It's been a while since I gone on afternoon tea with friends; of course, with the debut of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland - numerous eateries around town jumped at the chance to (re) promote their tea services. Of the ones doing an Alice themed tea, the one at the Boxwood Café looked the most appealing, so that's where ConBon, Jennio and I went for a lazy Saturday afternoon of sips, bites and chit-chat.
Located in the London West Hollywood, the restaurant's decor matched that of the hotel -- light creamy beiges for an airy, ethereal feel with glitzy gold accents and tres-chic marble tables and columns with plush overstuffed chairs and couches lined with embossed leather. As for other patrons, we had expected just hotel guests and maybe some ladies-who-lunch, but it was a wide ranging crowd, twentysomething group of friends catching up, Hollywoody executives engaging in biz gossip, mothers and daughters in teatime dress-up, and of course, camera-touting bloggers like us.
Here's the menu promising the myriad of whimsical delights to come, I was mildly disappointed that the upgrade price for champagne cocktails changed from $5 a person (which is still listed on their Website menu at time of this posting!) to a $17 a person (indicated by the $45/person at bottom of above-menu.) The three of us had looked forward to checking out color-themed "Drink Me" concoctions ("Red" with Pama Liqueur and pom juice, "Orange" with Triple Sec plus citrus juices, "Purple" with Framboise liqueur, for example) but decided to just do the regular virgin tea at $28/person instead.
Conbon and Jennio must've feel particularly fruity today, as they opted for the mountain berry and tangerine infused teas. I went for a mystical-sounding "Life Through Water" described at the time by our server that it's "rockstar on crack" because it apparently left her hyper all day when she tried it. I was surprised upon serving that it's the lightest of the three brews, and sure enough, it didn't taste particularly strong. Turns out that this was a green tea blended with lemongrass, peppermint and yerba mate. Not particularly buzz-inducing for my coffee-twice-daily body, but it was pleasant to drink with nice notes of sweet grass and mint plus a clean finish. No milk needed here, and even sugar lumps are optional for this one.
Shorty after tasting each other teas, the servers (yes, plural!) brought out the tea set, three food-packed tiers plus an extra plate for starters and scone condiments!
For an amuse, we started off with demitasse cups filled with poached strawberries and coconut foam. A lighter and more refreshing spin off the classic Strawberries Romanoff, we finished these off in no time.
Then came the mini plain and blackcurrant scones, with colored Devonshire cream and berry compote. We love that the scones are not the dense bricks 'o carbs we've had at other afternoon tea services, but fluffy like a freshly-baked biscuit. And the compote was excellent, vibrant with berry flavors and just the right balance between sweet and acidity, it made the bland cream pale in comparison, even if it was lilac-tinted.
Next up, two-bite tea sandwiches (crusts off, of course!) from left to right: roast beef with horseradish crème fraiche, salmon with sour cream and lemon, tomato-cherry jam with aged English cheddar and smoked ham with red onion marmalade. We were collectively underwhelmed by the roast beef sandwich, but found the other ones delicious and interesting. My favorite was the smoked ham, which had a great sweet-savory contrast between the meat and the sweet onions.
Finally, my favorite part of any afternoon teas, all the sweets and pastries! This also is where they truly let their Alice creativity shine - what with brightly colored macarons with "contrasting color fillings" (my yellow-and-green one turned out to be lemon-almond,) blackberry panna cotta and jelly shots, Queen of Hearts lemon curd tarts with berries, chocolate decadence cake with a ball of lavender ganache, and chocolate-enrobed "mushroom" cakes. I love the range it covered, something berryish, something citrusy, something chocolaty (and everything tasty) but the chocolate decadence definitely takes the cake - it tastes like a flourless chocolate batter baked (or chilled) just enough to hold together, but practically melts into rich, dark chocolate ganache goodness upon landing in my mouth. And it was delicious enough that my friends asked the server to wrap up their half-eaten chocolate decadences home.
And even though the mildly stormy and rainy weather was less than ideal for an afternoon tea, we had a wonderful time lazily lounging about (and props to the front-of-house staff for their super-friendly service, particularly in refilling our teapots twice and never trying to hustle us out long after the food is done with!) And if Boxwood's other meals are anything like their afternoon teas, that's something I definitely look forward to returning to.
But in the meantime, you have the rest of the month to enjoy the Mad Hatter Afternoon Tea; 3 to 5 p.m. daily and I presume on April Fools it'll revert back to their regular version.
More photos on the flickr set here
Boxwood Café by Gordon Ramsay
at the London West Hollywood
1020 North San Vicente Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90069