Groupons, if done right they give guests a reason to visit a restaurant they might otherwise not consider. Saving money often changes your mind on a place, today was such an occasion. I would normally never imagine driving all the way to the YVR airport and incurring ridiculous parking fees just to enjoy a meal here. Especially such a meal that I can technically find similar else where.
The drive was as expected, a lengthy one that had me getting lost along the way. We knew our groupon included complimentary parking so that was a relief. A cost that would have otherwise been $20 for 2 hours. We reversed into a stall and proceeded to enter the airport by foot. International departures.
Tucked away in the corner, the restaurant was a trek past check in kiosks and uniform personnel. It is surreal being at the airport without luggage and without a far flying destination to head off to. Definitely a first for me. An escalator ascends towards an arch with the hotel’s name adhered in block type font, it signified that we were on the right path. The escalators were motion activated. They constantly moved at a slow pace, but as soon as feet stood on mental stairs it sped up to take you to your intended destination quicker. I didn’t know such technology existed.
A walk down an elevated walkway had you staring up at the lovely crystal fixture. Individually stung up crystals reflected light and danced with rainbows. Shaped like drops they seem to be dripping from the wires they were suspended by.
Just past the hallway is the hotel’s foyer. A large open space with its own corridors splitting off into different directions. The ladies behind the concierge booth were more than helpful in directing us to our intended destination. It was at the hostess’ bar that our parking was validated. We are given a card to be used as payment when the meter prompted it. The hostess lead us past the lounge with recliners surrounding a stand alone fire place. And past the island bar serving both premium liquors and fine espressos.
Our journey ended at a room looking out on to the airport’s runway. Planes docked and lined up at their appropriate gates and more planes flying off into the horizon. All the seats by the windows were already taken so we helped ourselves to a four top in the centre of the room. We preferred it over the booths at the opposite side . As a whole the restaurant was simple and impressive, all very hotel typical. Each black table was uniformly arranged and set. With the table’s top made out of glass, the textured cloth in simmering champagne under it was viable. A clever and low maintenance way to dress it up. Set with tea cups and saucers, side plates and reusable napkins; each table was ready to start a service, a setting for each of its chrome coloured chairs.
The slender vase and single sprig of miniature orchids certainly dressed up the space. The blue in the flower’s hue matched their choice in glassware for water, and the two lighting features above. Each chandelier hung from the vaulted ceiling, a cluster of individually suspended blue bulbs that pointed at its tip. Being the only bold colour in the room, they certainly stood out.
After seating us, our hostess asked if we have joined then before. After hearing “no” she set about explaining how their tea service worked and what their menu had to offer. She then directed us to our server for the afternoon. One of two women working the room, each dawning a uniform. They wore grey vests over their white shirts, tucked into their black pants, tied off with white aprons around their hips. Without our groupon the menu is set at $42. Still a very decent price for high tea. I have gone to many that asked for $50 or more. However for children under 12 their “Junior Tea” for $20 is available. It comes with more child friendly flavours like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chocolate cupcakes, and Pringles chips. Without being able to choose what you are having, the menu is more or less present to tell you what you will be having.
Your only choice is in which tea you would like to accompany your meal, pretty standard. We were most impressed by the French press each tea was served in. Different from your traditional teapot. Modern, like what you would expect from a hotel. Though the pots were not created to keep their heat. There was no covering, no insulation, not even a small candled heat source to keep the batch warm. I am sure if we would have asked, we would have been given more hot water. Though considering both of us failed to finish enough tea to warrant more hot water, we didn’t bother raising our hand or voice. Tea isn’t all that great at room temperature. Looking around at the other half full pots in the room I believe others agreed.
I was intrigued by their “Jetsetter” signature tea. It is a low caffeine blend specifically designed to aid in the recovery of jetlag. Made sense as we were at the airport and I am sure majority of their guests were coming off of planes. The tea is furthered described as being a rich, flavourful cup that tends to be lightly astringent with a malty character. When accompanied with honey it has a finish reminiscent of buttery toast, like a mild English breakfast.
Though I was ultimately sold by our server’s recommendation of the “Maple black tea”, their special of the day. When in Canada… I imagine this popular with tourists. It had a very subtle maple flavour. The scent of maple was stronger than its taste. I enjoyed mine with the addition of the cream and sugar pre-set at the table.
My guest went with the “Lung Ching-Ceremonial Dragonwell Yixing”. This was described as a luxurious tea, hand massaged in a large wok over a low heat source in the Zhejiang province. The leaves are said to deliver a hint of sweetness amidst an enchanting green tea taste, which is then shadowed by aromatic flowery notes. If allowed to steep enough it became a very strong and bitter tea. Luckily my guest was willing to have milk and sugar with it, which I found odd.
I always walk into high tea thinking there isn’t enough food. With one look at a tower I think, “small one bite snacks”. Though in reality I find a high tea service to be one of the most filling meals. Between a whole pot of tea, and taking your time with many bites you are left full and content. The pace allows your body to digest and signals your brain that it is full. Our orders were separated to accommodate my guest. Her savouries without onions and green onions had to be separated, less there be confusion, otherwise both servings would have been presented on the same tiered rack. They found it no problem to accommodate her by removing items and adding duplicate of others in its place.
I enjoy having the menu beside me during high tea. I enjoy reading it and finding out what it is that I will be having before I take a bite. It’s like having a guide for your meal. And as the menu suggested we started with the still warm scones. “Orange and cranberry scones with clotted cream from Devon and strawberry jam”. Having our orders separated meant we each had our own portion of jam and cream. I was excited about being able to put as much of either as I wanted, and not needed to worry about double dipping. The scones had that fresh out of the oven quality to them. Steam escaped as you pulled flaky pieces apart. Crisp on the outside and moist in the middle, no where near as dense as they looked or felt. The scones themselves were also well flavoured, very little of either spreads were actually needed. You could see whole pieces of dried orange and cranberry embedded inside.
“Smoked BC Salmon” with dill cream cheese, grated horseradish, and cucumber carpaccio on dark rye. I found the salmon distracting, it easily overwhelmed the other ingredients. Altogether the filling was moist, on the side of soggy. Though the dryness of the bread did much to balance this texture out. This was an easy spin on the traditional cucumber finger sandwich, a nice light start to our sandwich round.
“Curried egg salad” with chopped scallions on a mini croissant. The croissant was buttery, but on the dense side. It made a nice platform for the mild curry spice and custard-like egg paste.
“Smoked turkey” with cheddar, candied pecans, and cranberry filone. Each bite was creamy and tangy from the whipped light mayo, sweet from the cranberry sauce, and crunchy with the toasted pecans. This is definitely a nice way to dress up an old ham and cheese sandwich.
“Rare roasted Striploin” with arugula, caramelized onions, and grainy mustard on a pretzel loaf. The meat was cooked the perfect medium rare, it made the sheets of evenly sliced beef melted against your teeth. I wished I had a more favourable meat to bread ratio though. The loaf was delicious, salty, buttery, and savoury just like a pretzel.
At this point we were too full for desserts, but how can you say no to these works of art when they are right before your eyes? I had to at least take a taste.
“Opera Slice”, almond cake with coffee cream. The cake was fluffy and generously creamed, with just a little crisp in its centre. And the pronounced notes of espresso was enjoyable paired with the dark chocolate.
“Fresh Peach Clafoutis”, hazelnut, cinnamon, and vanilla. The peaches were fresh and juicy. Though the tender fruit didn’t fair well against the grainy texture of the pastry. The graininess along with the use of cinnamon reminded me of pumpkin pie. Not for me.
“Matcha Cheesecake” made with white chocolate, and topped with a black sesame shard. It had a dense cakey texture with a bold matcha flavour. The taste of the smokey matcha is one grows on you. You appreciate it more with continual tastes and its slightly bitter after notes.
“Raspberry Chocolate Mousse Tart” made with raspberry jelly and dark chocolate. The chocolate was heavy and velvety, but sadly I am not a big fan of the stuff. I would have preferred to have it filled with real raspberries instead. Those would have paired nicely with the buttery crust.
Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I had heard and have read negatives on this place, but at $25 per person, this groupon deal was well worth the drive out. Even without it, $42 is on the cheaper side of high tea. It is a shame I allowed others opinions on the place keep me away from it and this deal for this long. I did enjoy my stay and would like to return, but realistically the drive out is not the least bit convenient. Though if you are planning on taking the skytrain to for a faux start of your stay-cation this would be a fine choice. Don’t deny your cravings.