I have always been wholeheartedly in agreement with Mr. James on the subject of afternoon tea (the proper term for that three-course cornucopia of sandwiches, scones and pastries). The miniscule eats the opulent surroundings, the triple-tier serving platter, the golden or amber or brew—there’s something so civilized, so luxurious about it all. There’s something about the experience that forces one to slow down, relax, and wait. So when Mother’s Day rolls around, what’s a daughter-in-law to do? Take the lady out for a cuppa, of course. The city has several options for afternoon tea, and a particularly pleasant one is offered at Two E, in lounge in The Pierre hotel. The room blends the best of traditional and modern: the décor is that Louis Something style, so typical of grande dame hotels, but done in hues of black and white, with contemporary chandeliers. The food itself was, too: The seven varieties of finger sandwiches ranged from good ol’ cucumber and deviled eggs to with cream cheese to babaganoush crepes and caviar in buckwheat blinis (quite international, when you think of it). The pastries veered toward la belle France—macaroons and madeleines, but with some good ol’ Americana (lemon squares, sand cookies) mixed in. The cranberry scones, served with Devonshire cream, raspberry jam and lemon curd, bridged the gap between savory and sweet. A pleasant selection of tea, too, served in individual glass teapots—fruity ones, herbal ones, basic black ones and green ones. We had booked a reservation at the end of the service, and as we finished up, nearly two hours after we sat down, it was interesting to see the room morph from tea lounge to cocktail lounge: the lights dimming, bud vases replaced by tiny lamps, votive candles lit in the fireplace. We hadn’t intended to linger so long. But you can’t rush afternoon tea, any more than you can force water to boil faster. In this time-pressed city, perhaps that’s the biggest luxury of all.
» Two E Bar/Lounge at The Pierre, A Taj Hotel, 2 E. 61st St., 212. 940. 8113