Thursday, September 24, 2009
Afternoon Tea at the Queen Elizabeth
When I told a friend that I had gone to Afternoon Tea in Toronto and showed her the pictures she declared that we had to go have afternoon tea. So began my mission to find a decent tea room in Montreal. This is not exactly the greatest place for anything British because most people still hold a grudge against them and General Wolfe. At first I called Le Hotel St-James which is very swanky but I had no luck as their restaurant is undergoing renovations until next month. Next I called The Ritz-Carlton and was told that they were renovating until 2010. Apparently everyone is in a renovation blitz here for some bizarre reason. My last attempt was The Queen Elizabeth Hotel where I was finally successful.
Sorry about the blurry picture of their lobby.
With reservations made we trooped downtown on a Saturday all dolled up hoping to nibble on dainty cucumber sandwiches and sundries. The day did not start off well as when I asked the receptionist where their tea room was they informed me they no longer serve afternoon tea. When I said that there must be a mistake as I had booked tea for four a few weeks ago she pointed me towards the restaurant without batting an eyelash. Not a very auspicious beginning.
A shadow of its former glory, The Queen Elizabeth Hotel is rather like a genteel aristocrat that has fallen upon hard times, can no longer afford a servant to peel her grapes but still puts on airs. Or as my friend Roxanne says, "a place you bring your grandmother to".
Yes, those are plain coffee mugs, please compare it to the tableware at The Windsor Arms. Last bastion of this British empire this place is not. And no, your eyes do not deceive you, those are tea bags you see. Apparently a selection of loose leaf teas would have been too much of an effort. I think someone's patrician grandmother would need smelling salts to revive them if they knew to what depths they have brought this fine British gustatory experience.
By this point we were starving, we didn't even have any water after fifteen minutes of sitting in a nearly empty restaurant and two waiters were casually chatting with each other by the bar. I was not too amused and went over to ask where our food and water was. The exchange went something like this:
Me: "Excuse me, can we have some water please?"
Waiter: "Yes, we have water."
Me: "Yes, I know that YOU have water. Can WE have some water? And where is our food?"
The waiter mumbled something distractedly about find the second water. By this point I felt like organizing a riot in order to at least get a cracker or something. Yes, keeping four women waiting for food is serious business, very serious indeed.
Finally the waiter came out with the trays and all was well with the world once again. Funny how the sight of carbs can produce that effect.
Since we were all hungry we started with the sandwiches.
This was a turkey, spinach and cranberry sandwich. It was not bad, the turkey was standard deli turkey though.
This was an egg, watercress and cucumber sandwich. I can't remember if mayo was involved somehow. I liked this one the best, I think the ingredients really went well together.
This was your standard smoked salmon sandwich with some mustard. The smoked salmon was good but nothing special.
Next up were the scones with Devonshire cream. Oh how I love to slather this stuff on.
Alas, the scones were dry. Very dry. When I was trying to cut them in half they started to fall apart. I know that there are two schools of thought on scones; fluffy and cakey or dense and buttery. This was neither to my great disappointment. The cream added much needed moisture to the whole thing. The jam wasn't bad but it was exactly the same stuff that I could get at the supermarket.
To finish off we had our petit fours.
This was a raspberry macaroon with a very jammy filling. I really like this and could have easily eaten a few more.
This was supposed to be chocolate shortbread filled with ganache but two members of our party said that it tasted like weed. I've never had any so I can't verify but it tasted like a mouthful of freshly mown grass. I think we each took and bite and put it aside. They were going for a mint chocolate taste but failed, badly.
This was a mini chocolate eclair. Pleasant but just ok.
To finish off there was a strawberry tart filled with pastry cream. I liked this but the shell was so soft that it started to fall apart as soon as I picked it up.
My overall impression was that this was a passable version of afternoon tea. I expected better and was disappointed, however it cost only 25 dollars which wasn't bad. We seemed to be the only people in the restaurant having tea and I suspect the quality would be better if they had a larger clientele. Regardless, this does not excuse the poor service that we received. Between The Windsor Arms and The Queen Elizabeth, the former is most definitely still my favourite.