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Cream tea at the King Edward

Location: West of Yonge, on King. Toronto.

Nearly two weeks ago now, pittenweem, Jennie, lemur_catta, and I met for tea at the King Edward hotel. The Victoria Café was a pleasantly spacious room, ballroom-sized, but broken down into airy corners by a series of levels in the middle with glass-and-brass separators. There was plenty of space, coat service, and very tall windows letting in plenty of light, even on an overcast wintery day. The King Edward felt as if it had achieved what the Royal York aspired to: a grand dame of a hotel, beautifully renovated, spacious and elegant. Best of all, for the first time on this ongoing tour of the teas of Toronto, we had a tea experience pleasant enough to rival the current pack-leader, the Four Seasons.

First, though, I must admit that the menu isn't posted on the website, and I didn't take notes except mentally, so I can't remember everything we had. Still, I can give you the gist.

Three of us had the King's tea and one the Queen's. At some places, the smaller set of nibbles was a smaller selection of the same things that went into the larger one. Here, rather thoughtfully, it was an entirely different selection. There was also a savory cheese-and-port alternative on the menu, although our group was all in the mood for sweets.

We all began with a refreshing Lady Jane tea jelly, served in a mini-Martini glass. (I'm sure there's a more technical name for it.) With berries buried inside the clear jelly and a mint leaf on top, it was a tasteful lead-in to the main course.

The King's Tea arrived in three-tiered glory, the Queen's, elegantly arrange on a large white plate. The best part of each was the variety. Tasty finger sandwiches included a real crab salad, beautifully textured, on a soft piece of cornbread; an open-faced salmon sandwich on dark rye; an underflavored egg salad sandwich; and a nicely rich confit sandwich. There were also a pair of very tasty mini-quiches, properly categorized on the same level as the finger sandwiches so as not to be confused with the sweets. (The classification of quiches is an issue for me now, after what happened at the Windsor Arms.)

The scones were decent, but nothing exciting. As an overly heavy user of clotted cream, I did have to ask for extra - and even then, one of our party members wasn't even helping us go through it. The jam was a fairly generic strawberry.

The petit-fours were in splendid array, a good six or seven apiece, each entirely different from the others. Even better, the King Tea was very fair, including one of everything for everybody, so there was no squabbling over who got what. There was a madeleine, a tea cake edged in marzipan, a white chocolate cheesecake square (which I traded for a wonderful berry salad in a crisp little shell from the Queen's tea); little cookies, and other small cakes.

The menu offered a selection of loose and bagged teas. Unfortunately for me, the only herbal teas were bagged. The tea was served in two-cup pots, with hot water frequently offered for refills. The tea pots were properly designed for a change - none of us spilled our tea on the table, a first, I think, in this tea-going series.

Service was good; our waiter was very attentive with water and responded promptly to our requests for more cream and takeaway containers. Even more striking was the frequency with which staff stopped by to disassemble our three-tiers of food whenever we cleared a plate. Since between us, there were six plates in our tiers, this was somewhat frequent.

pittenweem, the only other one in our party who had had tea at the Four Seasons thought she still preferred the FS - but agreed that the quality of tea at the King Edward was in the same league. After our last two slightly more lackluster experiences, it was a relief to have such good food. I'm looking forward to the next stop on the tea tour of Toronto!


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 18th, 2005 10:52 am (UTC)
I enjoy these reviews; it makes me want to go to Toronto for tea!

A close friend of mine recently muttered indignantly that some of the lesbians in the university's GLBT society had been having 'Posh Tea Afternoons' in which they sampled cream teas at various Oxford establishments. 'What about us?!' she exclaimed. I said that perhaps we could join the lesbians every once in a while, but she thought we might be intruding. Instead, inspired in part by your lovely accounts of tea, we've been sampling a few cafes in the area. Sadly, none of them seem quite as exciting as the Canadian versions! Perhaps I ought to post reviews anyhow. :)
Mar. 18th, 2005 11:28 am (UTC)
I would love to read reviews of the teas of Oxford! I read in a food tourism book that most of the world's best high teas are in the Colonies - particularly in Singapore and Hong Kong. I've yet to have a really good scone at any of Toronto teas thus far. How are the scones of Oxford?
Mar. 18th, 2005 01:23 pm (UTC)
i remember having a 'cream tea' in Bath, in a cute little shop. It was good, though nothing as fancy as yours. just tea and scones with jam and clotted cream.
Oct. 9th, 2008 04:46 pm (UTC)
:D If I remember correctly, a cream tea is tea to drink, but also scones to eat, with jam and whipped or clotted cream (better than it sounds.
Mar. 18th, 2005 02:28 pm (UTC)
When I was high school and college age, before graduate school, work and children overwhelmed my life, my mother and I would go to afternoon tea at the Ritz-Carlton in Boston once a year or so. For us the atmosphere and ritual were perhaps more important than the quality of the tea and food. We sat on upholstered sofas in an elegant room while a harpist played quietly in a corner and discreet waiters attended to us. At other tables little girls in velvet dresses sat with their grandmothers. We talked and talked until the last drop was drained then staggered out, high on caffeine and sugar.

I look forward to doing this with my children when they are a bit older.
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 18th, 2005 05:57 pm (UTC)
That is good to know, as I haven't been in years. I also want to try the Four Seasons.
Thank you.
Mar. 18th, 2005 04:07 pm (UTC)
O bliss. I last had a "proper" tea in Cape May in August -- not even a third as grand as this but still lovely and I wish it was a regular part of my life. Now you make me want to make little tiny sandwiches.
Jun. 22nd, 2007 01:51 am (UTC)
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )