Afternoon tea is served Fridays and Saturdays in the Bella Vista Restaurant. With its retractable glass conservatory roof giving one the pleasures of open-air dining without any of its (sometimes) attendant discomforts, the dining room's ambience might be described as California Casual Chic. A wall of windows gives diners expansive views of the Pacific Ocean from nearly every spot in the room.
The service was friendly and attentive but unobtrusive--no hovering, but always there when needed. The table was set with white napkins, but they were replaced with black ones for those of us wearing black so that no white lint would mar our clothes. That is just the sort of attention to detail that makes afternoon tea an "experience" rather than just a meal.
I am often unhappy with the scones when I go out for tea. These scones, one currant and one plain, were delightful. Not too sweet, not too fluffy, not dry, no off flavors from questionable ingredients. The scones were accompanied by strawberry jam, whipped cream and lemon curd. One of my party was a bit disappointed to not have clotted cream, but I actually sometimes prefer the unsweetened whipped cream.
The array of desserts had something for everyone. My favorites were the apple tart, madeleine and pistachio cookie. My guests were happy to take my chocolate tart and chocolate eclair, since I'm not a chocolate fan. I ended the delightful repast with an extra sandwich or two and more Darjeeling tea.
For reservations, call 805-565-8203 (1260 Channel Drive, Santa Barbara, about 2 hours from LAX).
For tea at home, see: How to Make a Proper Cup of Tea and Tea and Scones. Also, my review of the Zojirushi Water Boiler and Warmer, something in constant use in my house!