The Heathman Hotel’s Lobby Tea Court Lounge, with its wood paneling and crystal chandeliers, was long a fusty-wonderful spot for British-leaning dainties and drinks. But when chef Vitaly Paley revamped the grand downtown hotel’s restaurant to launch Headwaters last fall, he also set about lending a distinctly Russian accent to its cobwebby weekend prix fixe tea service, plucking inspiration from his own Belarus childhood.
Nowadays, the once staid chamber is cheered with bright matryoshka-patterned tea towels and towering silver samovars. A squadron of mismatched antique teapots lines the Heathman’s grand staircase. With aplomb, servers pour steaming pots of eight fragrant teas, including the Georgian Caravan blend, a robust homage to classic Russian black teas from Portland’s cult Smith Teamaker. Next up: three-tiered stands groaning with pickled, cured, and baked Eastern treats, and a cavalcade of sweets, including Grandma Paley’s own dynamite sour cream–walnut cake. It all adds up to a rare special-occasion lunch that pleases all comers.
“When I think of English tea, I think of crustless cucumber sandwiches and ladies in bonnets,” muses Paley. “When I think of Russian tea, it’s for everyone.”
- Halva The house’s take on this sesame candy melts on the tongue on contact, releasing a torrent of bittersweet chocolate and citrus.
- Buterbrodi Sandwiches These wildly flavored little bread stacks, piled high with everything from garlicky cheese to house-cured salmon or garlic sausage and pickled cauliflower, are the antitode to bland finger sandwiches.
- Georgian Caravan Tea Sweeten this rich, robust sipper with a dollop of house-made preserves.
Russian Tea Experience
Headwaters at the Heathman Hotel
Noon and 2:30 p.m. Saturdays; reservations only
1001 SW Broadway