The Conrad's tea and buffet lunch

Dateline: Sat 12 Aug 2006

My daughter-in-law Parn Sudmee, my young friend Miss Lily Crews, age 7, and I enjoyed a scrumptious and delightful high tea at the Conrad Hotel Friday.

Note to the curious, the thrifty and the food-fascinated: The Conrad is one of the best elegant little deals in town when it comes to both its afternoon 7-day-a-week tea and its Monday-Friday buffet. I've experienced both and pronounce them wonderful.

First, a few details on afternoon tea at the Vitesse, one of two restaurants in the grand five-star hotel. Cost is $20 per person, and expect to spend a leisurely time. We had reservations for 2:30 p.m. and we left at 4:16 p.m.

Vitesse restaurant manager Marcella McMasters tended to our every need through three stages of high tea -- first was the tea selection, with 25 or so teas presented on a lovely tea cart. Trust me, if you love tea this will tickle your taste buds, because the range is from the smoky masculine to the exotic to the flowery and back again.

Next were the sandwiches (smoked salmon and cucumber, poached quail eggs with caviar, peppers with goat cheese) and gazpacho.

After that we had scones, with golden raisins and without, and lovely butter cream spreads and raspberry jams.

Finally came the piece de resistance -- the dessert tray. All the pastries are baked there, at the hotel. The chocolates are imported from France. One gets to choose five, and it's not easy -- how many of us Hoosiers have had home-made pistachio marshmallows? Tart raspberry jellies? The chocolates, both candy and dessert, are like rich silk. Each is a jewel.

Throughout, Marcella replenished our tea. We all chose a different one, and each pot itself was unique and seemed to "speak" to that tea.

Another highlight was the presence of a harpist, Jan, who came at 3 p.m. and played magnificently. She did some show tunes for Lily. Giddy with sugar by 4 p.m., the child was reduced to dancing on the floor of the Vitesse.

And yes, Jan did let Lily touch the harp. She even escorted her to the ladies' room to assure clean hands, a must for a harp massage.

Altogether, a charming time.

But not to be outdone by the buffet at the Restaurant du Soleil, just across the hall. Friend Susan Gillie was the benefactor of that treat Aug. 3. The selection we enjoyed that day was generous -- roasted pork loin, new potatoes, a whole array of vegetables and salads, breads, cheeses, fresh sea food and dessert. All this for $15 and add $4 if you want the fresh sea food. (You do -- shrimp, crab, oysters, mussels, clams). Our compliments to the chef, Michelle Matiya.

Seriously, check it out. The prices are good, in fact, amazing considering the array, atmosphere and service. Get there soonest. Who knows how long these great deals will last?

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