Happy Mother’s Day to everyone out there! Today, we’re going to take a look at a lovely high tea that’s perfect to take mom the next time she’s in town.
The Willard Intercontinental is one of the oldest, and in my opinion, most beautiful hotels in the District. It has been a haunt of many past presidents, and served as lodging when Abraham Lincoln and his family had to move out of the White House for repairs. So yea, it’s old, it’s got history, and it is awesome.
The tea took place in a hallway dubbed “peacock alley,” where, as the story goes, women and men would dress in their finest and walk around the hall like peacocks. Legend has it that this was also the area where the term lobbying came from. The famous hotel bar, the Round Robin, was a favorite of many previous presidents. When they went over to the bar for a drink, many people would be waiting in peacock alley to “lobby” the president. And the rest is history!
So, high tea. A friend and I went recently to check it out, and man, it was an afternoon filled with luxury.
We were seated at a two-person table promptly after we checked in, and began to look at the menu. Here, you don’t order anything (besides any additional drinks other than tea), but instead the food is brought in a 3-tier tower. If anything, the menu serves as a roadmap of sorts.
There was a very healthy amount of food options available judging from the menu, so I was excited to see them all.
And wow, there were a lot of tea options. While I went with my friend a while after the official cherry blossom season, they were still offering their cherry blossom tea. This is a seasonal offer, so I doubt it will be around much longer.
We also opted to make the tea a champagne high tea, which you can do for an additional fee. There are two rotating options of champagne, at a smaller price point ($16) and a larger one ($25), which is good if you want to class the tea up, but not at the expense of your rent.
Being an adult is hard sometimes.
While we were waiting for our teapots, we got some cute tea accoutrements. I adored the little tea timer.
I still adore it.
Now, I have a confession to make. I have broken the one rule of a food blogger. I forgot to take a picture of the tea.
I’ve betrayed your trust.
But here’s a photo of the empty teacup? Lets pretend there’s tea in there? Okay? Great.
Once we got our tea (lol sorry) we chatted and looked around the beautiful room. About 10 minutes after our food tower arrived. And I mean tower. Three stories of tea sandwiches, scones, and desserts awaited us. I was in heaven.
The sandwiches were our first order of business. Everything here was in two’s so we each got our own little bite of everything. The sandwiches were a perfect bite size, and were all well-rounded. In order, I had the seared tuna with Asian slaw, the egg salad tartlet, the shiitake mushroom teriyaki glaze brioche, the Asian chicken salad, and then the smoked salmon tower.
My personal favorites were the tuna, egg, and chicken salad but I think that has to do with my very southern roots. Different iterations of those sandwiches are at basically every party I go to. Ever. Plus the cherry blossom/Japanese theme worked in those sandwiches very well, which I appreciated.
The salmon and mushroom sandwiches were also good, but mushrooms are not my thing. And I’m not the biggest fan of smoked salmon, but those two things aside, they were very tasty. So, if I had to eat those things I’m glad I did so here.
Next up were the scones. The cherry vanilla scone was perfect. Crunchy on the outside, crumbly and soft on the inside, and so good I almost ate my friend’s. I said almost because well, she stole it back from me. But I was close to getting away with it.
The matcha scone was perhaps the biggest let down of the day. It seems that while they had a nice Japaneese influence throughout the meal, this scone was shoehorned in to work. The matcha made the scone bitter and the integrity of the dough was compromised. When you took a bite the scone was dry and brittle, so not very fun. But I still had approximately 300 bite-sized desserts to scarf down, so I wasn’t too worried about it.
Starting from the left and working my way over, I tried the white chocolate jasmine tea fudge, then the green tea cheesecake, kasutera sponge cake, then the chrysanthemum ginger pear tartlet, and finally the morello cherry and chocolate trifle.
There were some definite winners, like the sponge cake and the trifle, but a few of the desserts tried a little too hard. Specifically, the fudge and the tartlet. The cheesecake occupied the “blah” middle. It wasn’t amazing, but it also wasn’t terrible either. I think the issue was once again the attempt to achieve the Japanese theme, and ultimately that made some of the desserts something they shouldn’t have been. The fudge was sickeningly sweet, probably to counterbalance the jasmine, while the tartlet had a bit too much ginger. However, the ones that were good, were great. I loved the cherry/chocolate combo of the trifle, and the sponge cake was out of this world. How they made the cake so light and fluffy, I’ll never know. But I would have preferred a bigger piece of that versus the other two desserts. Plus it seems the sponge cake was a legitimate Japanese dessert, so it would have been nice to have more of it.
Overall, I really enjoyed myself at the tea. I think the strongest part of the meal were the sandwiches by far, but the quality of everything was on par with what I would expect for a high tea at this price point, and at this hotel. While there were a few misses with some of the food stuffs, overall it was a great experience. I would definitely recommend doing the high tea for a special occasion, or as a nice treat outside of ordinary life.