L’Espalier

774 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02199

To finish off my weekend trip to Boston this summer, I joined my Course 20 buddies, Krystal and Katherine, for afternoon tea at L’Espalier. This was my first $$$$ restaurant experience, with the Fantasy Tea menu ranging from $30-$40 per person (good thing we did not go for dinner, since that menu ranges from $95-$205 per person).

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The restaurant staff treated us like royalty—a host greeted us at the street-level entrance, and he took us up the elevator to the third floor, where we were then greeted by two more hostesses. They showed us to our table and pushed our seats in for us as we sat down. When our food was brought out, our waiter thoroughly explained each item on our plates.

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The Fantasy Tea menu had three options: Little Red Riding Hood’s Basket (tea sandwiches, pastries, petit fours, and tea), Make Way for Ducklings (petit fours, pastries, and tea), and Three Blind Mice (cheese tasting and tea). We ordered all three menu items to share between us, which proved to be a slight struggle, given the tiny portions of the pastries, sandwiches, and cheeses.

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For tea, I tried the L’Espalier Vintage Blend, a Yunnan Pu-erh tea blend that supposedly had hints of Cacao shell and cinnamon. After sneaking a sip of Krystal’s tea, the L’Espalier Anniversary Blend (a Darjeeling and green tea blend), and Katherine’s L’Espalier Chef’s Blend (a black tea blend), I wish I had chose one of those teas instead.

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So I’ll start with the sandwich plate that included a smoked salmon sandwich on dill bread, a chicken salad sandwich on a profiterole, a cucumber sandwich with watercress cream cheese, a deviled egg with caviar, and a smoked gouda cheese croissant. We each had a nibble of each item, and the consensus seemed to be that the sandwiches were above-average at best. “The requisite cucumber sandwich tasted like a cucumber sandwich,” Krystal said. “Nothing more, nothing less.”

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The pastry plate was beautifully arranged with a chocolate decadence with oatmeal crumble, chocolate madeleine, a peppercorn scone, a ginger scone, frangipani cake, a strawberry tart and a pâte à choux swan with espresso cream. “Because of the tiny size of each item, it was important to carefully savor the tastes and flavors of every single bite and appreciate the attention to detail that went into their presentation,” Katherine explained. “I really enjoyed the smooth almondy flavor of the frangipani cake paired with a dot of fruit jam on top. The scones were wonderfully unique and contained a surprising amount of flavor given its size (especially the peppercorn one) and left me wanting a second taste.” Though I also loved the scones, I agree with Krystal, who mentioned that the pastries seemed “one-dimensional” and “perfunctory.”

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The cheese plate was one of the more exciting parts of the afternoon. My fanciest cheese experiences amount to the times I choose what cheese goes on my Subway sandwich, so tasting these cheese samples was a pretty exciting moment for me.

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The cheese plate included Great Hill Blue (a blue cheese from Marion, MA), Mixed Milk (a sheep, cow, and goat’s milk cheese from Piedmont, Italy), Pecorino Ginepro (also from Italy), Moses Sleeper (a brie style cheese from Greensboro, VT), Rupert (an alpine style cheese, also from Vermont), and Taleggio (Lombardia, Italy). In all honesty, sampling these rich and flavorful cheeses was such a delight, and if I ever go back to L’Espalier for afternoon tea, I would most likely order the cheese plate.

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Krystal felt similarly, saying, “Though I admittedly have little to no knowledge about different types of cheeses, the cheese plate was an interesting way to taste a wide variety of creamy, nutty, and funky cheeses. The tiny baguettes that came with it were also cheek-pinchingly cute and a convenient vehicle for stuffing more delicious cheese bits into my mouth. Ultimately, despite any minor gripes and complaints, the afternoon tea adventure and the sampling of over a dozen different tiny food bites was quite a fun experience.” It was quite the experience, indeed. 8/10