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Home » FOOD AND WINE in MA » MASSACHUSETTS (all topics) » A Tea for all Seasons
The Bristol Lounge at The Four Seasons Hotel, Boston, MA
A Tea for all Seasons

The Bristol Lounge, Boston, Massachusetts

By Mike Dunphy | March 30, 2012

As a student at Emerson College in downtown Boston, I pass the large glitzy hubbub of the Four Seasons Hotel opposite the Public Garden daily.

Kir Royal

The large windows of the hotel’s posh Bristol Lounge are of particular interest, full of well-cut suits, shapely carafes, and burgundy velvet that overwhelm my proletarian sympathies. How nice it would be to not sweat the $40 it costs for the famous weekend tea service — a solidly British affair every Saturday and Sunday from 3PM to 4:15PM.

The lounge, described by the hotel as “Boston’s Living Room,” (although I’ve never seen one like it) is an opulent affair—not in a palatial, European sense, but an early twentieth century, Art Deco style not far from Stanley Kubrick’s Overlook Hotel in The Shining.  

The red leather arm chairs dotting the restaurant would be perfect for Monte Cristo, if it weren’t for anti-smoking laws. There’s plenty of light, a nice view of the Public Garden, and green marble in the bathrooms. Kudos for the extra space between tables, which keeps conversations relatively private.

The luxury was enough to question my choice of blue jeans as my companion and I passed the gauntlet of well-groomed doormen, through the revolving door, and left to the elegant hostess.   She might have been forgiven for “misplacing” our reservation, but instead graciously led us to a table. As we settled in, we were quickly attended by some of the smoothest waiters I’ve ever seen, all with foreign accents and a cologne spritz. These guys are part of the whole experience and hopefully get the praise they deserve.  

The hotel offers two versions of English tea service: the Four Seasons Tea ($32) and the Royal ($40), the difference being a flute of Kir Royal to start off the second. Admittedly, I didn’t know what the drink but was a happily surprised by a bubbly blend of champagne and a crème de cassis.

Marmalade and Sugar Sticks

As for the tea itself, I was elated to see it provided by Somerville-based tea importer MEM, a supplier to the city’s top restaurants and not easily available to the general public.   In honor of spring, we chose the Blue Flower Earl Grey.

Food arrived on a three-tiered tray holding appetizers on top, sandwiches in the middle, and desserts on the bottom. Beginning with the waiter’s favorite—the cranberry scone and poppy seed sponge cake, garnished with lemon curd, Devonshire cream, and strawberry jam.

For sandwiches, there was a smoked salmon aioli wrap, a semi-sweet chicken salad with cranberries. The best, however, was the cucumber-cream cheese sandwich.

Dessert included an apple pecan cake, profiterole, and a lemon tart. All were delicious, at least as much as I could taste. Unfortunately, the portions are so small that if you split with a friend, your half isn’t much larger than your thumbnail.   I’m not proposing adopting fast-food sizes, but an extra square inch would do wonders.

Overall, it’s hard to recommend the affair unreservedly. Nor would I dissuade a visit. The contents are top quality, interior comfortable and service incredible, but the total cost is hard to justify if of average means. That said, we all need a bit of glam once in a while, and the Bristol Lounge is a good choice for that.  


Four Seasons Hotel

200 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116

(617) 338-4400


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