bringing British tradition to the Southland

The Otts are free-lance writers who live in Costa Mesa.

Afternoon tea, one of the more revered customs in many parts of the English-speaking world, dates back more than a century in England, when lunch was not yet a meal.

Some historians credit the beginning of this pleasant daily ritual to the wife of the seventh Duke of Bedford. At 4 p.m. every day, she would become hungry and instruct her servants to prepare tea and cakes

for a light afternoon

treat. This ritual soon became known in court circles as "teatime."

During the last century and a half, teatime has become firmly established in Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia-- and, in recent years, it is also becoming more popular in America, in settings ranging from neighborhood tearooms

to major hotels and


Following is a sampling of places to enjoy traditional afternoon tea in Southern California:

Main Lounge, Santa Barbara Biltmore, 1260 Channel Drive, Santa Barbara, (805) 969-2261. About two years ago, this lounge began serving afternoon tea Monday to Friday 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. A harpist provides background music. Diners may order a pot of tea accompanied by an assortment of finger sandwiches and pastries for $8.75 per person; a pot of tea only is $3.

Westwood Lounge, Westwood Marquis Hotel and Gardens, 930 Hilgard Ave., Westwood, (213) 208-8765. Five years ago, the Westwood Marquis became the first Los Angeles-area hotel to offer afternoon tea, according to food and beverage director Al Zapata. Offered 3 to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday the standard tea ($10.50 per person) begins with a glass of Sandeman Character Sherry, followed by a variety of tea sandwiches, golden caviar and garnishes, fresh-baked scones with Devonshire cream and jams, plus assorted French cookies and miniature pastries. Diners may choose from eight kinds of

tea. All of the items, including cognac and liqueurs, are available a la carte.

The Back Porch, Sheraton Grande Hotel, 333 S. Figueroa St., Downtown Los Angeles, (213) 617-1133. Offered since the hotel's opening three years ago, afternoon tea is available Monday to Friday 3 to 5 p.m. For $8 per person, the tea menu includes a glass of sherry or port, an assortment of finger sandwiches and a choice of teas, plus scones, jams, cookies and handmade chocolate truffles. A pianist provides musical entertainment.

Trumps, 8764 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 855-1480. Served Monday to Saturday 3:30 to 5 p.m., Trumps' tea begins with a glass of sherry, mineral water or house white wine, followed by tea sandwiches, warm scones, tea sweets and a pot of tea. Cost is $11 per person. Reservations are suggested.

Paddington's Tea Room, 729 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 652-0624. This restaurant's decor and menu provide the quaintness and charm of an English tearoom. Afternoon tea, served daily 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. by reservation, is $11 per person. The tea menu begins with homemade pate, fresh raw vegetables with spinach and water-chestnut dip and finger sandwiches, followed by scones with Devonshire cream, assorted petit treats and a choice of tea or coffee. Aside from the tea menu, Paddington's also offers other traditional English fare, such as hot meat pies, until 7 p.m. daily.

The Atrium, 180 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, (213) 491-0677. Located downtown on the Promenade between the Ramada Renaissance and Hyatt Regency hotels, the Atrium serves afternoon tea Monday to Friday 3 to 4:30 p.m. For $9 per person, the menu includes wine or sherry, tea, golden whitefish caviar, tea sandwiches, scones with preserves, chocolate truffles and Bostonian torte.

Tea and Sympathy, 17th Street at Tustin Avenue, Costa Mesa, (714) 645-4860. Opened seven years ago, this antique-filled, country-style tearoom was one of the first in Orange County. The tea menu, offered daily and served anytime, consists of tea, tea sandwiches and a hot scone with raspberry jam and cream for $4.75 per person (with a glass of sherry, $5.75). Other menu items include steak and kidney pie, Cornish pasties, Welsh rarebit, Toad in the Hole and soups and salads. Other beverages include coffee, English beer and wine. Once a month owner Nancy Williams books tea-leaf reader Janice Roper,

a psychic from Phoenix, to do several days of readings, by appointment. The restaurant is open Monday to Saturday

11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Conservatory Lounge, Four Seasons Hotel, 690 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach, (714) 759-0808. Afternoon tea is offered daily 3 to 4:30 p.m. A choice of imported teas includes English, French, Italian and Viennese. Tea menus also offer coffees, savories and desserts. A selection of vintage ports is available. The tea menu

begins at $8.50 per person. A pianist plays every day, starting at 3:30 p.m.

The Library, Ritz-Carlton Hotel, 3533 Shoreline Drive, Laguna Niguel, (714) 240-2000. Afternoon tea is served daily 2:30 to 5 p.m. The Library offers a striking view of the Pacific Ocean. Afternoon tea, $12 per person, includes a pot of tea, a selection of tea sandwiches, whole-wheat scones with Devonshire cream, fruit preserves, English tea bread and miniature fresh fruit tarts. Champagne and sherry are available by the glass. A pianist in an adjacent room provides musical accompaniment.

Ocean Terrace Lounge, Hotel del Coronado, 1500 Orange Ave., Coronado, (619) 435-6611. This setting is for Sunday tea dances, 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., with romantic big-band sounds provided by the Variations. In addition to tea, the afternoon menu includes an assortment of canapes for $6.95 and champagne cocktails beginning at $3.75. Afternoontea is scheduled daily for December.

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