Where: Chicago, Illinois (Gold Coast Neighborhood, on The Magnificent Mile) Style: Beaux-arts palm court Tea Selection: 12+ loose leaf teas by Palais des Thés Teatimes: Thursday to Sunday, 12 to 4:30 (last seating) Reservations: Reservations required Contact: 312-932-4661 or reserve here Cost: $74 – $78 Holiday Tea; $67 Afternoon Tea; $35 Child’s Afternoon Tea (ages 3 to 12) Destination Tea Tips: At this luxury tea where the dress code states that gloves are optional, come as fancy as you like. Enter through the lobby at the East Walton Place main entrance (we tried entering on East Lake Shore Drive and found the door a locked facade).
Destination Tea Notes: Much like they say not to prepare an untested recipe for a party, I recognize I’m taking a chance when I invite someone to their first afternoon tea at a tearoom I’ve not yet reviewed. Happily, The Drake Hotel has a good bit of experience serving an afternoon tea that impresses. When the hotel opened in 1920, Chicago’s social elite came for tea in what was originally dubbed The Fountain Court, making today’s Palm Court tea service more than 100 years old. It is bittersweet knowing that in that time, both Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana made royal visits here. Take your time luxuriating in every afternoon tea delight because there is much for your senses to see, hear and taste. A stunning space, the Palm Court’s mirrored walls and ceilings, decorative molding, draped columns and silk flower arrangements dotted about the room are anchored by a towering bouquet topping the centerpiece stone fountain. In the midst of two-tops tucked against the fountain’s edge, a harpist in floor-length gown plays. The large room is full of conversation as afternoon tea goers from all generations take their seats: a mélange of soft tufted sofas, banquettes and round armchairs. Service here is attentive and efficient. Hot teas are quickly brought to the table and tiered trays with seasonally inspired scratchmade menus are delivered. This is when we discover two excellent things about The Drake Hotel’s afternoon tea: every recipe is delicious, and we are welcome to request second servings. This is a rarity at most afternoon teas, and makes us feel even more doted on. Now we know that it is no gamble to bring a new afternoon tea friend to The Drake, rather it’s the perfect way to have them fall in love with the tradition.