A well known Vancouver staple on Main Street. A common spot for snacks with its extensive listing of both desserts and teas, and/or the place for after dinner treats with its later hours of operation. Their self proclaimed claim to fame is their existence as an alternative to factory produced cakes, as one of the first patisseries in Vancouver specializing in good old fashioned home made desserts. Being as popular as it is, there are no reservations to be taken and it’s first come first serve. So despite me arriving before my party and the being first in line, the lone male server informed me I will only be seated when my guests get in. So in order to save my table I texted a warning to hurry.
Inside, the single room is stuffy and warm with bodies and objects, something well suited for a cold and wet Vancouver night, like tonight’s snow fall. Set up like your great aunt’s pallor it’s a step back in time. Black and white photos in an assortment of frames. The age of the frames apparent by either their plastic gilding in gold or its wood brushed over with thin paint. The variety and content of said frames kept the room lively with visuals. Paintings and portraits from a different area. Families, lovers, and landscapes.
As a whole the room was cozy, kept tight with a close clustering of “things”. The floor, well worn out planks of hard wood. The walls, covered in a luscious red embossed wallpaper. The ceiling, comprised of faux tin. And furnished with antique style pieces that partnered perfectly with salvaged tables and chairs. Theses tables tops were appropriately accented with oil lamps. Together, all the knick knacks around and above the wall trim and all the styling above made this the perfect setting for an intense game of eye spy. The only thing that really threw off the imagery of the room were the spare fold out chairs that allowed the squeezing of additional bodies into already cramped tables. As was the case of our seats. We were given the left corner of a table large enough to seat six. Our portion was sectioned off by a makeshift separator, barely a foot high. It didn’t do much to create the seclusion we had hoped for. I found them similar to the bars you use at the grocery store check out. They are used to separate your purchase from those of the patron before and after you. There as a symbol, it doesn’t do much to block anything out, after all I did get a good smell of the guest sitting next two me in his group of four. But given the line behind us and the filled tables before us we weren’t going to be fussy.
The menu was a thin file fold. On it the teas were divided by rooibos, herbal, black, green/white/artisan, and even iced. Blueberry teas with liquor had their own section. And following it, a mixed variety of alcoholic beverages. Want a stronger pick me up? get coffees in organic and caffeine free. Pressed, espresso, and even specialty brews with liquor. Or if you are looking for a night cap instead, order some wines, ales, or even beer and cognac. The desserts are even cleverly paired up with recommended spirits to heighten taste and experience.
My guest ordered the “Belgium chocolate rooibos”. All teas are available in small, medium, or large. Each varying in size by a couple of cups. 2-4-6. And at two dollars each upgrade, it matches quantity with price. Serving their teas in a two cup French press gave it that extra special touch. We allowed the tea to steep before pushing the knob down and squishing the leaves at the bottom. A move that allows the liquid inside to be poured uninterrupted. This caffeine free brew smelled just like melted chocolate. It was definitely more scent-ful then flavourful, thankfully when partnered with the sweeter desserts to come.
“London fog”. The menu offered the ability to “fog up” any tea with steamed cream or milk and a shot of sweetness in the form of syrup. I took them up on it, choosing from their selection of both, listed in between brackets. I had the “lavender rosehip” tea with vanilla syrup. Like the chocolate tea before, this too came in a French press. With the cream and milk added in right away in the press, as the tea continued to steep. Not a common practice but it did leave things with a nice look. Shame that the tea leaves were able to escape their filtered barrier and the majority ended up pouring out into my cup. I was left chewing leaves in an otherwise creamy drink.
All their homemade desserts use organic ingredients in their cakes, pies, and pastry. They claim that it is just like how your grandma use to make; or as is the case with some of the recipes, just like how their baker’s grandmother use to make it. The dessert menu was filled with colour coded information. The name of the dessert, its ingredients, and its proposed alcoholic beverage were printed in red, blue, and purple. And accompanied with symbols that were navigated through the use of a legend. Best sellers were indicated with a cellphone outline. Gluten free with a happy face. Thunderbolted items had coffee or caffeine in it. And the martini glass declared alcoholic content. We pleasantly found out that all the desserts were not too sweet. Something I am sure was well thought out, in order to compliment their gentle teas and bitter spirits.
“Creme burlee”, tonight’s seasonal flavour was raspberry. A fruity creme burlee with actual whole pieces of raspberry baked in. As well as a few more berries used as garnish on top. This small serving was the usual creamy custard with a hard burnt sugar top. Just as soft and as sweet as I wanted it. I actually found the raspberry a nuisance, in it taking up room meant for more creme burlee.
“Berry Trifle”. Layers of sponge cake soaked in Grand Marnier; with alternating layers of fresh blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries; all in real vanilla custard, topped with real homemade whipped cream. After a heavy dinner I found this the perfect light dessert. The freshness of the berries was apparent, but I expected more from a parfait. It was packed with layers and plenty of each of the above, but I didn’t get the Marnier in the cake and things could have used more custard for moisture. Even its vessel was unimpressive, an everyday drinking glass.
“Smooth Operator”. This is the first cake I have seen offered in a single or double portion. Guess it was as good as the best seller logo indicated. Fresh raspberries and mascarpone cheese with whipped cream, layered over raspberry liqueur-soaked chocolate sponge cake, sprinkled with white chocolate shavings and drizzled in a raspberry coulis. Despite its dry and crumbly appearance it was moist throughout. Not too sweet with just the right amount of cream. Though at this size, I recommend sharing with a friend.
The room kept fairly loud with all tables seated right until minutes before closing, at 12am. A very inviting space, we were given our bill without asking, but there was no rush to pay it or leave. In fact we overstayed our welcome without complaint. Being the second to last to leave half an hour past 12am.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – No.
As I mentioned earlier, there are not too many late night dessert places open this late. A place that is non bubble tea related and specializes in organic and delicious teas and sweets. Heck, I don’t think there is actually another desert shoppe that offers wine with your ice cream or beer with your cheesecake. I would definitely come back during a night where I am craving classic North American desserts past 10pm. And given that there are not many other options outside of summer I would wait for a table to open up. However this is not my favourite place for desserts. I am not a big fan of the dingy aged setting, nor am I one of its cramped space. I always believe half the fun of eating out is the setting you get to enjoy good food in. And some how I feel the room and the dish ware takes away from the overall quality of the food. Truth is the desserts are fine, but I have seen and tasted a more exciting selection else where. There is not that one thing I would run back just to have. Don’t deny your cravings.