While I enjoy my frou-frou food, I’m not really a huge fan of high-end restaurants because of the ambiance and financial expense. So Herons has always been on my long and special occasion list but never a super-pressing visit for me. Thankfully, two friends wanted to check them out for afternoon tea (yeah, it’s sort of frou-frou) which piques my interest. So it’s time to head out to SAS Boulevard and one of the area’s only 5-star hotels, the Umstead and enjoy a civilized tea outing!
When I arrived at the Umstead, the interior was done up for the holidays and there’s a quiet and warm feel to the place. Staffers are available everywhere here and they’ve obviously been trained well to take care of their customers. I walk through the spa, past the meeting and conference room area, past Herons and to the lobby. Very serene and relaxed hotel, I’d have to guess the clientele here is 35 – 70, mostly executive business travelers. I’m early and get to hang out a bit before my partners in crime Leigh (Hines-Sight blog) and Kristen (Gadaboutfood blog) show up. We’re all in good spirits as the holidays approach and excited to see what Herons can offer.
We stop by the restaurant hostess stand but there’s nobody there so we head off to the bar/lounge area where apparently they do the afternoon tea. We’re led to a small table by the Christmas tree where we have a small couch and two period chairs on either side. Our server for the day is Elizabeth and we peruse the tea menu to pick out a personal pot of tea. After that, it’s 4 courses of savory and sweets to tide us over before our polo match… (just kidding!) I go with a pomegrante-acai tea to keep things sort of healthy, you also have the pricey option to add on some champagne and bubbly.
Ten minutes later, Elizabeth brings over three large, spherical pots of teas and our first course, the finger sandwiches. These little sandwiches are beautifully presented and are all full of flavor. A traditional cucumber sandwich with cream and uncrusted bread, fabulous! A chicken salad, egg salad and cheese with pepper jelly, wonderful. And finally a square of smoked salmon (gravlax) with creme finishes things off. Five great flavors all in their own unique shapes, fun. The pots of tea are large which will tide you over through all four courses.
As the harpist next to us plays some soothing music we next get a plate of chocolate chip scones speckled with rock sugar. A trio of sauces (lemon curd, cream and raspberry jam) are available for blinging out the scones but they are delicious naked. A rectangular container of colorful macaroons are paired up with the scones and they are also fantastic. Can’t remember all the flavors but the light, crunchy outside breaks down into a chewy, flavorful inside which makes for a great mouth sensation.
And finally we get a dessert stand with a parfait, key lime cookies and muffins on top. It’s a nice presentation and I only get through one dessert before tapping out. Need to hit the gym tonight and all these sweets will NOT improve the workout. We receive a box of complimentary truffles and it’s a nice and thoughtful touch from Chef Daniel, thanks! We linger for a bit longer, finishing up the pots of tea and our conversations and the entire tab comes out to about $40 per person. Certainly not cheap for an afternoon interlude but also reasonable for the ambiance and service you get at Herons. Served 2:30 – 4pm from Wednesday to Sunday, I’d recommend it as an introduction to the restaurant and a nice treat for you and some close friends. All the food and sweets we tried were playful, flavorful and impeccably put together. Which is a great way to finish off the afternoon, much appreciated Herons!