Take more than a moment to savor your surroundings before heading into the sweet and tasty delights of a traditional afternoon tea at Austin’s Driskill Hotel. You won’t be disappointed – on either count.
Soak in the legendary hotel’s columned lobby, where the walls are filled with portraits of Texas oil and cattle barons of old and no landscape is missing either a Longhorn or a bluebonnet. And peek into the vaunted 1866 Cafe and Bakery — named for the year the hotel opened — sitting across the polished hallway from the high-ceilinged Victorian Dining Room.
Actually, if you have time to spare, The Driskill has recently launched a new self-guided art tour where locals and visitors alike can step into the space and dive into the history of one of Austin’s most legendary gems. The tour is in audio format where participants can simply scan the QR code at each piece of art and follow the instructions on The Driskill’s website to listen.
With taste buds now at the ready, you’ll experience a traditional afternoon tea with a Texas twist as four local tea selections are on offer — with intriguing names like Iron Goddess of Mercy (a fragrant Oolong tea) and Texas Sweet Dreams (a decaffeinated floral mix including Texas lavender and organic rosehips). Add to this so-called bottomless beverage mix sparkling wine and sparkling cider, combined with the constantly circulating friendly waitstaff, and there is no reason to leave the Driskill under hydrated.
With seating at 3pm, the Driskill’s afternoon tea is the perfect setting for special occasions, holidays, or casual gatherings catching up with dear friends and family.
When we visited, it was a mixed Austin crowd – mainly women, many in pretty spring dresses and the odd fascinator made an appearance – although there was a fair sprinkling of family groups and couples. With the savory miniature bites, sweet scones and dessert assortment in more than adequate quantities the menu catered for both delicate and heartier appetites as the pastry chefs from the 1886 Cafe & Bakery put their best foot forward.
And, when it’s time to leave through the opulent lobby with its marble floors, don’t forget to look up at the vibrant stained-glass dome above. Of course, if you’ve time, it is also worth mounting the sweeping staircase in the main lobby to either (if you take a left) peek into the piano bar with its collection of Western sculptures, furnishings and fittings or head up to the historic reception rooms on the 2nd floor grand mezzanine for a glimpse into the hotel’s storied past.
Be sure to alert the hotel to any dietary requirements when you make your afternoon tea reservation. We found the staff very accommodating.
Cover photo courtesy The Driskill
Julie Tereshchuk is the Editor-in-Chief of Texas Lifestyle Magazine, and a devotee of local history.