The Millennium Biltmore Hotel, a Historic Cultural Landmark, is located on Grand Avenue, right across the street from the Central Library, and has retained its classic glamour for almost 100 years. It opened in 1923, and at the time was the largest hotel west of Chicago. Even now, surrounded by skyscrapers, it still looks and feels imposing with a solid eleven stories. It is beautiful and warm on the inside, and the perfect place to kick back and relax with an afternoon tea break.
The Biltmore has always had a strong Hollywood connection, from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences being founded here, to the rumor that MGM Art Director Cedric Gibbons sketched a drawing on a napkin that was the basis for the Oscar statue, to hosting eight Academy Awards ceremonies in the 1930s and 1940s.
It is tough to pin the décor down to one style; is it Mediterranean? Beaux Arts? Spanish? Yes, yes, yes, and more. As you stroll in, make sure you look up in the Galleria to see the hand-painted, frescoed mural ceiling done by Italian artist Giovanni Smeraldi (one of the restaurants in the hotel was named after him).
Afternoon tea happens Wednesday through Sunday (reservations are recommended), in the Rendezvous Court, which was once the hotel’s lobby. The tables are set up beside a gently gurgling fountain, under Italian chandeliers, and at the foot of an impressive Spanish Baroque staircase that you may have seen on the TV show Entourage.
The Princess Tea includes a pot of tea, a freshly baked scone with cream and preserves, and a selection of freshly baked cakes. The Victorian Tea (which is what I–Lara– had on my visit) came with more than enough food and drink to fill up two people, served on a three-tiered stand on tables covered in white tablecloths and set with china featuring a sweet rose pattern.
There is a wonderful variety of teas to soothe away stress and help you forget that you are surrounded by the busy streets of Downtown Los Angeles, including Ceylon and India, Black Tea Blended, English Royal Breakfast, Masala Chai, Lemon Echinacea (good for a cold), and Apricot Cinnamon.
The tea sandwiches are cut into tiny diamond shapes…with the crusts off, of course! My selection included egg salad and asparagus, smoked salmon and dill butter, cucumber and cream cheese, and ham and cheese on pumpernickel.
The pastries include fruit tarts, chocolate truffles, and freshly baked scones with homemade Devonshire cream and strawberry preserves that will most likely have you licking the heavenly clotted cream off of your fingers.
(This blog is also up at www.larascott.blogspot.com.)
Millennium Biltmore Hotel
506 South Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90071