02 October 2014

Afternoon Tea Review - Hotel Bel-Air




Afternoon tea, as my regular readers know, is a way of life for me. Whether hosting afternoon tea parties in my home or garden or going out for afternoon tea, it does something for me that no other dining experience can.

Spending time with a friend in the Los Angeles area (a friend I introduced to tea more than twenty years ago) happened to coincide with an invitation to try the afternoon tea at the legendary Hotel Bel-Air. My first visit to the Bel-Air was for a friend's wedding 24 years ago. Now, as then, I was surprised and delighted by the illusion of being miles from the city.

Hotel Bel-Air is not so much a hotel landscaped with gardens as it is lush gardens that include a hotel. Part of the Dorchester Collection, it is a luxury hotel but somehow manages to evoke laid-back-California-casual in a way you wouldn't expect from a big-city hotel.

On this comfortably warm early autumn day, tea was served on the open-air, but sheltered, "alfresco" terrace. We enjoyed a glass of mineral water (still or sparkling) while our chosen loose leaf black teas, Darjeeling and Assam, were brewed and decanted, eliminating that problem of the last cups from the pot being "stewed."




First up was a delightful assortment of sandwiches: a crab roll on a brioche bun, cucumber and herbed cream cheese on toasted pain de mie, organic chicken salad on walnut bread, wild mushroom duxelle and goat cheese en croute and two fabulous Gruyere and caramelized onion "grilled cheese" on sourdough.





I'm sure the house cured smoked salmon with dill cream and micro arugula on brioche sandwich is superb, but neither of us really like smoked salmon and so, on our server's recommendation, replaced it with the grilled cheese. In a word, fabulous!




Then the warm sour cherry, blueberry and buttermilk almond scones were served with quite an assortment of accompaniments: housemade raspberry jam, strawberry jam and apple butter; Echire butter and Devonshire cream. If you're a stickler for traditional scones, brace yourself; these "scones" are more like a puff pastry, perhaps not a "true" scone but delicious nevertheless.



More pots of tea got us through the final dessert course: chocolate dipped cream puff, coconut macaroon, French macaron, pistachio financier and huckleberry cheesecake. I'm not really one for sweets but must say I especially enjoyed the pistachio financier and gorgeous little cheesecake. I always save a sandwich, in this case my "extra" grilled cheese, to have at the end; I like to think it balances out the sugar. 


Good news for those with special dietary requirements: you can order their recently launched "healthy" afternoon tea with gluten-free and sugar-free options.


For reservations, call Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air at 310-909-1644. 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 Hotel Bel-Air, I assure you that does not alter my opinions or affect my review.

24 comments:

Marcee Lee Winthrop said...

Jean,your blog about afternoon tea at Hotel Bel-Air has me running to my kitchen to make tea and pastries. The photos are fabulous and your blog is marvelous. I have decided to follow your blog. Where are you going to go next time?

bj said...

G'morning, dear heart.
O, I do love tea rooms and all their delights. Your assortment here looks so delicious.
I just had lunch with 7 friends at our local tea room this week. It was heaven...loved the tea..the meal, the dessert...best of all, the time with my sweet friends. :) So blessed am I.

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Marcee, thank you so much! (And tell your friends!) No idea where I'm going next time. I always research the tea venues before I go anywhere!

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thanks, BJ. Tea is just THE best way to relax with one's sweetest friends!

Pauline Wiles said...

You were a guest of the hotel? Ooh, how fabulous! I love the idea of brewing and then decanting the tea and am surprised that isn't done more widely in the world of afternoon tea. And I was alarmed by the shape of the scones, but you and I are happy to differ on that point :) Glad you had a lovely tea.

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

I knew you'd be alarmed, Pauline! But I maintain, the triangular (or wedge) shape IS the "correct" shape for scones! :D

Amy at love made my home said...

It sounds wonderful!!! I noticed your reply about the shape of the scones, in England savoury scones - cheese and so on - have to be cut correctly with a plain round cutter, and sweet scones have to be cut with a fluted round cutter, they are sticklers for that sort of thing over here! It is amazing how things that are the same can be so different all around the world isn't it! xx

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thanks, Amy! It was wonderful! Pauline and I have an ongoing thing about the shape of scones - I wrote a guest post for her blog about "The Great Scone Kerfuffle of 2014"! I cut the wedge-shaped scones like my mother and grandmother (and so on) before me - my mother's family were making them like that since the 1880s or earlier in the Lake District. Here's the link: http://www.paulinewiles.com/2014/03/18/guest-post-the-great-scone-kerfuffle-of-2014/

Cranberry Morning said...

Oh Jean, that sounds dreamy! I'd skip the desserts and have one each of the sandwiches offered. Oh. Must have a scone! What a fun way to spend an afternoon! Love that hummingbird cup.

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thanks, Judy! Yes, it was dreamy. I'd like to go out for afternoon tea twice a month!

My Garden Diaries said...

I love tea as well but would like to learn more about the proper way to make different teas! Thank you for the link and I am so glad you were able to enjoy this goodness with your friend! Happy weekend to you! Nicole xo

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thank you, Nicole! I rarely make oolong, green or white tea, so haven't posted anything about making them. I'm strictly a black tea girl!

Linda Kay said...

Jean I'd love to join you for a cup of tea. Looks so inviting. My German grandparents always stopped for tea at 3 PM every day.

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Linda, that would be delightful! I'm so glad to hear you have that tea tradition in your family!

Thomas "Sully" Sullivan said...

Hah-sooo! You do write wonderfully about the ritualistic aspects of this comprehensive happening known as “afternoon tea,” whatever the culture. The words alone are satiation to me. And truth be told, I love the dim-sum rotation of sample size goodies, though I’d be hard-pressed not to scoop them up by the handful like Curly in a Three Stooges film short. And I love the color of the tea and the appointments through which it is served, and I picture myself holding the cup halfway to the lips, pinky extended… But there the celluloid breaks. Freeze. “Cut!” shouts Herr Direktor. “Print it!” (Still cannot abide the taste of tea…mea culpa.)

carol l mckenna said...

How delightful! Lovely photos and yummy goodies!

artmusedog and carol ~ A Creative Harbor
Happy Weekend to you!

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Sully, thank you! You would have to remind yourself to eat very, very slowly. It's all about the feeling, the ritual--not about refueling!

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Carol, thank you. I'm so glad you stopped by and checked this out!

Sippity Sup said...

It is quite the hotel, and the gardens (as you say) make it so. GREG

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Greg, I hope the drought ends before such beautiful gardens are affected.

Jennifer @ Emulsified Family said...

I haven't been here for tea in such a long time. I love that hotel! So glad you were able to enjoy it!

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Jennifer, thanks! It is lovely, isn't it?

Kim and Victoria said...

I love it! My daughter is planning on moving to LA, perhaps we could have tea here someday!

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

I hope you do! It's such a lovely place to enjoy a break!

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