Chalk it up to the recent release of Alice in Wonderland, or the general rise in popularity of tea shops, but it seems the British habit of afternoon tea has permanently crossed the Atlantic and is here to stay. That mid-day plug of teensy sandwiches (with crusts cut off), scones with Devonshire cream and jam, and assorted sweets, all washed down with a nice pot of infused leaves, certainly has its attractions, especially for the female element. (In fact, during my rounds, I saw only one male “enjoying” afternoon tea, and that was with his mother.) Not all teas, however, are created equal.
The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver recently started a “Princess and the Tea” promotion ($36 for adults, $16 for children, daily from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.), offering an afternoon tea apparently geared towards the under-12 set and their 'rents. The child’s tea came with two (very) small finger sandwiches, one PB&J, one ham and cheese. A couple of small, plain scones, a chocolate cookie, and a mini fruit tart completed the offering. My wee one gobbled everything up, and then started looking for more.
Our “adult” teas weren’t much larger and all of the sandwiches had obviously been sitting out for a while, as they were slightly stale. Our raisin scones were heavy and on the dry side, although the caramel profiteroles shaped like swans were interesting to look at. The actual tea selection was better than the food, although the child’s “bubblegum” tea was really just one of the herbal selections with a couple of gumballs served on the side. Despite the lunch we’d all had earlier that day, we left distinctly hungry and had to make a pit stop for tortas on the way home.
Flash forward to The Secret Garden Tea Company ($25.95 for adults, $16.95 for children, daily at noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.) in Kerrisdale a few days later. The absolutely brilliant tea included, among other things, roasted red pepper and goat cheese pesto in bannock bread, apple-chicken croissants, stunning, light lemon tarts, tender scones, and heart-shaped sandwiches for the princess. It was all so good that I came back by myself for a repeat performance the next day. It’s called high tea here, which isn’t technically correct, as this refers to an early evening meal with cold meats or meat pastries. But call it what you will, it’s delicious, and excellent value for the price points.
Another good choice is The Fish House in Stanley Park, where $24 gets you a traditional, hearty, afternoon tea, with good service and park views. Everything is made fresh, and the selection of teas and herbal infusions is well thought out. Also, Fleuri Restaurant at the Sutton Place Hotel does a daily afternoon tea between 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. for the same price, with some inventive items like raspberry chicken salad, and cucumber-endive with guacamole spread, plus it was nice to see that not all hotels gauge for tea leaves and tartlets.
Secret Garden Tea Co. | 5559 West Boulevard | 604-261-3070 | www.secretgardentea.com
Fairmont Hotel Vancouver | 900 West Georgia St | 604-684-3131 | www.fairmont.com
The Fish House | 8901 Stanley Park Drive | 604-681-7275 | www.fishhousestanleypark.com
Fleuri at Sutton Place | 845 Burrard St | 604-682-5511 | www.vancouver.suttonplace.com
Can You See the Pink Elephant?
There are no elephants, and it’s not on an island (in fact, it’s right here in B.C.), but Elephant Island Orchard Winery’s Pink Elephant 2008 Sparkling Rosé, just released, might have you seeing some of the latter. A Granny Smith apple cuvee is paired with cassis for a tart currant and green apple start, with a sweeter cassis finish. Great in the flute or mixed in a cocktail. $24.99 at elephantislandwine.com or private wine stores.
The 2011 Theme Region for the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival is Spain, with the global focus being fortified wine. The wine festival will take place from March 28 to April 3, 2011.
Bring on the Boil
Refuel (1944 West 4 Ave) is now hosting their annual Spot Prawn Boil every Saturday night during May at 6 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. Only 12 spots available per seating, so book early. $65 for three courses includes watercress and new potato salad, the spot prawn boil with chorizo, clams and vegetables, and peanut parfait. Call 604-288-7905 to reserve.
Raise a Glass to Whistler Brewing
On May 16, Cru (1459 West Broadway) celebrates the beers of Whistler Brewing Company by hosting a five-course dinner paired with beers from the local brewery. Tickets are $70 and can be purchased at www.vancouvercraftbeerweek.com.
Food in Brief
Kurtis Kolt, formerly of Salt Tasting Room, and recently named Sommelier of the Year, is now Wine Director at Naramata Heritage Inn & Spa.
The East Vancouver Farmers’ Market is now up and running at John Hendry Park at Trout Lake, every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. through the season.