Afternoon Tea at the Four Seasons Georges V, Paris– France
Walking along the Avenue Georges V is an experience in itself. Having just passed the colossal Louis Vuitton flagship store, with its ornate gold dinosaur window displays, we rounded the corner and strolled along the relatively tranquil street in wonder. The Avenue Georges V, together with the Champs Élysée and Avenue Montaigne, form what it called the ‘Triangle D’Or’ – the Golden Triangle. Apt, seeing as the net worth on these 3 streets alone probably rival the GDP of some small countries.
We knew we had arrived at the Four Season’s Hotel Georges V, when our feet sank into a super plush carpet on the street entrance – a telling sign of the luxury that was about to come. Owned by a Saudi Prince, no extravagance was spared in the hotel’s renovations in 1997, and the hotel proudly claims a spot amongst the six establishments in Paris to have been awarded the honor of ‘Palace’ classification.
Having recently become accustomed to the decadent tradition of Afternoon High Tea, my friend Sam and I took the opportunity to investigate the High Tea offerings at this renowned Parisian Hotel.
Upon entering through the ornate revolving door, my breath was instantly taken away! In front of me stood the most theatrical, the most extravagant – by far – flower display I had ever seen.
Don’t get me wrong, I was well aware that the hotel’s florist extraordinaire; Jeff Leatham has a long standing reputation at the Georges V, but nothing prepared me for the sight which greeted us in the hotel’s lobby. Coral-tinged peonies (hundreds and hundreds of them) elegantly collided with deep purple hydrangeas to create a summer wonderland. Indeed, feeling like two Alices who had just sashayed down the rabbit hole, Sam and I crossed the foyer and into the Mad Hatter’s dreamland.
To the left there was a giant installation (not arrangement, as Mr. Leatham likes to call it) of red posies – again a dazzling marriage of peonies and hydrangeas. En masse, and shaped into several perfectly round, individual bouquets, they took their daring places in tall flute vases of varying height to create what can only be described as a Jeff Leatham work of art.
In fact, so esteemed are the rock-star of florist’s creations, that his celebrity clientele include the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Madonna, Celine Dion and Kylie Minogue. When he’s not creating floral installations for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, or putting together daring designs for celebrity weddings (he was commissioned for Eva Longoria’s wedding to Tony Parker), he serves as the in-resident flower guru for the Hotel Georges V.
We stepped out into the grand central courtyard of the hotel, and again uttered astonished ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ at the overhead floral designs. Strings of purple Vanda orchids were suspended in the air, fashioning a stunning canopy over the courtyard as rays of sunshine streamed in, creating an ethereal atmosphere.
Making our way pass yet more impressive floral designs we headed to La Galerie where afternoon tea was served.
La Galerie’s décor can only be described as opulent. Priceless historical antiques adorned the space, along with fine Flemish tapestries dating back to the 17th century. Murano-glass chandeliers hung aristocratically from the high ceilings, and a 500 square-foot Savonnerie carpet graced the floors. No Dorothy, we were certainly not in Kansas anymore.
We were shown to our table which was set with fine Limoges porcelain. Before we even sat down, the maître d’ brought over two little stools for which to lay our handbags -no handbags on the floor at the Georges V!
We browsed the menu and settled on “Thé complet a la Française”: The French twist on an elegant British tradition.
Our waiter took our order, and promptly arrived with 2 champagne glasses (monogrammed, no less!) that were ceremoniously filled with Moet & Chandon bubbly. We toasted to our auspicious surroundings as we sipped on the liquid gold.
Taking in the atmosphere of La Galerie, I noted it is the most perfect spot in the hotel to people-watch. From the families outside in the courtyard enjoying lunch, to the well-heeled couples appreciating a sundowner before sundown; I kept one eye on the entrance half expecting a celebrity sighting (not uncommon at the Georges V).
Our waiter magically appeared with our three-tiered trays laden with epicurean treats. On the first tier; an assortment of finger sandwiches prepared with an array of different breads (tomato, rye and spinach). The sandwiches can be ordered to your preference, as I chose a vegetarian option.
The second tier comprised of an assortment of French delicacies that included a creamy, cinnamon-dusted macaroon, mille-feuille (‘thousand sheets’ – referring to the layered pastry) with piped custard, a strawberry tartlet, and apricot panna cotta topped with roasted almonds. The macaroon was by far the best I had ever tasted – Ladureé be warned!
As if that wasn’t enough, the top tier, and perhaps my favorite, comprised of a warm scone, a madeleine (soft French cake immortalized by Marcel Proust’s memories), a caramelized canelé from Bordeaux and a petite raspberry financier.
I covered my scone in clotted cream and generously smothered strawberry jam, while Sam simply drenched hers in honey. Our tastebuds went to heaven!
For our hot beverages, my companion chose a white tea from the extensive selection, while I was eager to sample the hotel’s famous hot chocolate. Served in an authentic hot chocolate pot (‘chocolatière’) complete with frother, the hot chocolate is unbelievably decadent, thick and creamy. It is served with warm milk in the event you needed to dilute the chocolaty goodness. The beverages are poured for you (bien sûr!), and the waiter flitted by every now and then to see if we were in the mood for a refill.
A pair of musicians serenaded the guests, and we sat relaxed – chatting, laughing, and of course, eating. We only realized that 2 hours had gone by when the staff began lighting the evening candles, signaling that dusk was upon us.
I smirked at how discretely the bill was presented to us (ironic that talking about money in rich circles is considered philistine!) and picking our bags from their pedestals, we left the plush confines of the Four Seasons Georges V to join alas, the real world.
Thé complet a la Française at the Four Seasons Georges V costs 58euro (approx 760 ZAR) per person. For more: http://www.fourseasons.com/paris