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Monday, April 13, 2015

Afternoon Tea Experience - Shangri La Hotel Toronto

Having enjoyed afternoon tea at many tea rooms throughout Toronto and around the world, I have been wanting to experience tea at the Shangri La Hotel in Toronto, ever since I saw a segment on it during the Morning Show on Global. I missed the Nutcracker Tea they presented at Christmas. So, with Easter upon us I booked reservations for Easter Monday.

Mr. G., and I were seated, and quite  impressed with the beautiful tea setting.  

Photo Credit Shangri-La Hotel website
Tea is served in the airy Lobby Lounge with fireplaces and a beautiful Italian handcrafted Fazioli piano. It was a little disappointing that we didn't get to hear the pianist - we learned later that the entertainment is offered 3 pm - 5 pm  and our tea seating was at 2 pm. 

The extensive tea menu  rivals that of any fine wine menu, with 68 Premium Teas. Teas range from $7 - $70 per teapot. The $15 tea selections were included as part of the Easter Tea. Though we could have ordered any of the other on offer and paid the difference. 

Mr. G. selected the Kenya Purple Tea (very rare tea from Kenya , high in antioxidants with bold and earthy flavour) and I choose OM Chai (traditional lightly spiced black tea from India. Exceptional flavaour profile with lingering sweetness).....  both teas were fabulous! and truly the best part of our tea experience. Don't you just love the tray the teapots arrived on?

The tables are low and servers actually kneel at your table to review your sweet and savory goodies. I learned that the Ming porcelain-inspired qipao dresses the servers wore were designed by Sunny Fong. Though they looked beautiful and elegant the slit on the side was perhaps a little too revealing on some of the servers as they exposed a little more, than I'm certain they would care to,  when bending to place items in the sideboard. 

Bottom tier: a selection of honey baked ham with caramelized onion on sourdough bread; poached Atlantic lobster with citrus crème fraiche on brioche roll; Pacific smoked salmon with caper cream on dark rye bread; and Truffle egg mayonnaise on wholemeal bread.
Middle tier: fragrant spiced hot cross buns and classic English scones served with caramelized white chocolate and strawberry jam, and Cornish clotted cream.

Top tier: milk chocolate and raspberry verrine, a light chocolate mousse, raspberry gel and pistachio crumble; tropical Easter Egg with coconut cream, mango curd and crispy meringue; Religieuse Profiterole, a baked choux pastry with white chocolate orange blossom cream and lemon glaze.

Thinking the tongs had been overlooked, I asked one of the ladies for a pair of tongs to retrieve the sandwiches. She respond they "don't use tongs" my puzzled looked must have spoken my thoughts of "umm so how should I retrieve the sandwiches in a lady like manner - especially since the sandwiches were larger than bite size/finger ones " that she quickly said - she would see what she could do. She returned with these (above)... which were of no use to pick up the delicate and slightly larger than finger size sandwiches.  

Improvising I used my knife and fork ... but again the size of the sandwiches did make this method of retrieval  little awkward.

I found the biscuit to be dry and slathered it and my scone with cream and jam.

The tea was served lukewarm ... and Mr. G. noticed the water for replenishing the teapot sat in carafes on the sideboard - so no hopes of actually getting a hot cup of tea. Despite the lukewarm temperature we both did enjoy our selection and can only imagine how much more delightful it would have been - served hot.

The Final Verdict: 
Setting: The tea service with the lion motif was beautiful and elegant. Mr. G. found the low table and sofa seating somewhat awkward (and I must agree with him) as you had to bend over to get anything from the table. A grandmother at the sofa next to us gave up on using her utensils when the efforts to bring her sandwich bites to her mouth failed and just picked them up with her fingers after cutting them into manageable bite size. 

Tea, and Sweet & Savory goodies:The sandwiches were average : the lobster brioche roll was more brioche than lobster filling. The ham was chopped into little squares which made for an odd texture. The smoked salmon was very nicely done ...and the truffle egg mayonnaise I passed on. I found the biscuits dry and the scones a little chewy (maybe a little under done) - the jam and cream were most welcomed. The caramel was an interesting surprise.  You can wrap fruit cake in pink marzipan and top it with a flower ... but it's still fruit cake. I found the chocolate mousse cups too rich - though Mr. G. quite enjoyed them. The Religieuse Profiterole reminded me of Paris and they had me at the Easter Egg meringue, coconut cream and mango curd - scrumptious!!!

Aside from the musical flower arrangement at our table (we started with a tulip arrangement, which was replaced twice with two different Orchid arrangements during our tea) the service and attention was good.

The reason for going was to experience their Easter Tea which I had seen pictures of the beautiful chocolate Easter Eggs and read about the offerings. If there were any (chocolate Easter Eggs) still on display - we did not see them. So aside from the Easter Egg meringue on the goodie tier and the mini chocolate Easter Eggs we were given to take home .... there were no signs that it was Easter. Perhaps it was because it was the last day of the Easter Tea (we went on Easter Monday).

Would I Go Back?

Yes ... I would definitely give tea at Shangri-La Toronto another try. After all the tea selection with 68 Premium teas is nothing to turn one's nose up at. What I would do to help ensure a better experience: book my tea seating between 3 pm - 5 pm when the entertainment is present; ask to be seated at a table with chairs - sans sofa if going for afternoon tea - just for tea the sofa's would be great to sit back in with teacup in hand; request sitting closer to piano - so as to not be right in front of the the lobby doors or close to sideboard. If going because it's a special tea they are offering don't wait to last day - reserve either  for right at the start or mid way through promotion - reserve early!!

And as luck would have it one of our eggs was a winner!! - and I believe that means Afternoon Tea for a year at Shangri-La Hotel Toronto. Looks like there will be plenty of opportunities to experience tea at Shangri-La.

You are the curator of your life so make it luxurious,
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  1. Afternoon tea at Shangri-La sounds wonderful and congrats on the winning egg! The tea service with the lion motif is beautiful and, I agree, the tea would have been much better served hot. Rose and white teas are my favourite, as is chai. Your post is inspiring me to have afternoon tea. Isabella and I may need to make reservations for tea with Alice in Wonderland while at Disney World next month. Wishing you a lovely week! xoxo, Brenda

    1. Ohhhh Brenda ... that would be fabulous tea with Alice in Wonderland!!! do share photos of your adventure down the rabbit hole ..xo

  2. That looks amazing! I mean truly truly fantastic! Thanks for the lovely photos and sharing the experience!

  3. Dearest Celia,
    Well, you were an excellent curator of 2nd Easter Day's Shangri La's tea experience! Very well written and you are expert enough for knowing that of all things; tea has to be served HOT. That was a bad entry... Also for serving those sandwiches and other sweets one needs a pastry tong; they can call me as I got several for sale!
    But the surprise was inside the egg and I'm thrilled for you to have that opportunity and sure a next time you come better prepared and can probably guide them into better service too. That revealing slit is another bad choice... making it very awkward for those women to serve in a decent way.
    Sending you hugs,

  4. Dear Celia. you are the expert at a fine High Tea experience. The lukewarm tea was a major faux paus and should have been rectified!
    Otherwise what an enchanting and elegant setting with the treats one would treasure for an afternoon to delight the senses.

    The Arts by Karena
    Interior Designer Matthew Patrick Smyth


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