“If you are cold, tea will warm you; if you are too heated, it will cool you; if you are depressed, it will cheer you; if you are excited it will calm you.” William Ewart Gladstone
I have enjoyed more than my fair share of Afternoon Teas lately, consuming copious amounts of scones, perfectly cut sandwiches and posh teas for blog reviews and a recent freelance article (read that here). Just when I thought I had discovered the best the capital had to offer I was invited to sample the classiest afternoon tea by far at the Crystal Lounge located at the St Regis Abu Dhabi.
My expectations were high as the St Regis Abu Dhabi located on the corniche is an elegant hotel, it oozes class from every pore but even with that in mind I was still impressed. The sophisticated surroundings of the Crystal Lounge and the afternoon tea set up were very chic, the attention to detail was evident, there was even scattered red and white rose petals!
The St Regis name has a long and well documented history with afternoon tea, first introduced in the late 19th Century by dominant New York society influencer Lady Caroline Astor, mother of St Regis founder JJ Astor IV. I think she and the ladies that frequented her Manhattan gatherings would definitely have approved of the Crystal Lounge experience, it certainly had a feeling of times gone by, a dignified interpretation of this timeless ritual that would suit the needs of any aristocrat.
Lady Astor’s legacy of holding intimate gatherings indulging in both sweet and savory delicacies was perfectly reimagined at the Crystal Lounge, traditions like the tea trolley, bone china tea set, crustless sandwiches and scones were combined with a modern twist of different flavours and tea infusions. The large open venue is situated above the lobby accessed by the grand and dramatic sweeping double staircases adorned with stunning crystal chandeliers.
My friend and I were seated in a stunning curtained private golden alcove filled with beautiful textiles and surrounded by plush armchairs and treated to an indulgent experience enhanced by our own personal tea sommelier, Ivan. Passionate and knowledgeable Ivan knows a great deal about tea, blending different varieties to create bespoke teas to suit our palates while explaining their smell, taste and origin as well as the finer points of tea culture.
We began our experience with two tea infusions from the range of twenty-five loose leaf Newby teas, the UK’s premier fine tea company and the preferred brand of the St Regis Abu Dhabi. For our first brewing Ivan blended Darjeeling with rooibos for my friend and Sencha with jasmine and baked orange for me, both equally delicious and perfect with the range of gourmet savoury sandwiches. The vegetarian selection offered egg mayonnaise with a hint of truffle served on sun dried tomato bread and cream cheese and cucumber on white bread. The meat and fish options included an open Scottish Loch Fyne smoked salmon brioche sandwich, smoked duck with quince jam on wholemeal bread and chicken tikka in curry bread.
Back at his well equipped tea trolley, Ivan made us a second brewing to accompany the scones and sweet treats, this time darjeeling was infused with rooibos and keemun (roseberry), another flavoursome tea that we both enjoyed. The light and fluffy plain and raisin scones were very tasty as were the range of colourful pastries that included choux buns, chocolate delights and mini fruit tarts . We finished our meal with another of Ivan’s blends, a deep red slightly sweetened herbal hibiscus iced tea served in a cognac glass (hibiscus is a good digestion aid and it tasted much like cranberry), a refreshing and more unusual end to a fantastic afternoon tea.
Thank you Ivan for a fantastic tea experience, which was both delicious and informative. I think the St Regis Abu Dhabi has just rocketed to the top spot as my favourite afternoon tea in Abu Dhabi, if you haven’t visited the Crystal Lounge yet add it to your to-do list and experience first hand this time honoured tradition in fabulous surroundings.
Afternoon Tea at the Crystal Lounge
Location: St Regis Abu Dhabi at Nation Towers
Telephone : 02 694 4444
Time: Served daily from 2pm to 6pm
Cost: AED 160 or AED 220 for the Champagne Afternoon Tea (excludes 6% tourism fees and 10% service charge)
Thank you St Regis Abu Dhabi for the opportunity to review the Afternoon Tea at Crystal Lounge. The views in this post are all my own based on my experience. Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2016. All rights reserved.