I finally get to spend a Saturday afternoon enjoying Tea by the Sea at the Getty Villa on PCH between Pacific Palisades and Malibu! The Villa is actually a re-creation of an ancient Roman country house from the first century AD. Visitors can view ancient art and four beautiful landscaped gardens. Tea by the Sea takes place on Thursday and Saturday afternoons at 1:00pm by reservation which can be made via the Getty Villa website. It took us six weeks to get this date but it was worth the wait. The Getty Villa actually opened in 1974, then closed, before re-opening in 2006. During that time the Getty Center opened in West Los Angeles, overlooking the 405 freeway at Sepulveda. When planning your Tea by the Sea, you’ll want to note that while entrance to the Getty Villa is free, parking costs $15 per car and you need an advance timed-ticket for entry. Prior to your tea date, you will be sent a special bar-code granting you access. Since the grounds open at 11am you can arrive early and peruse the grounds and gardens, the museum gift shop and the beautiful exhibits. We particularly enjoyed the specialty glass exhibition and marveled over the bowls, vessels and other beautiful pieces of colored glass.
Just before 1:00 we made our way over to the Café where Tea by the Sea is held on the third floor in the Founder’s Room. It was a lovely spacious room with big picture windows overlooking the property and some beautiful flowering plants, but there was not a view of the sea. That was noted by our special guest, 10 year old Maya, which I thought was pretty perceptive of her to notice. There were about a dozen tables, dressed in white linen and pretty white pieces of china . A basket of cranberry scones and banana bread awaited our arrival. Strawberry jam, clotted cream, butter, honey and lemon slices also adorned the table. We were offered a choice of a lavender-scented hot tea or hot chocolate for Maya. The tea was very earthy in taste and scent and unlike any tea flavor I have enjoyed before. There was also a nice selection of red and white wines and bubbly Prosecco available for an additional charge.
We were then presented with a three-tier tray of both savory and sweet goodies. Starting at the top were a Spanish chorizo frittata along with wedges of a galette, a flat round cake with savory filings, in our case tomato and zucchini. Those were both delicious. The next level offered two other types of sandwiches, a prosciutto and rosemary fig jam on brioche bread with arugula and brie cheese. I offered my lobster and corn salad on a croissant to the rest of the group since I don’t eat seafood. There was also a beautiful honey-roasted plum filled with vanilla mascarpone and a tiny bit of basil. This was AMAZING. I wanted to eat all four of them. The sweets included a chocolate cherry French macaron, a mini carrot cake cupcake topped with cream cheese and a key lime tartlet. Everything was beautifully presented and freshly made. A few things to note, on top of the $36 charge per person you’ll want to add tax and a gratuity. But what they didn’t tell us in advance is they’ve added a living-wage service charge that is a new-ish and controversial charge at select eateries around Los Angeles.
Perhaps what we enjoyed the most was the culinary-inspired Garden Tour that followed the tea service at 2:30pm. This 30-minute tour was led by a friendly docent who took us around the property through the Roman garden areas and pointed out the trees, plants and herbs that inspired the Mediterranean menu. It was especially fun to smell the lavender, basil and rosemary, see the pomegranates on the trees and even spot gorgeous grapes growing on trellises. This was a nice touch that made the specially prepared menu all the more interesting. Afternoon tea is one of those traditions that I have grown to love over the years. I have been fortunate enough to enjoy tea in some beautiful hotels here in the Los Angeles area and abroad. I plan to continue this tradition and am happy to have finally experienced Tea by the Sea at the Getty Villa.