so soft and modest in sweetness, juxtaposing the sweet cool vanilla-amaretto creme in between. My sheer satisfaction by the end of this was all that was needed to satisfy my sweet cravings for the whole of my stay in London.

What a lovely experience. We stayed here until about 10, just enjoying the atmosphere, conversation, and tea with treats. I recommend that everyone take advantage of making a reservation here and cherishing it when he/she can. It's unforgettable, and truly memorable. There are few things that surpass perfection at the Ritz.

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