Madam Lily has gone, which is a shame because I quite liked Madam Lily. Though her time in Saudi was short, she did leave an impression on those of us who waved her good bye not so long ago. Perhaps one day she’ll write a little post about her experience here and share it on my blog (fingers crossed!) One of the things we loved about Madam Lily was the way she dealt with people and situations she felt weren’t up to standard. We usually got to see her in action when it came to coffee shops and restaurants. The Ritz Carlton High Tea got a complete thumbs down from Madam Lily (and the rest of our group for that matter) when we went there late last year.
Our group of six didn’t actually go to the Riyadh Ritz for High Tea. Nope, we went for bowling, but as we’d arrived too early for the alley to be open, we decided to have a coffee. High Tea was suggested by the staff. We figured, why not spoil ourselves a little? Oh, how we regretted that decision.
We sat outdoors, chatting beneath some lovely ancient looking trees while waiting expectantly for our treat. Eventually three tea pots – 3 very small teapots – were soon placed on the table and their arrival caused a little confusion. We looked at the pots, at each other, then at the wait staff wondering where the rest of the tea was. Apparently this was it. One tiny pot to be shared by two women. Really? Seriously? Madam Lily was not impressed and we could see her warming up to take someone down. More tea pots were asked for, a request that sent the staff into a bit of a spin. You do get used to staff going into spins when asked for something out of the usual. I guess 1 pot per person was unusual at the Ritz.
The food, when it arrived some time after our mini-tea pots, looked quite nice and we each chose a dainty piece to try. Oh, how disappointed we were. Bread was stale, the scones were tiny and hard, the jam made up of strawberries in a runny sauce just didn’t work, and the German bread was moldy. We sat there testing, tasting, screwing up our noses and commenting in that way that ladies do when we are trying to decide how best to deal with the situation without seeming like snotty bitches. When the staff asked if everything was OK, well, we just had to let them know what we thought and Madam Lily was firing on all cylinders with feedback delivered in that positive, yet firm, Madam Lily way.
Here is Madam Lily’s opinion of High Tea at the Riyadh Ritz:
“Considering that we are discussing afternoon tea at a five star hotel, the setting is gorgeous – an oasis garden with comfortable seating for 6 under beautiful mature trees. The silver service with linen napkins and place mats is lovely and set us up to expect a wonderful tea.
But the food – None of the ladies oooohed or aaaahed when the food arrived. There was silence. When we made a choice of what to eat it was done rather reluctantly. I chose a circle of white bread with a large shrimp atop adorned with a gloup of pinkish sauce. After my first timid bite I discovered that the bread was old and stale and hard. I removed the shrimp and, after scraping off the mystery sauce, ate and enjoyed the shrimp. I wasn’t willing to try any more of the savories but did try a small piece of Louise Slice. It was nice and tasted homemade. After that, I stopped while I was ahead as the ladies weren’t happy.
The tea itself (I had white) was lovely but was served well ahead of the actual ‘tea’ and one small pot was meant to serve two ladies. Pathetic really. They need to upsize the tea pots or provide a pot per person. The small brownish scones were served with side condiments of custard, 3 halved strawberries in a sugar sauce semi cooked and cream that was left untouched as it looked like it was near butter….and speaking of butter….there was none. I’ve never had a scone without butter – it just seems wrong.
The Ritz gets a score of 2 out of 10 from me and I feel that’s generous. There is no excuse for the quality of food that we were served and the processed cheese and stale bread really offended.”
Though the staff were attentive and accommodating and wanted to please, this was beyond their control and apologies from them were many. We acknowledged that it wasn’t the wait staffs fault, and they handled the situation quite well, deferring to someone slightly higher up the food chain.
One of them ran off to get us some fresh food. The offering they returned with was cheese and tomato sandwiches (and plastic, processed cheese at that) obviously whacked together in a hurry, kind of like the sandwiches you make at home when you come in starving after a few hours gardening and just want something to wolf down.
The Ritz Calton High Tea in Riyadh was such a disappointment food wise and I have been loathe to recommend the place for their High Tea since. However, I like to give people and places second chances, so one day I will rally the ladies to give high tea another go. Just not today.