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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Afternoon Tea at the Windsor Arms- Toronto

I have mentioned before a few times that I love anything and everything British. This weekend I finally went to authentic British tea at the Windsor Arms in Toronto (I'm here for a few days visiting my parents). The Windsor Arms is a very posh hotel downtown where filthy rich people stay, the afternoon tea however, is very reasonably priced. I made the reservations almost a month ago because it is very popular and the bookings fill up quickly. My Mom, my sister and I trouped downtown all dolled up for their 12:45 tea sitting.
In my geeky foodie way I was almost giddy with excitement at this outing. Whenever I am in Toronto I do two things: go to see my parents and eat since there are so many things here that I can't find in Montreal.

Here are a few shots of the tea room which was very beautiful and classy.

They have two tea rooms, a classic cream coloured one and a more modern and chic dark purple room. We chose the former.

The service was superb and the servers were very friendly.

For tea you have a choice of Cream Tea which is a pot of tea and scones, Full Tea which includes everything on the menu above and Complete Tea which is the Full Tea with the addition of a glass of cream sherry or champagne. All three of us chose the Complete Tea.

There was a long list from which to chose your pot of tea. I immediately knew that I wanted the Tibetan Tiger. My sister chose the Chai Arms and my mom chose the Darjeeling.

First the waiter brought our glasses of bubbly which made a good start of the meal.

Here is a shot of the Devonshire cream and the gourmet raspberry and black currant jams which accompanied our meal. They are made not too far away from Toronto in Niagara on the Lake. I have to say if you have never tasted Devonshire cream then you have not lived. British food gets an (unfair, in my opinion), bad rap but this little culinary treasure is heaven in a pot.

Shortly afterwards our teas arrived. We had a generous pot each and during the latter half of the meal the servers circulated around with water to fill them up again as needed. We were advised to wait 2 minutes to let the tea steep before pouring ourselves a cup. Don't the three different tea pots look pretty? I have to say that the setting was impeccable. The linens were crispy and white and silverware was polished, everything was done in the truly proper manner which really added to the experience.

Here is my cup of Tibetan Tiger tea. We had little tea strainers, you can see one lurking in the back, through which to pour the tea into our cups but a few tea leaves managed to escape. This tea was one of the best things I have ever tasted. It had hints of chocolate, vanilla, caramel and butterscotch underscored with a smooth luscious black tea base. Have you ever tasted something so incredible that it feels like all your taste buds are buzzing? It was one of those moments. I asked the server if I could buy some to take home but they said they do not sell it and they will not reveal their source. Boo!

After a few minutes our tower of goodies came out. At the top are the petit fours, below are dainty little sandwiches and at the bottom are some fluffy raisin scones.

To begin our meal we each had a mini goat cheese and caramelized shallot tart which was excellent. The shallots were sweet and mellow and the goat cheese had a pleasant tang. The whole thing was still warm from the oven.

Next we dived into the sandwiches which were little works of art in edible form.

There was a vegetarian sandwich with baby greens and asparagus, a smoked salmon topped salmon caviar and a grilled chicken sandwich with citrus essence. I loved the chicken sandwich. It had the tiniest diced tomatoes that I had ever seen on top. The chicken was moist and the sandwich bread was soft and fresh. You could tell that the sandwiches had been prepared just a few minutes before they had been served as nothing was the slightest bit soggy.

And now for the scones. I believe that I will quite possibly spend the rest of my days trying to find a recipe to replicate these little beauties. They were warm and fluffy on the inside, covered with a slight crunch of sugar on top, tinged with lemon and with just the right amount of plump raisins.

I would do cartwheels from Montreal to Toronto just to get another taste. Then when you add Devonshire cream and raspberry jam...

The symphony of flavours and textures in your mouth make you glad to be alive and to have taste buds. This was one of those moments of foodie nirvana that comes along once in a while. Every foodie has their own personal list of greatest ever food moments and this scone just made mine.

The gustatory extravaganza continued with the petit fours. There was a tiny blueberry mascarpone cake, a mini lemon meringue pie and a diminutive fruit tart all surrounded by three dense chocolate squares.

I love anything lemon so I grabbed the mini lemon meringue pie and one of the chocolate squares. They were both really good but paled next to the scones which was a tough act to follow up. The chocolate square was like a very dense brownie covered with a thin layer of ganache. I would have preferred that the lemon curd be a bit tangier but that was just a personal preference.

And as if that wasn't enough food our meal finished up with a cup of strawberries and cream. This was the only slightly disappointing part of the meal as they did not taste ripe enough. It was a bit odd given the attention to detail that was paid to the other components but it did not mar the overall experience.

My Mom very generously paid as a birthday present for my sister and I which was very sweet of her. After the meal we looked around the hotel lobby a bit, which is not huge, and took pictures of their main dining room.

Feeling very satisfied but stuffed, we rolled ourselves out the hotel and decided to work off some calories by going shopping at Williams-Sonoma and Whole Foods which were both nearby. I visit Williams-Sonoma every time I am in Toronto but it was the first time that I had gone to Whole Foods and it was revelation. I will have all the details in another post. I've done a lot of foodie related things in Toronto so I have a lot of fun updates to make to my blog.

Oh yes, God Bless the British for inventing that most civilized and utterly delicious ritual which is afternoon tea.
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