31 October 2013

Afternoon Tea Review - El Encanto by Orient-Express


Aaaahh ... Afternoon tea on a sunny terrace overlooking the Pacific. What a treat! While in southern California recently, a friend ran me up the coast to Santa Barbara where the scenic drive led us to El Encanto on a hilltop overlooking the ocean. Afternoon tea is served seven days a week either in The Lounge or on The Terrace. 

Growing up with tea as I did and being a frequent giver, as well as attender, of afternoon teas, I have some pretty high standards. Having had tea from coast to coast and in three countries, I want a certain ambience, elegance, proper service, delicious and pretty food, and properly prepared tea. Most venues get a few things right, but few can deliver on all counts. El Encanto is one of the few.

Of course, expansive ocean views along with the hotel's "casual elegance" vibe and beautiful hand-painted tea china mean they've got the ambience part down. All the staff I encountered on the property were friendly, efficient and enthusiastic. Our server brought out a wooden case of sample tins of the various loose teas so our noses could help us with our tea choices. 


With executive chef Patrice Martineau bringing his experience on three continents, including two years at The Savoy in London, the food did not disappoint. Unlike so many, he knows the difference between the more formal and lighter afternoon tea and high tea, so there are no inappropriate departures (such as soup or salad) from the traditional afternoon tea menu.


The sandwiches, adorned with edible flowers, were as delightful to eat as they were to look at. I had been rather alarmed when I saw that the tea included just three sandwiches, but these sandwiches were more substantial than usual. I'm not a fan of smoked salmon, so the chef made a lovely ham sandwich in its stead. The open-faced cucumber sandwich was a thing of beauty. And the savory egg salad with snipped chives and French cornichons was outstanding.


The scones, served with clotted cream and house-made jam, were excellent. Though I don't usually eat the pastries at afternoon tea, I couldn't resist trying just a few bites from the jewel-box assortment of diminutive desserts. Superb! Oh, nearly forgot to mention the perfect, not overly sweet Bellini, a nod to Orient-Express, I presume.    


For reservations, call El Encanto at 805-845-5800. El Encanto is 97 miles from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and 90 miles from Burbank Bob Hope Airport (BUR). 

For tea at home, see: How to Make a Proper Cup of Tea and Tea and Scones. Look under Teatime on my Recipes index page for other teatime recipes. 

Disclosure: Though I attended the afternoon tea as a guest of El Encanto, I assure you that does not alter my opinions or influence my review.  

19 comments:

Amy at love made my home said...

Oh Jean, it looks wonderful! The chine is so pretty too, especially the tea pots. xx

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thank you, Amy! It was perfectly charming, I must say.

Cranberry Morning said...

Okay, I'm sitting here feeling very envious, Jean! What a delight! The sandwiches, the setting, and those darling teapots. It does sound wonderful!

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Judy, you would love it, I'm sure!

NanaDiana said...

Beautiful post, Jean. Thank you for finding me- I am your newest follower. Did you know that you are a No Reply blogger when you leave a comment? There is no way to email you back other than to back track to your blog. If you want to fix that let me know and I will send you the instructions. Have a wonderful day- xo Diana

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Diana, thank you! I'm going to email you right now.

Rosita Vargas said...

Jean me gustaron los sandwiches elegantes y exquisitos ricos con un té bien preparado,lindo entorno,abrazos.

TexWisGirl said...

such finery! :) i'd be completely out of place.

thanks for stopping in today and leaving a comment! really appreciate it. blessings to you.

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Si, elegantes y exquisitos. Rosita, muchas gracias.

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Theresa, thanks for visiting my blog! I do enjoy going all girly for tea, but you should see me today! (And, these days, I think most places are pretty much come-as-you-are.)

Thomas "Sully" Sullivan said...

Ah, Jeani, you know this is miles above my pay grade. But I get it (…in an envious sort of way). Yes, I’d be the guy in the clown suit who rides through on a trike, honking a bozo horn and shooting a squirt gun, BUT…I get it. Order and harmony as ritualized as civilization. Elegance and propriety. All the accoutrements of humanity’s ascent through culture. There is an abundance of security in that, of warm association and the conjuring up of Edens replete with guiltless fruit before serpents were invented. I do that and more in my own private way. Maybe it’s the tea that forever banishes me from the gregarious inner loop. “Ring me up,” please, when they start doing it with Diet Coke tempered in flavorings from lime to absinthe.

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Sully, I would be perfectly willing to have them fill *your* teapot with Diet Coke -- as long as I could arrange it in advance so it wouldn't even need to be mentioned at the occasion itself. How's that? And I wouldn't even require you to wear a fascinator!

Thomas "Sully" Sullivan said...

I’m penciling that onto my dance card, Jeani! Good thing about the “fascinator,” as I’d have to go without shaving my head for about 2 years or there would be nothing to fascinate it to.

Unknown said...

Ohhh. I had some rowdy times at the El Encanto when I lived in SB. XOGREG

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

I can imagine, Greg! :D But that was before they served afternoon tea. One does not get rowdy at afternoon tea. It's simply not the done thing! ;-)

Wedgie said...

What a beautiful afternoon tea, those sandwiches are amazing! Pretty China too!

Rachel
http://teawithmeandfriends.blogspot.co.uk

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Rachel, it WAS a lovely tea! Hope to go back one day.

Pauline Wiles said...

I love the idea of letting you sniff the teas to help choose. Sounds like a wonderful treat.

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thank you, Pauline. Yes, I've never been offered a sniff of the teas before! Quite a good idea, actually.

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