For years Cyndy and I have been going to the Ritz for lunch on my birthday. We bask a bit in the opulence of the chic hotel before I return to my nearby condo and she to her farmette. For some reason, this year brought back memories of once celebrating a half birthday at Brown’s Hotel Tea Room in London, just down the street from the splashy Ritz with a less historic setting.
The Charm of a Hotel Restaurant
Brown’s Hotel was a favorite tea spot for Queen Victoria and a number of English writers. Rudyard Kipling, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Oscar Wilde all penned lines within its walls. Agatha Christie had her own corner table and FDR a favorite armchair by the fireplace.
While the St. Louis Ritz-Carlton can’t compete in the restaurant annals with the history-laden Brown (est. 1837), it makes up for its youthfulness with a warmth and charm all its own. At Afternoon Tea, they serve up buttery scones, petite sandwiches and dainty cakes with the best of them. But like other big city hotels, they also offer a typical soup-sandwich-salad menu at lunch for those wanting a casual bite away from the hurly-burly of everyday life.
A Doorman: A Nice Touch
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by the doorman as if we were regulars at the 5-star hotel. Whisked inside to the ornately decorated hallways, we were transported to an oasis of quiet elegance and soaring floral displays. The spacious Restaurant was closed for a private party, so we lunched in The Grill with its cozy fireplace and paneled walls.
My last year’s selection, the Reuben, was still on the menu. Not wanting to appear stogy by ordering the same thing, we went with the Tricolor Quinoa and the Whitefish Tacos. When we told our server we would be splitting the entrees, she offered to do it for us in the kitchen.
As We Were about to Leave . . .
I pondered why I didn’t come here more frequently to enjoy the cushy carpet, gleaming mirrors, muted music, and soft glow of fireplaces. It’s just blocks from where I live.
Perhaps when I’m a very old woman, I shall come sit by the fireplace after my birthday lunch and read a bit of Agatha Christie. And people will ask, “Who’s the woman that comes for lunch once a year and reads Agatha Christie by the fire?” The friendly doorman will smile, “Oh, she was once a local food blogger,” he’ll say. “And she likes the Reuben.”