A sudden warmth enveloped me as I walk past the double doors, a welcome reprieve from the frosty wind. Grandiose marble columns greeted me, towering over plush sofas blanketed by the warm light of crystalline chandeliers. Even before my first glimpse, I had expected myself to be in awe of the interior. In this aspect, the Saint Paul Hotel did not disappoint.
After checking our coats, the floor manager led my companions and I to our table. Our table lay in a cozy little nook on the corner of the lobby, tucked away from prying eyes and the chatter from the main hall. Our local community had met up that day to attend the hotel’s Chocolate Lovers Tea event. Each ticket afforded us a five-course chocolate-centered menu and tea. Afternoon teas at the hotel have been hard to reserve in the past because slots sell out weeks in advance. Knowing this, I called the hotel a month ahead and requested a block booking for our party. I was therefore very excited to see if the wait and effort would be worthwhile.
The first course came soon after we were all settled and served our teas. It was a disappointment. The duck and dark cocoa terrine was an awful match. Neither one complemented the other, and it was overall too rich and confusing. To cleanse my palette, I took a bite of the chocolate dipped strawberry. While this helped cut the richness of the terrine, the candied walnuts made it quite hard to bite into. The highlight of the course was the mole (/ˈmoʊleɪ/) soup shooter. The chili powder rim balanced the rich soup without making it too spicy. I, however, found myself already looking forward to the next course.
The second course was an improvement. The osso bucco was a bit dry, but the polenta provided the much-needed moisture. I found it weird that this dish was served in a measuring cup. This course also went splendidly with the black tea we were served. The staff was very attentive, heightening the experience. By the time the third course came around, I noticed the pacing of the courses was quite slow. I appreciated this as it gave a lot of time to enjoy the food while maintaining conversation.
The third course was a pleasant surprise. I usually prefer having my scones with jam and Devonshire cream, but this one was well-balanced enough to stand on its own with just the butter on the side. However, I did end up having to box half of the scone since I was beginning to feel full with two more courses to go.
As the event planner for our comm, I was also tasked with documenting the event. This meant that I had to stand up every so often to take pictures of everyone. I find this nice because it also lets me mingle with the attendees more, especially because the more comfortable a person is with the photographer, the better their pictures come across. In this aspect, my only gripe would be how small the space was between our table and the wall. Then again, I can’t really fault the hotel for not being prepared for all our massive poofs.
The fourth course was one I was most excited for because it had the most sweets. It took me quite a while to get to my food though, having as much fun as I was walking around the table and talking to my friends. Each piece was good, but the dried raspberries on the mendiant could have been smaller. The big, chewy chunks were hard to bite through and sometimes even stuck to my teeth. At this point, I had switched my tea to chamomile. We felt disappointed to find out that only two choices of tea came with the pre-paid ticket. Other flavors cost extra per pot, a bit stingy on their part. Other establishments let you change and choose your teas as much as you like during the course of the meal.
By the time the last course came around, everyone on the table was stuffed and about ready to leave. The tartlet was the best course served. The flavors were well-balanced, and the presentation was on point. A common mistake I noticed throughout the meal was the lack of uniformity between the dishes of each guest. Mass-preparation is fine when done right, but stark differences between the same dishes in one table screams laziness. Nonetheless, we ended the meal on a good note.
We went on to take our group photos in the hotel lobby. Everyone was abuzz about the amazing lobby bathroom. Naturally, we had to go take pictures inside. The bathroom was split into a powder room and the toilet cubicles. The powder room had a beautiful gold-gilded three-way mirror set in the corner, accentuated by wine red velvet curtains. I’m ashamed to say (not really) we must have spent an hour inside snapping and chatting, but it was a fun time for all.
Overall, this meet was a lovely experience. While I found the meal itself lacking in quality, the interior of the hotel was certainly something to behold. I got to catch up with my lolita friends and plan some of our future events. We also exchanged greeting cards and treats some time during the meal. Being a co-host of the meet, I felt very relieved to have pulled it off successfully. As our attendees began to trickle away, exhaustion crept up on me, and I left the building satisfied but ready for sleep.
More photos of this event can be seen on our comm’s Instagram page, @theladyslippersociety.