Palmer House’s Lockwood Restaurant High Tea Review – Sweet, Sweet, Sweet and Savory


It’s likely that most Chicago denizens have at some point, if not often, walked briskly on Monroe Avenue and had an impulse to peek past the smiling doormen of the Palmer House Hilton Hotel to see what is inside this historic building. 



Even in the first foyer you’ll see one of the ornamental and beautiful “Peacock Doors” designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, that celebrate one of the building’s earlier tenants and Chicago’s first incorporated business, “The House of Peacock”. 



That splendid architectural detail is perhaps an hors d’oeuvre for the magnificent ceiling of the Lockwood Restaurant on the hotel’s second floor lobby.  A good neck crane to take in this colorful fresco ceiling seems mandatory. 



Better yet, repeated glances above are more than doable if you take in the Palmer House’s Lockwood Restaurant’s high tea service.


Though the Lockwood’s afternoon tea service is a year-round offering, the busy season is usually November and December when mothers and grandmothers indulge their children in this traditional break from Xmas shopping, with some days seeing more than 300 high tea reservations between 2 – 4 PM and when seating is expanded onto an upper balcony closer to that gorgeous ceiling.  While Chicagoans, mostly female, are the main takers, there is also a healthy number of tourists – especially from Europe and Asia—who like to luxuriate in the Lockwood tea.


If you have been before you already know the difficulty of trying to make room for tea sandwiches, scones and sweets.  It’s all so delicious—what can you skip?  Recently the Lockwood has made the choices even more difficult by enlisting their pastry chef to re-imagine the sweets on the bottom tray. 



Assistant Director of Food and Beverage for the Lockwood Restaurant, George Elbekai, shares that the savory plate will soon get a re-invention as well.  



Why?  Referring to their captivating ceiling and surrounds, Elbekai says, “The lobby sets expectations higher and higher.  We are always striving to live up to the bar set by our ceiling.”



As daunting as the three tier tray of savories and sweets may seem, it’s likely you too will put more than a healthy dent in it.  There is a ceremony to the tea service, and our ever so congenial server Michelle Kramer was on hand to teach us the drill.


First you choose your tea from a selection of a dozen caffeinated and decaf varieties.  Your tea will come in a quaint teapot that might immediately remind you of Angela Lansbury singing.  You let it steep and then use the delicate strainer that is provided.  Take cream or not in your tea, or lemon, or sugar cubes brown or white.



Then you face a dilemma when the food arrives.  Start with the tea sandwiches or go straight to the tempting sweets.  Our server Michelle shares that many Europeans do start with sweet and then go to savory and then return to sweet.  With our more American tastes we worked our way down. 



The sandwiches included: crab salad on brioche with lemon mayonnaise and caviar (a clear favorite); roast beef piled high with whole grain mustard, watercress and a charming fresh raspberry garnish; the afternoon tea must-have of a cucumber sandwich; and finally a curried chicken sandwich that our server shared is either a favorite or eschewed as too curry.  We landed in the camp of thinking this was delicious.


Then come the scones. 



If you have had a scone at Starbucks you need to know that these petite scones might share a name with that relatively rock pastry, but little else.  Light and crunchy on the edges, they are perfect solo but can’t seem to stay away from experimentation with the Devonshire cream, lemon and raspberry creams and also jams before you. 



Unless you are feeling very gourmand, it might be good to stop with the scones and have the ever so tasty desserts from the third tier wrapped up to go.  But they are beautiful and hard to resist.  It is difficult to choose a favorite from the list—crème Chantilly swan; three layered chocolate cake with chocolate mousse and ganache; a fruit tart; lemon meringue crème brulee; and candied fruit cake.  My vote would be to make sure you don’t bypass the fruit tart.  While also petite in keeping with the feminine feel of the tea service, the fruit was especially fresh and tangy and a great counterpoint to the sweet, sweet, sweet and savory of the feast en toto.


You can also add a glass of champagne or a mimosa to complete the experience.


The Lockwood Restaurant has tea service daily, including weekends, between 2 – 4 PM.


Lockwood Restaurant in the Palmer House Hilton

17 East Monroe, Chicago


For reservations call 312.917.3404 or use the Lockwood’s online reservation webpage




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