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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Old-Fashioned Oasis in a Storm

January 09, 1987|RUTH REICHL

Seeking shelter from the rain a couple of days ago, I went dripping into the newly renovated Rendezvous Court at the Biltmore, 515 S. Olive St., (213) 624-1011, for tea and scones and a little peace. All three were there in great abundance.

An old-fashioned fountain splashed musically in the middle of this little piece of the past. Arrayed around it were ornate rugs, overstuffed chairs and cozy sofas from another era. Up above, a fantastically painted ceiling looked down on the proceedings. If you squinted, you could almost imagine the room filled with ladies wearing long skirts and enormous hats.

A waiter with a courtly manner poured tea into delicate cups. It was real tea too--the kind that comes in a pot and requires a strainer (I had to choose among 16 blends). With the tea were plates of tiny, slightly soggy sandwiches (chopped egg, lobster-topped cream cheese, a dollop of steak tartare); they weren't wonderful, but the warm, plump scones accompanied by clouds of cream and fresh strawberries and jam were.

The waiter removed the scones--but he soon reappeared bearing a tray topped with chocolate truffles and delightfully puckery lemon tarts. Tea is served Monday-Saturday, 2-5 p.m.; it costs $9.95 a person. There was so much food that I was glad I hadn't eaten lunch--and sorry I had to leave that peaceful oasis and head back into the noisy modern world.

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