Tea at the Palace by Emma Krasov

Photography by Yuri Krasov

The more I travel around the globe the more I appreciate home. Granted, my home is San Francisco – the legendary American city of sophistication, elegance, and intellectualism as well as artistic spirit, inclusiveness, and openness to everything new and exciting.

I like to play tourist in San Francisco – visit its gorgeous hotels, eat in its posh restaurants, marvel at its museums and historic theaters, walk along the sights of unparalleled natural beauty. Swept with Pacific winds, steeped in summer fog, or baking in the hot autumn sun this city is endlessly magical, eternally majestic.

As a frequent traveler, I also appreciate all the little things that are readily available for the tourists (and for the locals) within the hospitality industry of San Francisco. The downtown Palace Hotel – one of the most magnificent hotels in the world – recently implemented a daily tea service in its spacious Garden Court restaurant, lavishly decorated with Italian marble columns, Austrian crystal chandeliers, and potted palms under the enormous Edwardian-style glass dome.

For a weary business or leisure traveler, just arriving from a long journey, what can be better than a pot of hot fragrant tea, beautifully served in the most welcoming space, alongside the light and elegant meal of freshly made finger sandwiches, scones, and pastries?

2. DSC_0341 copy

How I wish I could have THAT in so many hotels in so many cities of the world, where the only thing I could count on without venturing out was a full bar (as if I needed alcohol after all those dehydrating hours in the air) and deep fried bar food, heavy and greasy, and not helping at all!

But let me start from the very beginning. The daily tea service was inaugurated at the Palace Hotel in the glamorous year 1910. The corridors of the Garden Court were crowded with guests in opulent dresses and hats of the Belle Époque. Since then it became a staple of the hotel, and over the years, the iconic dining room has become part of San Francisco history, and afternoon tea – part of its many traditions. Shared stories of fond childhood memories, bridal and baby showers and engagement celebrations have helped make a tea at the Palace a truly magical experience. For 105 years, the tradition has continued, but for the past few decades, tea has been served only on Saturdays and over the holidays. Today, this Saturday Signature Tea experience continues, while the Palace has added a more contemporary daily service in the GC Lounge (in the front area of the Garden Court). Specifically designed with the modern traveler in mind, Tea Time with its restorative attributes can now be enjoyed every day.

3. DSC_0363 copy

Saturday Signature Tea

Signature Tea is served exclusively on Saturdays from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m., and is one of a kind experience. Service is upscale, and fine china and silver are used to present delicate tea sandwiches and house-made scones with Devonshire cream, lemon curd and fruit jam. The sandwich assortment might include Sonoma breast of chicken with toasted almonds on brioche bun; roulade of salmon with chive crème and salmon roe on dark rye bread; asparagus and egg salad with Dijon parsley aioli on mini-croissant; lobster and shrimp on buttermilk toast, and Black Forest ham and artisan cheese with lavender mustard aioli on focaccia.

4. DSC_0371 copy

Assorted pastries are served on a three-tier tray, and are always abundant and breathtakingly delicious. A variety of teas – black, green, white, oolong, herbal – from the most reputable tea distributors in the world includes classic blends and creative infusions with high, medium and low caffeine. Signature Tea is always enhanced by the decadent ambiance with large bouquets of freshly cut flowers and live harp or piano music. Reservations preferred.

5. DSC_0375 copy

Tea Time

Tea Time is served Sunday through Friday from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. It is offered in the GC Lounge. Tea Time restores an experience more than a century old, now re-imagined for today’s savvy, cosmopolitan traveler. Service is refined but a little less formal. An a la carte menu showcasing locally sourced items allows visitors to enjoy the time-honored tradition with a casual approach. Tea Time menu options might include warm crab and Asiago cheese tart, organic egg remoulade sandwich, panini toasts with artisan meats and cheeses, and smoked salmon roulade. On a sweet menu there are raspberry tart, sweet and salty walnut short bread, dark chocolate torte, strawberry and almond milk gelee, and house-made scones with all the trimmings. What a great way to relax and reinvigorate, have a break from sightseeing and shopping, a friendly meeting, or a brief business discussion. Tea Time in the GC Lounge is perfect to relax after a long flight, or recap the day’s adventures and plan for the night ahead. Reservations are not required.

7. Raspberry tart Thursday

The Palace Hotel offers 556 newly renovated rooms, three ballrooms, 45,000 square feet of function space with 23 meeting rooms and 4 executive boardrooms, a self-contained conference area and full service business center. Luxury features include three famed restaurants – The Garden Court, GC Lounge and Pied Piper, 24-hour in room dining, and a newly renovated Fitness Center and indoor pool. Centrally located, the Palace is steps away from the Financial District and Moscone Center, and within walking distance from designer boutiques, shopping areas, cable cars, the Embarcadero, Ferry Building Marketplace, Chinatown, AT&T Park, museums and theaters.

For tea reservations visit opentable.com or call 415-546-5089. Menus and more information are available at sfpalace.com.