Tuesday, May 15, 2012

High Tea at the Chateau Laurier (Review)

There are few things more enjoyable than tea and crumpets on a bright Saturday afternoon with the women we love most in this world…our mothers! And that’s exactly how we spent our Mother’s Day. We surprised our moms on their special day (well one day early) with an afternoon of high tea at Zoe’s Lounge at the Chateau Laurier.

Our mothers, who are die-hard tea drinkers, were quite thrilled with the surprise. As we walked into the lounge, we were kindly greeted by a hostess who showed us to our lavish table, which overlooked the Rideau Canal and the Government Conference Centre. Big swanky chairs and a beautifully set table awaited us.

The menu consisted of two choices: Traditional Tea for $30 or Centennial Tea for $39 (or you could splurge and add a glass of Moet Chandon Imperial champagne for $55). The Centennial was recently added to their menu in April to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, and so obviously we couldn’t pass this up! We all ordered the Centennial (with the exception of one Traditional).

After making our choice, we then browsed the extensive list of teas. In the past, the waiter would roll the antique cart of fresh loose-leaf tea over to the table to smell the aroma of different teas to help with your selection, however, we were very disappointed to find out that they no longer bring the cart around on Saturdays and Sundays, as the lounge is too busy and the cart too large. Luckily, the waitress caught on to our obvious disappointment, and she made an exception, and brought the cart over!

After smelling a few teas that spiked our interest, I settled for the limited edition Centennial tea, which was a mild black tea, while Lola went for the classic Earl Grey. In the end, Lola made the better choice, as the Centennial was far too meek and lacked flavour (but the fresh milk and mini sugar cubes helped to bring it to life).  The Earl Grey on the other hand was highly aromatic with a tint of vanilla, which pleased all of our pallets.

Upon finishing our first pot of tea, we then patiently waited for some more hot water. But our server was nowhere to be found! Twenty minutes later, she finally reappeared and our pots were refilled, and we were served a glass of fresh strawberries topped with whipped cream coupe and a mint leaf (the Traditional came with an assortment of fruit instead).

What seemed like an eternity later…we were then served our individual 3-tier platter. 

The bottom tier of the Centennial consisted of two warm raisin scones and a fresh crumpet, which could be topped with lip smacking Devonshire cream (our absolute fav!) and house made strawberry jam. 

The second tier included four mini elegant tea sandwiches: smoked salmon on seven grain, curried chicken salad, cucumber and watercress, and classic duck paté served on a crostini. My favourite was the smoked salmon, while the least preferred at the table was the duck paté, which had a very acquired taste. 

The top tier was by far the sweetest, which included four mini pastries: lemon curd meringue, chocolate éclair, raspberry napoleon served in between two shortbread cookies and a small slice of orange-flavoured cake. By the time we made our way to the top tier, we were already quite stuffed, and so we both left the meringue untouched (as lemon is our least favourite), while we gobbled down the other three. The éclair was amazing…light and fluffy, yet just sweet enough. In the end, we would have preferred to have more sandwiches and fewer desserts, as it was sugar overload. Next time, we will inquire to see if this is an option.

The Traditional platter also looked scrumptious. It consisted of two cranberry scones, four finger sandwiches (egg salad, cucumber and watercress, smoked turkey salad and smoked salmon), and three desserts (tea cake, fruit tartlet and a shortbread cookie).

We have to confess though that the service somewhat let us down that afternoon, as we had to wait well over an hour before we received our food. Our server was also quite inattentive, often forgetting about our table and neglecting to fill up our pots and milk dish. But we definitely didn’t let this ruin our experience, as we soaked in the character and ambiance of our setting and dined like Queens! It was a fabulous afternoon, made even better by the sun and beautiful weather!

*A word to the wise…if you are looking to bring your mother to afternoon tea next year, make sure you make reservations at least six weeks in advance. We had tried to reserve a table on actual Mother’s Day, but it was already booked up a month beforehand.

Verdict: Lavish experience that must be tried by all (but slightly disappointed with the service)

Cost: $30 (Traditional Tea), $39 (Centennial Tea)

Hours: Afternoon Tea
Monday to Friday: 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Saturday and Sunday: Noon to 5:00 pm

Zoe's Lounge, Fairmont Chateau Laurier, 1 Rideau Street, Ottawa ON

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