This would be my guest’s first time at a proper high tea service. I wanted the event to be a memorable, a service with the whole song and dance. So I brought her here. A princess-like setting with white lace, white gloves, and the servers in a frilly and floral apron. We even came during the proper tea time, 3:30pm: after lunch, but before dinner.
The tea salon is perfectly situated within one of the Queen Anne-style Victorian heritage houses, that has been in Vancouver since 1893. It sits amongst three others behind garden paths and picket fences, and between two towering skyscrapers. It gives you the feeling of escape. A hidden respite in the busy go-go of downtown Vancouver; to indulge in French pastry, afternoon tea, and various sweets in.
The experience starts as soon as you open the door. The first floor is their bakery. A counter with the same treats that they offer for high tea, available for take out. This was a clean display with rows of their in house made macarons in vanilla bean, strawberry, cantaloupe, banana, blueberry, raspberry, pistachio, and mango. All set to the back drop of white shelves and glass cupboards showcasing their pink takeaway boxes.
They also had panna cotta in blueberry, jellied fruit slices, and loose leaf tea in jars with their lids wrapped in patterned cloth. Though considering the amount of counter space available, it was disappointing that they offered so little variety and nothing in baked goods or pastries.
They attempted to make up for it and fill space with other non edible offerings, like hand crafted jewellery and macaron themed accessories. The former was curated in a cute window display. A mannequin bust dressed in one of the floral aprons, standing beside a side table set for tea. Under both a carpet of artificial grass and wild flowers. The table was an ornate display with a two tier tower, a tea pot, and side plates housing plastic cakes and macarons. Strung all over them were beaded earrings, glossy broaches, and gilded chains.
On the shelf next to it were macaron shaped coin purses, macaron enamel pins, and macarons drawn on greeting cards. Each came in as many colours as they had their edible macarons in. These accessories also matched the macaron pillows that they had framing their chaise lounge in the foyer.
Teatime was held upstairs. They had services at select times and saw a full seating during each one. Two hours is the maximum seating. They didn’t accept walk-ins. However you need not be turned away empty handed, with the bakery downstairs. Several of us were left waiting past 3:30pm, waiting anxiously for them to set up. They prepped to serve all tables at once and it this work took time.
When we climbed up the stairs, we noticed how consistent they were with their frills and lace floral charm. It cascaded all throughout their dining area. Pink walls, cream striped wallpaper, curtains with tassels, and some of the most regally upholstered white chairs I have ever seen.
Each table was already pre-set with your own individual tea pot, cup and saucer, side plate, and utensils. And between each setting stood an iron frame, waiting for plates to be placed on them. I noticed that our table was a little taller, it had us feeling like little girls all dressed up and having a tea party. We joked about drinking with our pinkies up.
The menu is laid out for you, but you get your own choice of tea to accompany it. I went for the most interesting sounding one, the “Creme brûlée”. It was described as a “flavoured rooibos reminiscent of dessert” with notes of Carob, blackberry leaves, puffed rice, sunflower, tonka bean extract, and amaranth. It smelled like custard and browning sugar. My guest went for the “Blue earl grey”, which was a black tea flavoured with cornflower blossoms, giving it a distinct bergamot taste. She knew this would be good with milk and sugar.
Our tea set was served on a tray along with an hour glass. Pink sand counted down a minute, signifying when our tea had been steeped and was ready. We poured it ourselves, doing so with their decorative strainer set, on a matching porcelain dish. The strainer was a metal bird that sat on the rim of your cup and caught any lose leaves that tried to slip past. My chosen brew did fine without it, but it’s function served my guest well. We said yes to the cream and sugar, when asked. It came in a set that matched our tea pots.
As far as tea services in the city go, this is one of the more decently priced ones, $30 per person. I have been to a few that go as high as $50 for a similar assortment, if not with less and in a less ornate setting. Here you had a warm start followed by the traditional room temperature assortment of finger sandwiches and scones, followed by various small bite desserts, and ending on a chilled panna cotta.
The “Veggie crustless quiche” was made with potato, onion, and mushroom; covered with plenty of cheese. Given the heat of its inside and the ramekin itself, you could tell it was served straight from the oven. My guest doesn’t like eggs and the texture of them baked, but she didn’t taste here and actually liked this.
After this nibble got us feeling peckish, they left us waiting with a long gap in between it and the full tower. But when it finally came, it was photo worthy. The bottom plate was savouries and the top sweets.
The “Cucumber avocado sandwich” was the traditional light start with the addition of cream cheese, lettuce, and pea shoots. It was a nice transition from just sipping our mild teas.
The “Montreal smoked meat open sandwich” was seasoned with a sweet mustard. It was made with aesthetics in mind. We found ourselves spreading out the meat and rearranging the slice of cheese before we bit in. Despite its look, it was pretty bland, and the grainy texture of the bread only made it worse. The bread didn’t taste fresh and its crumbly texture went against the other smooth ingredients. It needed another condiment or more mustard.
“Prosciutto, brie and fresh basil croissant sandwich”. The buttery croissant was the highlight of this, and fragrant basil took away from it. We wished for a more even distribution of the fillings as there wasn’t enough to fill it end to end.
The “Scone with almond streusel” came with a side of mixed berry jam. It was the best thing on the plate, in my opinion. The scone was chewy, like a hybrid between it and a biscuit. And the sweet streusel was well paired with the mild melty jam.
The “Caramel choux puff” was a salted caramel and vanilla bean flavoured cream puff. They were generous with the luscious filling that flowed out with one bite. I was happy to have more of it than the dry puff.
Not sure what this one bite loaf was. The menu lists it as the “Hazelnut financier”, but we tasted no hazelnut in it. It was more like banana bread, but without the banana. Light and spongy, ideal with tea or coffee.
The “Chestnut mousse cup” was a chocolate lover’s dream. Combining smooth cream and crunchy chocolate gave it a nice texture. I didn’t get any flavour of chestnut though.
I wish we had the opportunity to choose our own macaron flavours. Especially given how many they had sitting in wait downstairs. I would have liked to try the not often seen cantaloupe. I wondered how it’s mild flavour would translate into something so sweet. But instead we were given a blueberry and a matcha macaron to share. Both had a strong flavour true to its name, but lacked the desired texture. It was a little dense. You didn’t get that light break as your pierced it with your teeth. It didn’t melt, but was more chewy, maybe just because it wasn’t fresh?
The “Mini Für Elise” was a cube of gelatine-like yogurt flavoured in strawberry, sitting on a buttery biscuit square, and topped with fresh whipped cream. This was the second best dessert with its smooth pudding-like texture and the whole chunk of strawberry hidden at its core.
The best dessert with the blueberry panna cotta that they forgot to bring. Having heard our server mention it earlier and seeing others around the room enjoy it, we knew to ask for what we didn’t get. They seemed more occupied in cleaning up and preparing to close, after this service.
The panna cotta was a nice light end. A creamy jello and pudding mix topped with the fresh blueberry jam. So good I was tempted to buy some from downstairs to take home with me.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Not necessarily my favourite place for high tea, but a great one to take a first timer with fair prices and a one of a kind setting. Don’t deny your cravings!
847 Hamilton Street, Vancouver BC V6B 6A1