Book Club met this afternoon for our annual classic book discussion over tea. (Each year in January we meet downtown for tea and choose an English literature classic; this year was Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy.) To our surprise, when we met at The Drake Hotel, we discovered they weren’t serving tea in January until the last weekend of the month. No clue why, but that meant we had to scramble for a backup.
We ended up walking down Michigan Avenue for tea at The Hotel Intercontinental. (After eight years at the Drake, I’d tried to get a reservation at The Ritz earlier this month, but for some reason, they aren’t serving tea this week either.) While cheaper, the tea service offered at the Intercontinental wasn’t nearly as good, with fewer selections of tea to choose from and food offerings (finger sandwiches, pastries and none of the scones as promised) inferior to The Drake’s. I swear one of the sandwiches was butter, mayonnaise and a thin slice of white American cheese. The coffee cake (??) was mushy and disgusting.
The room, while quiet enough to accommodate discussion, was one step up from a hotel lobby and sitting on the street corner didn’t provide a pleasant, relaxing respite. Instead of the water fountain and harp music found at The Drake’s Palm Court, the Intercontinental had Top 40 hits playing over the sound system, and we had to ask them for everything from sugar, milk, cups to more hot water. The service, while initially accommodating to seat a party of seven without a reservation, disappeared once we were served, despite the fact that the room was half empty. Bears game in the bar next door perhaps?