The historic Heathman Hotel in Portland has offered a holiday tea service for decades. New in 2016, chef Vitaly Paley brought Russian flare to the service with his festive, elegant Russian Tea. Within days, all available reservations for the service, offered between November 25 and January 1, were filled.
Due to the popularity of the holiday tea service, there will be two seatings on Saturdays moving forward. Folks should call for the most accurate times available and reservations for seatings at 503/790-7752 for Saturday teas through 2017.
The Russian Tea is beautifully presented in the Heathman’s tea room, adjacent to the new Headwaters restaurant. We sat near the big fireplace at a table adorned with an authentic Russian table and tea service. When I attended in December of 2016, we were given a choice of eight tea varieties, plus champagne or select cocktails. The teas ranged from a White Peony to classic black teas to an earthy green tea, all authentic Russian staples. I opted for the Bungalow, which is most similar to an English Breakfast black tea. The tea is presented in its own pot in loose leaf, with a delicate tea cup and strainer.
Alongside the tea comes a three-tiered tray of accompaniments ranging from savory options like khachapouri (Georgian cheese bread), open-faced buteubrodi sandwiches, and stuffed eggs. A favorite was the traditional blini, small pancakes served with house-cured caviar and sour cream. Among the sweet offerings were tort po kievski, a hazelnut meringue coffee buttercream with chocolate ganache, a Russian cheesecake, and Bird’s Milk Cake, with a shortbread cookie crust. The star of the show may have been the steopka, a sour cream and walnut cake that is Paley’s grandmother’s recipe.
Needless to say, this meal is an event you should plan to linger over, enjoying each delicate cake and small bite. That said, kids are definitely welcome.
The kids’ service includes child-friendly versions of the adult offerings, including deviled eggs stuffed with milder flavors, flaky cheese bread, and almond butter and house preserves sandwiches. During our mid-afternoon tea service, we saw several children dressed in their holiday best, enjoying the experience. The Heathman is definitely upscale, but not stuffy. Consider pairing this event with a holiday show at the nearby Keller Auditorium.
If you go, the 2017 prices are likely similar to the 2016 holiday price of $38/adult and $16/child. While expensive, I feel the experience is unique and the price is justified. Definitely book your reservation early, calling 503-790-7752 to inquire when reservations open for the 2017 holiday season. Reservations can be made for 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm daily during the holidays.
As I disclose whenever applicable, I experience the Russian Tea as a guest of the Heathman, for the purpose of review.