Tea for Three

Another birthday. Another tea party adventure.

Last year for Shelby’s birthday, we went for tea at Madeline Garden Bistro and Venue in Pasadena. We had such a fun time (seriously, who wouldn’t want to dress up cute and have a tea party??) that we decided to do it again this year.

This time, our destination was the Mission Inn Hotel and Spa in Riverside.

I’ve driven past the Mission Inn a few times while my brother was playing baseball at Riverside City College. It’s an absolutely gorgeous building and I had no idea that they had a tea luncheon available.

Jen booked our reservation for 2:30 p.m. We had fun getting ready at her apartment, dancing and singing to Disney music and making sure our hair was perfectly curled and our makeup was on point.

There was minimal traffic on our way and we found parking easily in the hotel’s parking garage across the street from the actual hotel.

The Mission Inn Hotel and Spa has a very rich history (on top of being beautifully decorated and architecturally exquisite), even hosting 10 different U.S. Presidents in its’ time.

Arial View of The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa

Aerial photo from the Mission Inn’s website

The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa

Exterior photo from the Mission Inn’s website

We made our way through the lobby towards the Mission Inn’s own restaurant; while there are several different restaurants in the hotel, their Afternoon Tea is served in their main one out on the Spanish Patio.

We waited a few minutes while they were preparing our table but we were soon led outside.

The sun was shining and there was a light breeze. While the entire patio was shaded, the weather was still perfect for our afternoon tea.

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View from our table

The Spanish Patio at The Mission Inn Hotel

A different angle from the Mission Inn website. We were sitting in the upper right corner.

Our table was set up with small plates, silverware and adorable teacups accompanied by little paper menus.

Our server’s name was Jon and he took the time to explain how everything was going to be served during Afternoon Tea and recommended the Tuscan Garden Herbal Tea, as it was the more popular tea on the list.

Jen and I ordered the Tuscan Garden tea and Shelby stuck to an original: Earl Grey. Sugar and milk accompanied our teapots. As always, I added a couple of sugar cubes to mine; the tea was sweet and slightly fruity but an overall pleasing taste nonetheless.

While we were waiting for our food, a bird decided to drop by our table and say Hi. He stayed perched on the chair next to me long enough that I was able to get a decent picture. I was tempted to reach out and try to pet him but he flew away once he realized he wasn’t going to get anything.

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Next, Jon brought out our food and pointed out the different creations of sandwiches on each tier.

This tea-time around, we started from the top-tier and worked our way to the bottom. Tiny appetizer to tiny sandwiches to tiny desserts.

First, blueberry scones with clotted cream and lemon custard. I’ve never really had clotted cream in my life and I probably won’t do so again if I can help it. It’s like a butter substitute (??) but the bland taste just really threw me off. I did, however, love the lemon custard (much more-so that I ate it by itself after I was done with my scone). The scones were fall-apart-perfect with rich blueberries in almost every bite.

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Onto the sandwiches!

First off, smoked salmon with eggs and caper aioli on squaw bread. I could taste a hint of smokiness and the squaw bread was so soft. The egg whites and yolks mixed well with the salmon and the capers in the aioli was not overpowering, which was wonderful because I am not fond of the taste of capers.

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Second, english cucumber with boursin mousse and baby arugula on sourdough. Or as Shelby called it “salad in my mouth”. While the bread was bit dry, the cucumbers were crunchy and the arugula was crisp. There was just the right amount of mousse for flavor and creaminess.

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Third, parma ham with tomatoes, mayonnaise and whole grain mustard on rye bread. Now, when I say tomatoes, I really mean sun-dried tomatoes, as that was the most present taste in the whole sandwich. It balanced out the saltiness of the parma ham.

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Fourth, chicken salad with sweet basil on sourdough bread. One of the major problems I have with chicken salad is there is always too much mayonnaise and instead of tasting the combination of flavors from the chicken, the celery and the mayonnaise together, you just taste the mayonnaise. Fortunately, this was not the case with this tiny sandwich. I could taste everything, including the basil, and the sourdough bread was soft this time.

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And last but not least (in the sandwich part of the meal anyways), citrus shrimp salad and celery on a mini croissant. Disclaimer: I absolutely love shrimp and I will eat anything if it is put onto a croissant. So, this sandwich was my favorite out of all of them (with the smoked salmon coming in at a close second place). The shrimp was fresh, the croissant was buttery and there was just enough celery for the right crunch.

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By this time, we were starting to get a little full. But we were determined to finish (or at least try a bit of everything), so we dove into the dessert tier.

Custard eclairs are one of the better desserts in existence. Confession: I will eat anything with chocolate on it in some form. If you combine chocolate with a soft fluffy pastry and  just enough cream inside that it sort of oozes out when you bite into it but not enough that it goes everywhere, well, I am one happy woman.

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The menu said “walnut fudge brownie” but in reality, it was all fudge and no brownie (not that I’m complaining). It was practically falling apart when I moved it from the bottom tier to my plate; I had to eat with a fork, savoring every moist chocolate bite.

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The fruit tart had fresh berries that lightened the creamy sweet vanilla custard inside and the cookie base crumbled a bit when I took a bite. But it was still good.

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Opera cake is a mixture of chocolate and coffee cream, which was something I was not aware of because I had no idea what made up an opera cake. Unfortunately, I abhor anything that tastes like coffee so I just ate the chocolate bits and moved onto the last dessert.

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To round out our afternoon tea, we saved our tiny macaroons for last. The lemon filling was slightly tart but still sweet enough that it didn’t leave an overwhelming taste in my mouth.

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We sat for a bit and let our food settle before we paid the check and took a few pictures by the fountain.

While we were eating, a wedding party was having a small reception on the balcony above us. By the time we were done eating, they were done with their reception/picture-taking. I wanted to explore the hotel a bit.

So we did.

On our way out, we passed the main check-in desk. Next to the desk were the main stairs that led up to the second floor and a sign that said HOTEL GUESTS ONLY.

We mulled around for a minute or to until I glanced over to see the check-in hotel attendants occupied with guests and casually but quickly made my way up the stairs.

Once on the second floor, I went right in an effort to find a way out onto the balcony area. A combination of wandering around and where does this door/hallway go and a few signs later, we found our way outside (not before passing a bridesmaid from the wedding party who muttered, “Oh shit, I don’t know where everyone went.”).

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We continued to wander around and soon found the St. Francis Chapel.

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The bride and groom from the earlier wedding were taking their pictures so we didn’t get a chance to go inside.

After a glance at the pool and a few other quiet garden areas, we decided it was time to leave.

Atmosphere-wise, I definitely loved the Mission Inn more than Madeline Garden and Bistro. While Madeline’s had a more pronounced “tea time” theme, the Mission Inn’s outdoor local was more relaxing for me. The food at each place was entirely different; each had its own pros and cons.

Honestly, I would recommend either if you are looking for a fun place to celebrate a birthday or just enjoy an afternoon of tea.

If you happen to know any other places that serve tea luncheons, comment below. I would love to check them out!


  1. Joan Mitchell says:

    It was an excellent explanation of the surroundings and the food itself. Very well written Meg. I enjoyed my experience reading it all.


  2. Pingback: Disneyland Tea Party | The Bookworm Confessions

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