The afternoon tea experience at The Peabody Memphis is unlike that at any other hotel tea in the world because duck is always featured. No, you won’t find duck on the menu because the dish has been banned from the hotel’s menu since 1981, making Chez Philippe quite possibly the only French restaurant in the world that does not serve duck. But you can find a flock of ducks on parade in the lobby.
Just as they have done for nearly 80 years, at exactly 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. each day, the elevator doors open, and the Peabody Ducks march down a red carpet and dive into the marble fountain in the hotel lobby. There they spend several hours swimming and splashing to the delight of hundreds of admirers who have traveled to Memphis from around the world to see this daily pageantry. These prized fowl celebrities are under the tutelage of Anthony Petrina, The Peabody’s official duck master, who has the vocation every wide-eyed child in the audience would love to call their own.
Afternoon tea at The Peabody takes place Wednesday through Saturday from 1:00 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. in the hotel’s luxurious French restaurant, Chez Philippe. This palatial setting—complete with mirrored walls and gilded accents, all lit by crystal chandeliers and sconces—is reminiscent of the settings for tea at The Ritz in London or The St. Regis in New York. Every detail has been meticulously thought out, leading diners to expect afternoon tea to match the caliber of the surroundings.
After tea is poured, guests watch with pleasure as the well-rehearsed teatime performance continues to unfold. Scones with Devonshire cream and lemon curd are the first to appear. Two chubby scones, with fruit and spice flavors in harmony with the season, are almost enough to satisfy your cravings. The tiered silver server then arrives laden with sandwiches featuring delicious fillings such as goat cheese and red pepper, tarragon-caper egg salad, curried chicken, fig and prosciutto, and cucumber with honey, each as appealing to the eye as to the palate.
You expect the pastries at a French restaurant to be exceptional, and Chez Philippe never disappoints, with creative masterworks such as macadamia-caramel tarts, pistachio-brandy-cherry financiers, and chocolate-dipped strawberries. Thankfully, the thoughtful staff is always happy to box the leftovers.
The three-course Chez Philippe Afternoon Tea can also include an optional champagne course, and for children ages 12 and younger, a lighter Duckie Tea is offered. The resourceful chefs will gladly prepare a gluten-free tea when requested with your reservation.
Having fully enjoyed a sumptuous afternoon-tea retreat at the grand Peabody Hotel, do venture out into the fading sunshine for one more stroll past the music joints along Beale Street to revive your appetite before dinner.
After all, you’re in Memphis!
Watch the Tea Master interview the Duck Master.
This feature first appeared in TeaTime magazine.