Scarlet Tea Room unfortunately is located in Pasadena, making Saturday my second perhaps ill-advised trip into the belly of the heat beast this weekend. Since the triple digit days still persist I don't need to dwell on how uncomfortable it is out there.
But thankfully, it only takes a few minutes in the AC'd room to put us in the mood for hot tea. Because no matter what the weather's like, drinking iced tea at a tea service just feels wrong. And many cultures consider hot drinks to be beneficial in hot weather, right? I also believe this ritual is totally conducive to good, clean fun girl time.
Until someone finally opens a cutting edge, non-new age contemporary tea house with a cutesy name along the lines of ALternateA (think Moby's Teany) where delicate snacks are served on Gropius china amid Ed Ruscha prints, drinking quality Earl Grey and eating scones with clotted cream and lemon curd will remain synonymous with floral prints, polished stone, gilded furniture, and bad representational art. However, Scarlet's chandelier with sparkling crystals in its namesake color placed at intervals definitely catches the eye (though it's not nearly as awesome as the deep dark purple ones at the Dolce & Gabbana Rodeo Drive boutique).
The tiers arrive following a refreshing fresh strawberry sorbet and some irritating banter from the staff. Finger sandwiches are fresh and made to order. No stale crust-less bread here. The $25 Tea Ceremony comes with a choice of four (out of ten), an option that we all appreciate. Waaay better than the Bel-Air. Though I didn't partake, the smoked salmon with the dill-encrusted edges and orange roe topping emerges as the group favorite. Green apple and cheese has a sour creamy base that doesn't work, but otherwise I like the rest of the selection, especially the turkey cranberry finger sandwich.
Sweet light scones (one cranberry, one chocolate chip per person) are served at the top of the tier as part of the sandwich course. And since we're served dishes with sweetened whipped cream instead of thick Devonshire cream, folks in search of authentic British tea fixings will be disappointed. Clear, authentic fruity tangs ring through the homemade lemon curd and strawberry preserves; these are definitely the better condiments.
Service is annoying at times, yet consistently attentive. It can be a fine line between the two. Tip the top of your pot over and you'll get fresh hot water for your excellent tea blend in no time, but it might come with some weird random comment.
And pay attention to the warnings to pace yourself. You get your money's worth here. When dessert comes we're all full; I don't need to eat much other than a snack much later on that night. The highlights of the dessert platter are a chocolate minty thing, cream puff, and cute little pastel layered cakes designed to look like gift boxes (I've had similar ones from The Grub in Hollywood). As if our blood sugar levels aren't high enough, then come the Strawberries Romanoff � just strawberries mixed with whipped cream. Nothing exciting.
Because we're allowed to take our time, I understand why reservations are hard to get. The room is busy and full. A couple of large parties are celebrating showers or birthdays and there don't appear to be any last minute cancellations. Even crazy summer intensity can't stop the ladies from drinkin' their afternoon tea.
Scarlet Tea Room
18 W. Green Street
Pasadena, CA 91105