There's not much more I liked as a young girl than having tea parties with friends, both real and stuffed animals, of course.
As I've gotten older, I've found I'm constantly looking to recreate that sense of fun and sophistication by trying new tea experiences with my best girlfriends.
Last month, I was extended an offer by leaders at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando to be a guest for their Royal Tea in Peacock Alley. As an invited guest, that did mean the tea (a total value of $60) was complimentary for myself and a real, human friend. (Sorry, Leo the Lion!)
Here's my unfiltered review of that experience:
The set-up is just adorable
I drank tea from a cup shaped like a peacock. As a fan (and owner) of mismatched, previously loved tea sets, I was really happy to see the theming of Peacock Alley, located in the lobby, had extended to the tea service. I really believe that the tea experience extends to the type of flatware and serveware presented. The elaborate teacups popped off the crisp, white linens.
So. Much. Clotted. Cream.
Tea isn't tea without scones and clotted cream and lemon curd, in my opinion, and the Waldorf Astoria team seemed to be on the same wavelength. When that first course was presented, it came with full jars of both and another jar of berry preserves. I know this is a personal preference, but I want to indulge when I'm at tea. And that includes a shameful amount of clotted cream.
Tea sandwiches were basically art
Once the scones were finished, the three-tiered tray of tea sandwiches and desserts were brought out. There was not a crust in sight and I felt bad eating the presentation because the sandwiches were almost too pretty. What do I mean by too pretty? There were edible flowers on top of some of them! And the desserts were just as gorgeous, some adorned with edible gold flakes.
Overall, the food tasted as good as it looked, but I do wish there was a little bit more. By the numbers, it came out to each person having one of each kind of sandwich. My advice is to treat the tea as an experience and a snack because it's not really meant to replace a meal.
Writer's note: The sleeper hit of the whole tray was the roasted turkey with dried cranberry cream cheese on carrot cake. It was an unexpected flavor profile worthy of a whole sandwich.
Waldorf knows desserts
The array of sweets to close out the service was everything I expected from the Waldorf's F&B team. Having covered them in my previous capacity at the local newspaper, I know the Waldorf team puts a huge emphasis on food service in their hotel. I was happy it hit the mark for the tea service, too.
Something that did surprise me was the amount of dessert on the tray, as it seemed to match how many sandwiches were presented. Of course the sweets were bite-sized morsels, but there was such a variety including fruit tarts, cakes, puffs and dipped meringues.
The head-scratcher moment
While I would absolutely do the tea again, there were some things I noted and experienced that left me a little confused. The biggest one was how to properly check-in for the tea. As a limited experience, only happening Sundays from 2-4 p.m., I went into Peacock Alley expecting some kind of direction on how to get seated at my table.
When we arrived, however, the tables were set, but no one working there seemed able to guide us to ours. At the end of it, that's a minor snafu, but it was something that lingered the first few minutes of the experience. Once the service was underway, the staff was attentive without hovering in the way that makes you uncomfortable. It also seemed as if a hostess properly assigned to the service appeared partway into it, bringing another level of customer communication that I think should have been there in the beginning.
Overall, I'd rate the Waldorf Astoria Orlando experience among the nicer ones I've been to. I'd recommend it for a variety of people, but think it's the perfect opportunity to dress up with friends and experience a little bit of luxury here in Orlando without the outside tourism world infringing on the total experience. And, yes, I think it's an experience young Caitlin (and her favorite stuffies) would have loved.
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