If you gather a group of girlfriends together, chances are at least a few of them are fans of Downton Abbey, PBS' popular period drama.
Thankfully, for those of us who long to feel a bit more Lady Mary than carpool lady, there's a chance to indulge in some old-fashioned British fun - without a trip to Highclere Castle.
Every day through March 31, The Langham, Chicago offers a traditional afternoon tea - Downton Abbey Afternoon Tea - that brings to mind evening gloves, parasols and meals cooked in faraway kitchens. While the hotel's modern space couldn't be more different than Downton's ornate hallways, the food echoes the delights Mrs. Patmore regularly whips up on the show. And the wide variety of teas (try the signature Langham Blend), served in sleek Wedgewood china, transport you to the English countryside even while you're gazing at a cityscape below.
Tea begins with a surprisingly delicious amuse-bouche to cleanse your palate. Then it's time for the food, which ranges from sweet to savory. Traditionalists will love Earl Grey raisin-soaked scones, while more adventurous diners can try smoked salmon rillettes or watercress and cucumber sandwiches with red pepper butter. And everyone can agree that dessert's the best part, with flavors that would please even the Dowager Countess.
The leisurely pace of the tea means there's lots of time for gossip, and the comfortable plush seating invites elegant relaxation. Groups of any size are welcome - we spied a gathering of 10 - plus, as well as several smaller parties of two or three.
The white-gloved service is professional to a tee - Mr. Carson would be proud - and every last server treats guests like the nobility they aspire to be. It all makes for a fun British-flavored escape for those of us who are more likely to don a baseball cap than a tiara anytime soon.
Elizabeth Diffin is the senior editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Wheaton.
See more of Elizabeth's stories here.
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