Classic Afternoon Tea at The Disneyland Hotel: Practically Perfectby Lisa Stiglic, contributing writer
It's been more than a decade since guests of The Disneyland Resort saw Mary Poppins popping in at her Practically Perfect Tea at Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel. I'm happy to say that tea time is back, although Mary has politely declined the invitation to visit this time around, and the location has moved next door to Steakhouse 55 in the Disneyland Hotel.
"In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun…"
To thoroughly investigate this joyous occasion, I begged some of my Disney friends to join me for an afternoon of tea and delights. OK, I didn't beg—they did—but I drove. The Classic Afternoon Tea currently runs Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from noon until 3 p.m. I made reservations for the first available date, which secured the first Saturday in February for our party of four.
We chose our own attire, from jeans to a dress to even a Disney "Bounding" Mary Poppins herself. Most patrons were casually dressed; some wore hats and a few parties were in semi-formal apparel. I was curious as to how the atmosphere would be, as I've eaten at Steakhouse 55 in the evening where the ambiance is suited for a more refined presentation. This day, lighting was bright and guests were seated at every other table as not to seem overly crowded.
The menu offered three options: Classic Tea Party at $50, Premium Tea Party for $65, and the $35 Kids Tea Party. Our quartet chose the Premium selection, which was basically the Classic Tea Party plus an a glass of sparkling wine, an appetizer salad, and take-home truffles.
"Just a spoonful of sugar…"
I'm a novice tea drinker. Black, green, herbal—it's all the same to me, but with 12 teas from which to choose, our server was very knowledgeable and helpful. She explained about the varieties and which were sweeter, which were better with lemon and cream, or best just as-is. She also informed us we could have our teas served hot or iced and taste as many flavors as we'd like. We all chose different hot teas: English Breakfast and Perfect Afternoon—both caffeinated—and herbal infused teas—Mountain Berry and Redbush Caramel Velvet.
Our cast member steeped each herself, then brought them to the table in individual pots—roughly 2 to 2 1/2 cups—with an accompanying tray of lemon wedges and small honey jars. One of my friends is a tea connoisseur, so she mentioned that a proper English tea would provide sugar cubes, as well. Note to the Disneyland Hotel: Please make them in Mickey Mouse head shapes.
Our sparkling wine was next on the list. Made specifically for Disney, the Iron Horse Fairy Tale Cuvee was a bit bubbly with a slight dry bite, which contrasted nicely with the tea I had heaped with honey and lemon.
While we were still sipping our teas and savoring our salads, our hostess brought out a three-tiered presentation with scones, finger-sandwiches, and a delightful selections of desserts. I was excited to try the next course, but thought maybe the pacing could have been a bit slower so we could have enjoyed our appetizers a bit longer.
The English tradition of scones didn't disappoint. The selection of glazed blueberry and sugared cranberry was served with a side platter of Devonshire cream, lemon curd, and house-made blueberry preserves. I think the side platter was the bigger hit for us. Seriously. We had to refrain from licking it. Note to Disneyland Resort Merchandising: Package up this trio of deliciousness and sell it with an accompanying spoon.
The open-faced sandwiches consisted of four varieties: cucumber with watercress, salmon gravlax (cured) with dill cream cheese, a caprese-version with heirloom tomato and mozzarella, and deviled cage-free egg salad. The cucumber selection was a nice surprise with razor-thin slices topping the watercress and soft bread giving it a slight crunch. The salmon gravlax (my favorite) was smoky, yet creamy, in one bite atop a nutty, brown bread. One of the members of our party favored the tomato and mozzarella sandwich, but this was my least favorite; I felt it wasn't as flavorful as the others. I thought maybe the mozzarella was cut too thick for such a dainty bite. The egg salad was seasoned well and the only variety on a toasted bread. Overall, the sandwiches were tasty.
There is no other word to sum up dessert, in my opinion. We were presented with eight varieties of bite-sized French macarons: pistachio, raspberry-chocolate, strawberry-banana, caramel-toffee nut, coconut-raspberry, chocolate-mango, coconut-chocolate, and speculoos (a shortbread-type flavor). It was hard to decide the winning flavor, but I enjoyed the raspberry-chocolate myself. The center consisted of semi-bitter, dark chocolate layered with a tart raspberry spread. My taste buds were dancing with every bite. The spectacular strawberries, covered in both white and milk chocolate, were large enough to cut in half and share, so we sampled both. The mini-fruit tart was passable, possibly just outshone by the marvelous macarons.
"It's a jolly holiday with Mary…"
Although Mary couldn't accompany us this visit, we felt her very presence as we laughed and savored our afternoon away. We were sent on our way with yummy truffles: deep chocolate dusted with cocoa powder and a salted caramel candy. It was a lovely way to end the party and as Mary Poppins herself would say, it was "practically perfect."
The Disneyland Hotel's Classic Afternoon Tea Party is currently available up to 60 days in advance. Our server said the event will extend six months to possibly the entire year. Call Disney Dining at 714-781-DINE (3463) or check the Disney Dining website to make reservations. I would suggest securing seats as soon as possible, as the event fills up quickly. Guests have also been able to get in due to cancellations. Annual passport discounts apply.