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Posts Tagged ‘afternoon tea’

We met a friend for afternoon tea at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal. I was actually glad that they only had seatings left at 4:30pm, because that’s close enough to dinner time for me and I always found 2pm or so to be an odd time to eat such a large meal. Fortunately, the Palm Court, where they serve their tea, is straight ahead from the front entrance, so it was easy to find. It’s a surprisingly small space, so I’d imagine that during peak times it might be difficult to get a reservation for tea. The lounge area is decorated with sofas and luxury seats around coffee tables, which was nice. A fire burned in the fire place, light glittered off the chandeliers, and in addition to the palm fronds painted onto the high ceiling, there was indeed an actual little palm by the entrance. There was also a tray advertising the tea service, and I wondered at the fancy tea pot featured there, as we were served using serviceable plain white pots.

We selected our teas and received our own pots with our selected tea bags, which were refilled after a while with hot water. They did not have a decaf option. The tea refreshments were served on tiered dishes. I have to say that the scones – plain and cranberry – were the best so far I’ve experienced for afternoon tea. They were large, warm, light, and delicious. Perhaps we could have done with a little more of the jams, which included a delightful rose jam and current jam in addition to devonshire cream. Then came the tiny finger sandwiches, which while nicely seasoned and constructed, seemed to have been sitting around a little too long as the bread was a bit hardened and stale on top and a bit damp on the bottom…perhaps leftover from the first tea seating. My favourites were the tomato sandwich and the cucumber sandwich, though the egg salad sandwich and salmon sandwich were also good. The pastries, a selection of various things, could have been better, I think, but at that point in the meal we were all mostly full anyway. The carrot cupcake was dry and flavourless, the chocolate layer cake soaked in an orange liquor I didn’t care for, but the cream puffs were ok as was the round pound cake with the dome of cream and jelly. Odd that they did not provide us each with our own pastries, but instead had a selection so that we had to divvy them up ourselves or split them so that we could try each.

Overall, this was my second favourite afternoon tea experience in Montreal. The ambiance and decor were quite satisfying for the whole business of afternoon tea. The scones were the best, the finger sandwiches pretty good, and the pastries disappointing. The price was the most expensive thus far for afternoon tea, at $32/person before taxes and gratuity. It’s hard to find the number to call to make reservations – I found it by looking it up on a blog – and there’s virtually no information on it on the hotel website. Service was somewhat perfunctory, though I suppose with afternoon tea your main need is refilling the tea pot and cream pitcher.

1228 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest and Rue Drummond

metro: Peel

Bus: 24

tel: (514) 842-4210 ext. 1222

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Nestled way out in the wild west of NDG, is a little Celtic-themed bakery café which also does a killer afternoon tea. No, the café is not Harry Potter-themed (see the explanation behind the name here).

I had made our reservation three weeks in advance, and was late due to unexpected road construction and detour (it’s usually quicker for me to drive to NDG from Old Montreal, but thanks to the construction it would probably be quicker if we took the metro and bus next time). We went on a rainy Saturday, and were seated by the window on benches, where butter and charming place settings had already been laid out. The walls were decorated with vintage aprons, ranging from Irish linen to social commentary (my husband had to explain the “he thinks/she thinks” one), and the tiny but neat kitchen area in the back was completely open to view.

First, we were given a tray of sample teas to smell and select our teas. This was one of my favourite parts, since I love tasting things and comparing flavours and aromas. The house teas had “Celtic” in front of their names. We were assured that the most popular tea was the Celtic blend, and that it would be no problem to change our tea selection if we didn’t like the one we selected. I went for the Celtic blend since I like black teas that can hold up to a lot of milk and sugar, but others were tempting as well. We each got our own pots of tea, and our own baskets of warm little scones. There were two types of butter, zesty lemon curd, homemade whiskey marmalade, and homemade raspberry jam.

Next came the quintessential tiered tray of buttery egg salad sandwiches (made with homemade mayonnaise), wonderfully seasoned cucumber sandwiches, smoked salmon blinis, lemon squares, date squares, homemade shortbread (which my husband swore was Walker’s, but I knew differently), a pumpkin cake, and others I’m sure I’m forgetting. By the time we got to the sweets tier, we were totally full and sated. Perhaps the strategy next time should be to finish the sandwiches, and then pack up the uneaten sweets to go.

Afternoon tea for two people was $50 in cash. While pricey for lunch, I think it was worth it, since afternoon tea is a special occasion sort of meal. Gryphon D’Or was cosy and it felt comfortable being there. Service was friendly and attentive but not hovering. My husband immediately declared the tea to be inauthentic because it lacked clotted Devonshire cream, but I reasoned that perhaps this was Irish-style afternoon tea, which might be different than the English version. Everything tasted wonderful and the presentation was exactly what one expects for a traditional afternoon tea. We arrive around 1:15pm, and didn’t leave for two hours. Two happy and delicious hours well spent.

Metro: Villa Maria

5968 Monkland Avenue and Royal Avenue

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In honour of Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, it seemed prudent to check out afternoon tea in Montreal, and up to bat first is this café, which is yet another piece of the Europea group, housed in Tiffany’s-like Birks.

Afternoon tea is available only after 2:30pm (and closer to 2:45pm, they said when I made my reservation) and the café closes at 5pm. Personally, I would enjoy afternoon tea for lunch or dinner, since it’s clearly a meal, but I suppose that’s the traditional time during which it is served. We were given menus and a tea timer with three different coloured sands, depending on the darkness of tea. We both chose Himalayan Darjeeling, a lightly colored black tea that arrived in an Asian-style cast iron pot. Then a long tray of food was set between us, with two of each. There was a plate of warmish scones with creamy Devonshire cream and too-little strawberry jam. Then three canapes made with cured salmon, foie gras and cranberries, and cucumber and cream cheese. I swapped half of my mini savory club sandwich with my husband for his foie gras canape. Then macaroons, chocolates, and a maple mousse and a chocolate mousse.

When everything first came out, it didn’t seem like it would be enough for a full meal, but by the time we got to the mousse, my husband was full and I got to eat both of the shot glasses myself. I left feeling quite full and satisfied. Service was excellent and the setting was similar to a nice museum café, with interesting things to look at in display cases on the edges of the eating area. While the tea presentation paid sufficient homage to expected English tradition, the service was modern and contemporary. I did not feel out of place or expected to act in a certain way. There was some language-related confusion when the credit card reader failed to prompt me for a tip and I wanted to leave the tip in cash, but the café thought that I wanted to pay for whole bill in cash. They refunded the charge on my card – I thought they had tried to charge the card again in order to add the tip, and they thought they were refunding the charge because I was going to pay for the whole bill in cash. A few minutes later, I got a call while I was browsing in the nearby Bay department store, and got a small bag of sweets for my trouble when I returned to clear it up. Now that I think of it, we both should have received a bag of sweet anyway, along with our tea, but oh well. It seemed worth $26.50/person plus taxes and tip.

Metro: McGill

Mezzanine level at the Montreal Birks Store, 1240 Square Phillips, Saint-Catherine Ouest and Place Phillips

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