Best High Tea

Afternoon tea is as ritualistic a pleasure as anything out of Imperial Japan, and the Ritz-Carlton has preserved all of the meal's myriad gratifications down to the smallest detail. The locale, in the hotel's Lobby Lounge, is an opulent, pale-rose setting of antique oils, orchid blossoms, and crystal chandeliers. On one recent rainy day the gray-marble hearth was crackling away while a harpist strummed appropriately gentle sounds. The tea itself, brewed from top-flight Taylors of Harrogate in a Wedgwood pot, ranges in intensity from flowery chamomile to smoky lapsang souchon. Accompanying it is an array of delicate treats presented on a three-tiered silver server: finger sandwiches of smoked salmon and caviar, along with Roquefort, cucumber, prosciutto, and asparagus; a freshly baked scone with lemon curd and clotted cream; buttery shortbread, muffins of marzipan and pecan, and tarts filled with caramel and slivers of fresh fruit. High tea for vegetarians and teas jazzed with champagne are also available. Need we add that the service is impeccable?

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