Tea weekdays, 3 to 5 p.m. Major credit crards. No reservations. Prices: Teas $1 to $1.75, pastries $2 each.
Having tea a La Fleur is almost like spending the afternoon in a birthday cake. The restaurant is as soft and pretty as a buttercream rose. Music is playing. The walls are hung with pastel impressionists. Light filters through stained glass. On pink tablecloths are heavy crystal globes with candles afloat inside them. One red rose reaches up from each table.
La Fleur plies you with service, starting with valet parking and continuing to waiters carryig trays of pastries into your view and patiently describing whatever of the 20 teas or 20 coffees sounds mysterious. Yes, the almond tea is brewed with real crushed almonds rather than almond flavoring. The punch tea is spiced with cinnamon, the peach tea releases an aroma of peach leaves. Besides the usual Earl Grey, Darjeeling, orange pekoe and Assam, the menu lists Yunnan, rum, Russian, strawberry and jasmine. Or you can have coffee, all sorts of coffee, with or without cream whipped or poured, with combinations of liqueurs from cognac to hazelnut.
Each tea is brewed in a large white pot of Norwegian china etched with whimsical creatures. The tea - loose, of course - is enclosed in a metal tea ball. It is enough to last you an afternoon.
You might want the entire afternoon for sampling the pastries. While the menu lists hot bors d'oeuvres for $2.25, they have never been available when I have checked. No matter, for the sweets are beauties. It looks a shame to cut into those precisely decorated gateaux, but they live up to their promise. A lemon nut roll was a pinwheel of souffle-light sponge cake with an authentically rich, suave buttercream. Something called Gypsy John was a square of chocolate cake, moist and dark, layered with light chocolate mousse and glazed with dark, shiny chocolate. Although the Black Forest cake was unduly sweet, it was balanced with sour cherries and real whipped cream. Best of all was cheesecake, unctuous, creamy, faintly tart and edged with a cake crust. The tarts could be improved by more serious puff pastry, but they were presentable. You could opt for austerity: strawberries. With cream, of course. But you are more likely to opt for a parade of pastries, for La Fleur employs a talented pastry maker. And, after all, you didn't have any hors d'oeuvres.