Afternoon Tea at Westgate Hotel in San Diego, CA

I read a local review that listed the top five tea rooms in San Diego. They are: Tea-Upon-Chatsworth, Aubrey Rose, the Westgate Hotel, the U.S. Grant Hotel, and the Hotel Del Coronado. I’ve been to two of them, so I wanted to try all five within a reasonable amount of time. So that’s why my daughter and I went to Westgate to see if we could confirm the review. Even though they’re located downtown, parking was not a problem because there’s valet parking which only costs $3 for the first three hours. Unfortunately, when we went there on Dec. 5, 2010, there was a Teddy Bear Tea Party going on. We then had to be shown to the Riviera Room as an alternate facility. I was disappointed, but delighted. Disappointed because we won’t enjoy the actual tea room set-up that they probably have, but delighted to enjoy a gorgeous view from the room which was overlooking the fountain terrace. We noticed that they didn’t use bone china tea cups and tea pots. They used what I would call a “standard” teapot for regular dining outlet use. The setting was great, however, but it was a formal setting, not the usual, warm afternoon tea setting. The tea cups also appeared to be “standard” cups for dining use. We could tell because they were a tad heavy when lifting with your fingers. Fine bone tea cups are light and easy to lift. Although the waiters were nice and attentive, they were not “afternoon tea” attentive. The waiter seemed to serve one table at a table, then serve the next one, etc. Before the waiter is finally able to come to our table, our teapots would have been empty for several minutes already. The teapots they used were small (2-3 cups). It was empty before you know it. And because it took a while before the waiter could return, we were without tea for a while.  Here’s my review:

We will need to go back to the Westgate Hotel to give them a more fair rating. When we went there, we were moved to a different dining area – the Riviera Room. The regular tea room was being occupied by Teddy Bear Tea Party goers. The Riviera didn’t seem set up for afternoon tea – absence of fine bone china, etc. When the people started coming in for tea, they didn’t bother to “dress up” for tea considering that this is a ritzy hotel, nor did they observe tea etiquette. The ambiance was great because of the gorgeous setting, but it wasn’t “afternoon tea” great.
The food would have been great if the sandwiches were kept moist. What I loved about the food was it’s innovativeness.The smaller tea houses offer a more tantalizing presentation. The menu looks something like this: house smoked salmon roulade and dill & domestic caviar, duck breast prosciutto & truffled mousse (which was so sparse you could barely taste the flavor), Saint Andrew cheese & watercress (I love its strong garlicky flavor), black tiger shrimp and cucumber with cilantro cream cheese (great idea of my own tea parties), cheddar cheese and chive muffin (which I really didn’t care for since it was dry). I was pleasantly surprised to find that they serve real Devonshire Cream. It was so good with their version of sugar scone. The fruit presentation was fabulous (another great idea for my tea parties)! The dessert, on the other hand, was not impressive. The tiramisu was bland and had too much cocoa powder, and the rest was dry and not memorable at all. Service was okay for regular hotel catering, but for afternoon tea it was not acceptable. The teapots were so small (2-3 cups), had no pot warmers, and it was cold by the time I pour my 2nd to 3rd cup. The waiters took so long to come around, and we had to get their attention for a refill. The tea was weak; I had to request for a stronger serving. Again, not sure if this is because they were not in their regular tea room. Service was okay for hotel dining, but afternoon tea demands a more personal attention. Overall, it was a pleasant experience.
WESTGATE HOTEL
Date visited: December 5, 2010
Location: Downtown San Diego, CA
AMBIANCE: 4.0
FOOD: 4.0
TEA: 3.5
SERVICE: 4.0
Overall Rating: 3.875 (5.0 being the highest mark)
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Delightful Aubrey Rose in La Mesa, CA

I fell in love with Aubrey Rose the first time I went there. My experience was so positive, that when my daughters took me out, I chose to take them there. It was warm, friendly and they put up screens to lend some privacy to their guests. The hostesses were well-trained and friendly. Service was rendered with utmost care and the food was great.

I was so pleased with Aubrey Rose that I went back there for the 2nd time with my daughters. Their food was prepared on site, everything was fresh, and the trays meticulously decorated to please the palate and the eye. They followed tea etiquette and we were given the option to pick our own tea. Scones were served last and apart from the server. The dessert items were out of ordinary and everything was tasty.
I love the ambiance at Aubrey Rose. Although not Victorian, one could request for a private ‘room.’ The service is just like at St. James where the hostesses wear white aprons and appeared happy to serve you.
AUBREY ROSE TEA ROOM
Date of Visit: August, 2010
Location: La Mesa, CA
Ambiance: 4.0
FOOD: 4.25
TEA: 3.75
SERVICE: 4.5
Overall Rating: 4.125 (5.0 being the highest)
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Mrs. Burton’s Tea Room, San Diego, CA

My daughter insisted that we should try Mrs. Burton’s Tea Room because it is located inside a historic building built around 1893. I had high expectations because the tea room is located in Old Town, a famous tourist area. When we got there, I was impressed by the ambiance. It felt like I stepped into the 1800’s all of a sudden – the furniture, the lamps, the drapes all looked vintage. Unfortunately, the tea experience was going to be another story. Although the hostess was nice, she was the only server who attended both wings of the house. This translates to poor service (since she’s always serving other tables). Below is my review of Mrs. Burton’s Tea Room:

Mrs. Burton’s was located in a historic landmark which prohibited them from installing a commercial-style kitchen. No food preparation was done on the premises. A local caterer provided them with food. The result: dry bread and some food items were still frozen at time of serving. No creativity was attempted in food preparation, and they used artificial berries to decorate the food server. No adherence to tea etiquette, and only one lady served both wings of the tea house. Result: Poor service! Fortunately, Mrs. Burton’s is now closed.
Ambiance: The ambiance was great! The minute you step into the tea room, it felt like Victorian times.
 

MRS. BURTON’S HOUSE
Date visited: Around March, 2010
Location: Old Town, San Diego, CA
AMBIANCE: 4.0
FOOD: 3.0
TEA: 3.0
SERVICE: 2.75
Overall Rating: 3.1875
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The Glorious St. James Tea Room in Albuquerque, NM

I heard so much about St. James Tea Room that when we went there to Albuquerque to attend a nephew’s wedding, I made reservations way ahead of time. The stories about St. James were true. It was a great afternoon experience.

St. James Tearoom creates the right atmosphere for its clients. They have several tearooms each having its unique character, and each meticulously designed to match its inspiration. We happened to get the “Watersmeet” which is inspired after a place in Devon, England. The hostesses were well trained in the art of serving tea, they are knowledgeable about their menu and tea, and they all wore long aprons. They have a store located in the lobby so it was away from the dining area. I love the table setting, they use lace placemats, fine bone china, and real silverware. Just like Tea–Upon-Chatsworth, they offered both white and brown sugar cubes. I loved the ambiance!
The Food: They tried to be creative by naming their items inspired by the movie “Lord of the Rings.” The food items were unique, but not necessarily tasty. The scones were not as moist as I wanted them to be; they served this bottom-bread wrapped with bacon strips. The bread was not soft, it was kind of tough, and you have to use your fingers to tear it apart since they did not provide any fork nor knife to cut it up. The combination of desserts did not complement each other; they were unique, but not necessarily great tasting. I give them an “A” for presentation. The menu lists the tea to be served, so you don’t get to pick your own tea. I like the lavender-scented hot towels in the end to wipe off your sticky hands; but if there were forks and knives, those would have not been required. I like being able to choose your own tea and having your own teapot.
ST. JAMES TEAROOM
Date of Visit: October 16, 2009
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico
AMBIANCE: 4.5
FOOD: 4.0
TEA: 3.5
SERVICE: 4.5
Overall Rating: 4.125
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Off to Oregon

In October, 2009, we attended a family wedding in Oregon, and of course, we had to go to tea. Since my cousin lives in Oregon City, OR, I found one that was in their area. I selected Cheryl’s Cup of Tea. It had a perfect venue located just behind a historic house. Below is my review of the tea room:

The ambiance at Cheryl’s was as expected of any respectable tea room. They have 2 tea rooms, each decorated with the country flair. They have beautiful china. Our table was well laid out, but disappointed not to find sugar cubes (indulgence). Their dessert forks were too large for the dessert item (they used regular dinner forks). They used charger plates which I found unnecessary. They left a tip cup on the center of the table which I found ‘tacky.’ The atmosphere was casual; the hostess did not wear any special attire.
Our hostess brought out only one 3-tier server when there were seven of us. The trays were overstacked with food items for seven people. Because the tiers were full, they brought separate platters for sandwiches and desserts. I like the idea of a 3-tier server as the focal point of an afternoon tea. They could have put another server on the other side of the table. Having more than one server seemed chaotic. Their dessert fork was too large for their dessert items. They could have used smaller dessert forks. The food was ordinary – the type you could prepare yourself at home. The bread was old, and the dessert was not made in their kitchen (they were store-bought). I was not happy with their food. We ended up taking home the goodies. Tea selection was very limited and we only had one teapot for all of us making the hostess very busy with serving of tea. Our hostess was very friendly, however.
CHERYL’S CUP OF TEA
Date visited: September 13, 2009
Location: Oregon City, Oregon
AMBIANCE: 4.0
FOOD: 3.0
TEA: 3.0
SERVICE: 4.0
Overall Rating: 3.5
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What else can you do with your girlfriends? You’ve done lunch, sushi dinners, movies, but have you ever been to an afternoon tea? I had my first afternoon tea in August, 2009 and have never looked back. It was such a grand experience that I even throw tea parties now myself. However, my daughters and I continue to visit exciting tea rooms just to experience the ambiance, and to get some new ideas on how to host a tea party. Whenever we’re out of town, I always make it a point to go to a local tea room (if at all possible). It’s exciting! You have expectations as to what kind of food they will be serving, what kind of tea selection they have, and what kind of service you’ll be getting.  I decided to start this blog to give you a glimpse of those experiences, and to sort of give you a review of the different tea rooms we had a chance to visit.

The ambiance was inviting, warm, hospitable, relaxing. The interior was well laid out. They had a back room where you can borrow vintage hats, gloves, and boas. Other guests were dressed appropriately. The store was set away from the dining tables.
The food was out of ordinary. Their sandwiches were tasty and very satisfying. We love the presentation and they take the time to decorate the table and food with edible rose petals. The scones were moist and delicious. Dessert was not plentiful, but it was sufficient and delectable. Everything tasted like they were made just before we arrived. I love the option of selecting your own tea and having your own teapot. Our hostess was great!
TEA-UPON-CHATSWORTH
Date visited: August 27, 2009
Location: Point Loma, San Diego, CA
AMBIANCE: 4.0
FOOD: 4.5
TEA: 4.0
SERVICE: 4.5
Overall Rating: 4.25 (5.0 being the highest mark)
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