With the recent US visit from Kate and Wills, everything British is new and fun again. Well, maybe not everything – figgy pudding probably doesn’t warrant a comeback – but a few English traditions have seen a well-deserved resurgence stateside and are worth checking out. Afternoon tea, for example, is no longer just for your mom’s knitting club. It’s a fun outing for you and your family, and spots all around the city are polishing the silver for a fancy day out. Here are some of the best occasions for tea, and where to go when they arise:
For a Classic Excursion – The Palm Court at the Drake Hotel
There is nothing more old-school Chicago than the over-the-top luxury of The Drake Hotel, and if you want a royal feeling for your tea, this is the spot for you. The white and gold interior is extravagant, the staff is beyond welcoming, and the tea service is simply perfect. It had better be, since the hotel has hosted some seriously royal guests in the past: Princess Diana, the Empress of Japan, and even Queen Elizabeth II herself. Located just off Lake Shore Drive and around the corner from some serious shopping hot spots, it’s a luxurious escape for a few bite-sized snacks and tea set to a harpist’s dulcet tones. Wear your Sunday best, remember to keep your napkin in your lap, and you’re sure to make even the Queen proud.
For the Ladies – American Girl Place
Though this spot is “technically” for youngsters, there really is no better place for an ultra-girly girls’ tea time for American Girl fans of all ages. With dainty treats like Kaya’s chocolate chip scones and Addy’s all-American strawberry mousse flowerpot, this is a perfect spot for a mother-daughter date. It’s also gorgeous for photos, thanks to a perky palette of purples and pinks. Be sure to stop at the gift shop first, though, where you can get matching outfits for your girly girl and her doll, which would make for a perfect photo op.
For a Taste of the Far East – Nada Tea & Coffee House
If you’re going for a truly authentic, Far East experience, this is the tea house for you. Nada is the only true Japanese tea house in the city. It’s a contemporary spot full of bare wood and subtle light, but the traditional tea menu makes it the perfect simple place to sit in uninterrupted relaxation. Let yourself be soothed by their range of loose leaf teas – like jasmine, chai, and authentic green usucha – and be sure to try the real green tea ice cream. If you’re only into the idea of “tea time” for the mini cucumber sandwiches of British-style teas, this might not be your jam. But for serious tea drinkers who like having their own pot brought over on an old-school wooden tea tray, or those who are curious about the art of tea, there’s no better place.
For an Afternoon Escape – Lockwood Restaurant & Bar at Palmer House
Though the hotel is certainly an iconic Chicago spot, Lockwood is bringing a breath of fresh air to the Palmer House. Visitors and hotel guests alike can sit underneath the antique-looking trompe l’oeil-decorated ceiling (which basically just French for “stunning”) covered in golden hues, bold blues, and classically painted figures that would make Michelangelo jealous. But as you sit in the high-backed chairs, you can relax and sip a variety of teas and nosh on a more contemporary menu, featuring crisp crab salad or chocolate tart for dessert. This is a great place to take your ritzy aunts or show off your hip grandma.