Afternoon Tea at Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam


Facade of Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam

Façade of Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam

The Hotel Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam, familiarly known as “The Grand,” has a long history that dates back to the 1500’s when the building was used as a convent. Since that time, it has been a 16th Century Royal Guest House, a 17th Century Amsterdam Admiralty Headquarters, and the city’s Town Hall in the 19th Century.  More recently, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands was married here in 1966.

The entrance to the hotel is through a courtyard, set back from the street. Passing a fountain, you enter the hotel through a brass and wood revolving door.  Afternoon tea at “The Grand” is served in either the lounge, an Art Deco and stained glass room, or in the Bar at Bridges. Continue reading

Afternoon Tea at Amstel Hotel, Amsterdam

Afternoon Tea at The Amstel Hotel ©

I had spent the morning touring past priceless works of art at the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum and decided to walk to the Hotel Amstel for Afternoon Tea.  The distance was about 1.4 km or just under a mile, and even though it was a cool January day, it was clear, bright and just begging for a brisk afternoon walk.  Starting out from the Museumpleine , I headed east toward the Amstel Hotel.  Along the way, I began to think that I had gotten off my directions, so I stopped in an office building and asked the receptionist if I was on the right track.  She entered my information into her iPhone and quickly determined that I was one street off, but running parallel to the correct street, so I would still encounter the hotel, just from the other side.

Amstel Inter-Continental Hotel ©

As I came up to the Amstel River bridge, I couldn’t miss the grand façade of the Amstel Hotel, located just across the river on the opposite bank.   Dating from 1867, this is one of the premier hotels in Amsterdam. Previous guests have included Queen Elizabeth, Gustav Eiffel, Audrey Hepburn, The Rolling Stones, Elizabeth Hurley, and U2. Continue reading

Afternoon Tea at Hotel Amigo, Brussels, Belgium

Bar Amigo in Brussels, Belgium

The overnight flight from Chicago to Brussels, Belgium was uneventful, until shortly before landing when the captain announced that some cool winter mist and fog was restricting visibility to about 1,500 meters at the airport. Nevertheless, it was enough for a Boeing 767 to land safely, and I was soon off to my afternoon tea at the Hotel Amigo.

The heart of the city of Brussels is Grand Place (Grote Markt), and if you can’t be directly on the Grand Place itself, the next best thing is to be just off one of the corners – northwest in the case, where the Hotel Amigo is located.  This is one of the most desirable locations in Brussels –  within walking distance of most of the top sights, restaurants, and historical points of interest. Continue reading

High Tea at The Dorchester Hotel, London

The Promenade at The Dorchester Hotel, London ©The Dorchester Hotel

The Promenade at The Dorchester Hotel, London ©The Dorchester Hotel

The first thing that should be said about Afternoon Tea at The Dorchester Hotel in London is that the room where it is served, the marble and gilt “Promenade,” is a drop dead gorgeous-stunning space that was somehow made even more beautiful by the Holiday decorations on this mid-December day in London. Pictures do not do this room justice – it is a first class, take your breath away kind of venue.

As I was entering the Dorchester, my thoughts were that since this is a Monday afternoon, perhaps it will not be as full as it otherwise might be on say, a Saturday or a Sunday. I was wrong.  The Promenade was absolutely bristling with activity, every table within sight – filled.  Guests were milling about the lobby dressed in their holiday finest, gesturing in a spirited fashion, and I wondered if maybe I had missed the memo that the entire city of London was meeting here today. Continue reading

Afternoon Tea at The Merrion Hotel, Dublin

Drawing Room at The Merrion Hotel, Dublin © The Merrion Hotel

Drawing Room at The Merrion Hotel, Dublin © The Merrion Hotel

I called for afternoon tea reservations at The Merrion Hotel in Dublin and was told that they were booked for the entire month of December. Fortunately after we arrived at the hotel, the staff was able to get us a seating (most likely because were guests of the hotel). As luck would have it, we were given a table directly in front of the fireplace and facing the harpist who was just beginning to play for the guests taking afternoon tea.

The Merrion Hotel is located in the center of Georgian Dublin and is just a short walk from Dublin’s “golden mile” – an area of pubs, shops and restaurants near St. Stephen’s Green. The main house of the hotel was created from four townhouses originally built in the 1760’s and now painstakingly restored. Continue reading

Afternoon Tea at The Shelbourne, Dublin

The Lord Mayor's Lounge at The Shelbourne © The Shelbourne Hotel

The Lord Mayor’s Lounge at The Shelbourne © The Shelbourne Hotel

A beautiful mid-December day in Dublin, Ireland – sunny and about 42F or 6C – found me approaching the front entrance of the Shelbourne Hotel for “Festive Afternoon Tea.” We had reservations at this, one of Dublin’s most historic hotels, built in 1828 and the location where the Constitution of the Irish Free State was drafted by Michael Collins and associates in Room 112. The hotel has views overlooking St. Stephen’s Green, the largest garden square in Europe.

“Tea time in the Lord Mayor’s Lounge is muted and airbrushed by Nostalgia, the clink of tea cups, and the cadness of Marie Whelan’s Piano are punctuated by the rhythmic sound of hoof beats as horse-drawn carriages bowl past the windows onto sightseeing promenades” – from The Shelbourne and its People by Michael O’Sullivan and Bernadine O’Neill. Continue reading

High Tea at The Four Seasons Hotel, Chicago

High Tea at The Lounge in The Four Seasons, Chicago - image ©Four Seasons Hotels

High Tea at The Lounge in The Four Seasons, Chicago – image ©Four Seasons Hotels

An unusually warm December afternoon found me in Chicago at one of the city’s premier luxury hotels, The Four Seasons, just off the Magnificent Mile. The hotel is in a high rise building above an upscale retail mall called The 900 Shops.

The hotel’s entire lobby is richly decorated in fine-plush furnishings but, The Lounge – where tea is served – certainly stands out in its striking beauty and decor.  Unlike several hotel venues that serve afternoon tea in a large airy room, this space is small and intimate.  Ironically, the room was full but it was also very private and quiet. The acoustic engineers must have worked overtime on this space. The Lounge’s dark wood, plush carpeting, and fine tapestries all speak of the luxury you are about to experience taking afternoon tea at The Four Seasons Chicago. Continue reading

High Tea at Fortnum and Mason, London

St. James's Restaurant at Fortnum and Mason ©Fortnum and Mason

St. James’s Restaurant at Fortnum and Mason ©Fortnum and Mason

When I arrived at Fortnum and Mason, it was after sundown and the right time for High Tea. High Tea is served later in the day and is a more substantial meal than the lighter fare that is commonly associated with afternoon tea.  After entering through F&M’s oak doors on Piccadilly, I took the lift up to the 4th Floor St. James’s, a full service restaurant that serves meals and teas of all kinds. The restaurant is light, airy, has a quiet ambiance, tables set a good distance apart, live piano music, and for a lucky few, tables next to the windows overlooking Piccadilly below.  Even though I requested one, they were all reserved for a function later that evening.

After opening on this spot in 1707 as a small grocery shop, Fortnum and Mason have been doing business at 181 Piccadilly for over 300 years.  They have a long history of dealing in exotic imported foods and other fine goods, including full leaf teas of all kinds, and have earned numerous Royal Warrants. From the beginning, Fortnum and Mason have sold tea to anyone who asked, a novel idea in the 1700’s when tea drinking was limited mostly to the aristocracy. Continue reading

Afternoon Tea at Brown’s Hotel, London

Brown's Hotel English Tea Room © Rocco Forte Collection

Brown’s Hotel English Tea Room © Rocco Forte Collection

Although it was dark and overcast on this late November day in London, the air was unusually warm at 57F / 14C.  Walking up Albemarle Street in the heart of Mayfair, I came to the unmistakable entrance to Brown’s Hotel.  Built in 1837 by James Brown and his wife, Sarah, who were formerly butler and maid to Lord and Lady Byron, it was the first hotel in London that catered to “genteel” folk.

As of 2003, Brown’s is owned by The Rocco Forte Collection which invested 24 million GBP in refurbishments after acquiring this luxury hotel.

On a historical note, Alexander Graham Bell stayed here in 1876 to demonstrate his new invention, the telephone.  The English Tea Room is where Rudyard Kipling wrote much of his famous novel, The Jungle Book.  It is also believed that Agatha Christie wrote her novel (At Bertram’s Hotel) while at Brown’s Hotel and modeled the story after the hotel. United States Presidents Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt both selected Brown’s Hotel for their honeymoons. Continue reading

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz Carlton, Chicago

Lobby of The Ritz Carlton, Chicago (image courtesy of The Ritz Carlton)

Lobby of The Ritz Carlton, Chicago (image courtesy of The Ritz Carlton)

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz Carlton, Chicago reminds me of spending a relaxing afternoon in someone’s luxurious parlor or living room. The mood is unhurried, the atmosphere is elegant, and the overstuffed sofas and chairs just make you want to stay and never leave.  In some ways, it reminds me of The Gallery at The George V in Paris, one of my all time favorite places for afternoon tea.

Tea is served in The Ritz Carlton Hotel’s lobby located on the 12th floor of Water Tower Place in Chicago, a high rise building on The Magnificent Mile that includes retail stores on the lower floors, the Ritz Carlton Hotel on the mid floors and luxury condominiums with views of Lake Michigan on the upper floors. You’re close to the high energy of the city yet, at the same time, twelve floors above it in a soundproof oasis. (This is also where U.S. television personality Oprah Winfrey lives in Chicago.) Continue reading