Tag Archives: teatime

Teatime at The Allis in Soho House Chicago

united_kingdomAfter an extremely enjoyable teatime at The Langham, we were jonesing for another tea experience. We attempted to have tea at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee for their lauded holiday tea – but it was totally sold out for the entire season…. oh well! We decided to drown our sorrows in a more casual teatime at The Allis (113 – 125 North Green Street Chicago, IL 60607) in the Soho House, a new members-only hotel that is a London export. Even if you are not a member you can dine in the first-floor restaurants, including the Allis, the tearoom.

The Allis

The scene at The Allis

When you open the door from the street you are right in the lobby, which is unlike any other we had seen. The decor is a mix of shabby chic, glamour and modern elements, put together in an eclectic way that still manages to be quite refined. Bookshelves are placed in the center of the room and the chairs are a mishmash of wood and velvet, with exposed brick walls and crystal chandeliers. By day it is a tearoom/lunch spot/coffee shop (serving San Francisco’s famous Blue Bottle coffee), where people hang out and use wifi, and by night it turns into more of a bar/lounge. Tea is served from 3-5 (at a cost of $24), and it is a good idea to make recommendations (we did not, but it worked out anyway for us, thanks to a stroke of luck).

The Allis

Custom tea service

Pretty much everyone in the room had the afternoon tea service. We ordered a tea for 2, which came out in short order.The loose-leaf tea selection is modest, and we each got a teapot, one with mint and one with chai. Other options included Chamomile, Jade green, Rooibos and Earl Grey. Both the sweet and savory elements come out at once, on striking custom black and white china. For the savory items, we had standard crustless sandwiches: tuna, egg and salmon. These were tasty, but nothing to write home about.

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Tea Service

The sweet selections were much more extensive, and on the three-tiered blue-and-white tray we received Chocolate mint macarons, a tiny lemon cream tart, 2 profiteroles, 2 mini red velvet cupcakes, a slice of chocolate cake, scones with jam and Devonshire creme, and a thick slice of poppy seed pound cake (aka a vehicle for the clotted cream). Not a bad spread, right? We liked all of the treats in the selection, but the macaron and mini cupcake were especially delectable. We especially liked how they got a bit outside of the box, from the typical scones and pound cake model. Though we were stuffed by the end, we managed to work our way through all of the desserts.

The Allis

The Sweets up close

The Allis had laid back service, and the servers were casual, and definitely not as polished as at other teatimes, but I think this is intentional. In their gray cardigans and skinny jeans, they are cool kids, not stuffy waitstaff. We definitely enjoyed our teatime at the Allis, and it was a completely different experience from the more refined tea times we had experienced elsewhere. This is tea for cool people, but you can bring your grandma too, she’ll probably like it.

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Afternoon tea at the Langham in Chicago

united_kingdomThe Langham hotel in Chicago has quite a few things going for it, not only is it located in an iconic Mies van der Rohe skyscraper, it has also been named the top hotel in the US by TripAdvisor. When we were researching the top afternoon teas in Chicago, one name that came up repeatedly was the Langham. We figured the British pedigree of the Langham name wouldn’t hurt either for an excellent afternoon tea experience. The setting for tea in the Langham’s Pavilion (330 N Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL) was absolutely gorgeous, and was a stunning mix of classic and contemporary design in black and white. And if you looked up, there is even a constellation of shiny metallic sculptures floating overhead, giving an ethereal effect.

Langham Tea

The Interior of the Pavilion

A pianist on a white grand piano added to the ambiance, and kudos to him for playing instrumental covers of Sam Smith and Adele. We were seated at a table for four, with comfy white leather chairs and sofas, and a little vase of violets. The view over the Chicago river, wasn’t bad either. Our enthusiastic server introduced us to the tea selection, and we were pleased to learn that we each got two teapots, to be brought out subsequently. There were a wide variety of teas for all palates: vanilla rooibos, “English Flower” rose and chamomile infusion, Moroccan mint, Black tea with Peach and Marigold flowers, Sencha and Darjeeling. There was also a special reserve tea on the menu (which changes every few months) – the Wedgwood blend – which was a blend of Indian and Kenyan black teas. It was described by our server as being closer to coffee in flavor, with a malty taste (intrigued, at least one of us had to get it).

Langham Tea

Langham Tea Savories

After our tea orders had been taken, our four little savory items were brought out on a separate plate. The selections of the day were: “Coronation” chicken salad on a mini brioche roll, Cucumber, watercress and piquillo pepper sandwich, Smoked salmon rillette, and truffled egg salad. All of these dishes were a cut above, and we liked that each had a unique spin on the typical crustless tea sandwich. A standout was the egg salad, which was served in an eggshell! Everything was delicious and well presented, and had us ready for “dessert.” Each person received an individual pot of tea, with an adorable accompaniment of mini pots of honey. In keeping with the attention to detail, the tea serving was made custom for the Langham itself.

Langham Tea

Langham Tea Sweets

Next, came the tiered serving tray – also in signature Langham china – with four tiny, elegant pastries and two scones apiece. The two scones, raisin Earl Grey and plain, which were hot out of the oven, and each came with little pots of Devonshire cream and homemade blueberry jam. The scones were light and flaky, and were an absolute dream, especially with the clotted cream, which we devoured. The four little pastries were also adorable: “Queen’s Perfection” chocolate cinnamon cake, raspberry Charlotte Russe, a shortbread citrus cookie, and almond and coconut “Manchester” tart with cherry. The multi-layered chocolate cake and Charlotte Russe were particularly stunning and delicious. The thing with teatime, it always looks like there are measly little portions of delicate food, but by the time you get to the end, you are completely stuffed. The scones put us over the edge hunger-wise, so we were unable to finish all of the petit fours, but the few we had left were just as good that evening. Fortunately, you can get your extra treats boxed up to go.

Langham Tea

Scones and pink “English Flower” Tea

And lest we forget, the tea itself was delicious, the Wedgwood blend was a favorite, as was the sweeter vanilla rooibos. We also appreciated that the server brought out the unflavored black teas with our savory dishes, and more flowery or flavored teas with the dessert. The bright-pink, rose tea (pictured above) was a perfect accompaniment to the sweets. Throughout the entire teatime, the attention to detail at the Langham was impeccable. We were celebrating a birthday, and because we mentioned the special event, we got an extra chocolate cupcake with a candle, and some chocolate bars for the birthday girl to take home. Though expensive ($50 apiece) we really felt that the afternoon tea at the Langham was a worthwhile, special experience. The service, food and atmosphere were all superb. If you are looking for a refined tea with all the trimmings, definitely visit the Langham.

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