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!