September 12, 2012

Afternoon Tea @ Royal York Hotel

Life is always on the go, fast paced and seems to never slow down. We go to bed late, get up early, but our “To-do” lists are forever growing. In our hectic world, it is easy to rush without paying much attention or taking the time to appreciate all the beautiful things in life. I feel that we should sometimes take a break from the fast track and slow down to take a breather and do a bit of repair.

Taking time to enjoy a peaceful afternoon tea may be our answer. Imagine a relaxing afternoon sitting down to pastries and tea and pampering yourself with tradition and indulgence. Imagine a time of feeling unhurried, calm and comfort. Imagine the biggest worry you have is what gossip will be shared. 

Afternoon Tea is a classic British tradition, a way to relax from a stressful day, catch up and spend time with old friends and families. On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, my family and me decided to spend the day by indulging ourselves with an afternoon tea date at the prestigious Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto. The Fairmont Royal York Hotel is located across the street from Union Station in Toronto and has been a landmark ever since it was constructed. 

Afternoon Tea has been served at The Royal York since it opened in 1929. It is served on weekends only on Saturday from 12:30p.m – 4:30p.m and Sunday from 12:30p.m -5:30p.m in the Library Bar located next to the Imperial Foyer. 

The room is decorated with antique furniture and beautiful drapes. The atmosphere is traditional, cozy and romantic. 

Afternoon Tea is traditionally served on a three-layer tier with sandwiches on the bottom, scones in the middle and pastries at the top. You eat from the bottom up (savory and sweet). However, Afternoon Tea at The Royal York is a four-part affair. Once seated, you’ll choose from a selection of loose-leaf teas. They range from classics like English Breakfast Tea and Earl Grey, to more subtly flavor Asian green teas like Jasmine butterfly. However, the teas are not served in the traditional steeping fashion, but rather the loose-leaf is contained in a tea filter within mismatched flowered china. I personally think an important part of the afternoon tea experience is literally using the strainer. When steeping loose-leaf tea, the area in which the leaves will unfold is very important to achieve the optimum flavors. When water can freely and abundantly run through the leaves, it can extract all of the nutrients and presents the finest flavors and aroma it has. 

I opt for the Egyptian Chamomile. When steeped, these fragrant blossoms smell of freshly cut apples and produce a rich, golden cup with calming flavor and sweet, floral finish. However, my pot of tea looked and tasted like hot water. 

Tea: Egyptian Chamomile 

As you sip your tea, you’ll enjoy a fresh baked crumpet that is drizzled in Grand Marnier butter and a slather of honey, served with seasonal berries on the side. Crumpets are griddlecakes that have a spongy texture full of holes for absorbing melted butter and other delicious toppings. The crumpet served at The Royal York was cold. The texture was hard and dense rather than light and airy.

Our waiter was extremely friendly and very informative. Every dish he arrived with he provided a detailed description. The hotel has their own herb garden and bee apiary on its rooftop. The honey used is all made on site. Tours on the roof are available seasonally.

First Course: Crumpets with Seasonal Berries 

The finger sandwiches were served on their own plate, offering a variety of color, taste and texture when presented together. The four different kinds of sandwiches were P.E.I Lobster and Mango Salad, Nova Scotia Smoked Salmon, Smoked Turkey Breast and Champagne Goat Cheese. The only sandwich I liked from the plate was the P.E.I Lobster and Mango Salad, which was prepared delicately in tasty morsels with high flavored local produce. It was refreshing and tasty. The smoked salmon and turkey breast sandwiches were too plain, all I could taste was a normal ham sandwich and smoked salmon. I could barely taste the other ingredients. On the contrary, I disliked the Champagne Goat Cheese. The taste was unpleasant, bitter and has a rotten fruit flavor in the aftertaste. I think it was the bitterness of the champagne. Overall, a horrible pairing of champagne and goat cheese. I was the last one at the table to finish, and I only finished the Champagne Goat Cheese sandwich because it seemed like our server would not bring out the next course if I didn’t. I did not like being forced to finish all the sandwiches before they bring out the scones and pastries.

Second Course:  
1. Smoked Turkey Breast, White Cheddar Cheese, Sliced Cucumber, Bing Cherry and Niagara Ice Wine Preserve (Top Left)
2. P.E.I Lobster and Mango Salad with Tomato Carpaccio, Celery Cress, Saffron Brandy Aioli (Top Right)
3. Champagne Goat Cheese, Baby Watercress and Strawberries (Bottom Left)
4. Smoked Turkey Breast, White Cheddar Cheese, Sliced Cucumber, Bing Cherry and Niagara Iced Wine Preserve (Bottom Right)

Once you’ve finished the finger sandwiches, you’ll indulge in some house-baked cranberry scones. These scones were very dry, floury and tasted like tender biscuits. It was not buttery at all. I prefer the ones at Windsor arms more. The texture of scones I like should be brittle but somewhat moist, slightly dense but not rough, flaky but not powdery.

Third Course: House-baked cranberry scones 

Lastly, a traditional three-tier afternoon tea stand was presented with Harmony Dairies organic cream, Madeline and a variety of pastries. There was a bunch of these stands sitting on the bar table out in the open from the minute we arrived. It makes me wonder if they had been there since this morning or even longer. It was not very comforting seeing our waiter grabbing one stand and brining it over to our table. 
Clotted cream is an utter treat for those who have never tried it. It is a cross between whipped cream and butter. I just can’t get enough of it. They are one of the reasons why I love to eat scones. 

Bottom Tier: Harmony Dairies Organic Cream 

The pastries were your average pastries. The Lemon Financiers were too sugary and had an artificial lemon flavor. The Royal York Honey and Dark Chocolate Madeleines were too sweet for my taste, and the texture was very mushy.

Middle Tier: Royal York Honey and Dark Chocolate Madeleines (Left), 
Lemon Financiers (Right)

The last tier is the pastry swans filled with Chantilly cream and berry tarts. The pastry swans tasted like the cream puff you could get in a grocery store. As for the tarts, for some reason it tasted burned. I really don’t have much to say about the desserts. They reminded me of desserts served at buffets. Since they were the last course, I didn’t have to finish it.

Top Tier: Pastry Swans with Chantilly Cream and Berry Tarts

High tea is about conversation and savoring your food and tea. Do not rush through it. My family and me spend two and a half hours at the library bar Sunday Afternoon. It was a unique experience enjoying afternoon tea at the library bar with its rich history. 

Décor - 8
Atmosphere - 8
Service - 8
Food - 6
Overall - 7.5 

Price: $35/person (Exclude Tax and Gratuity) for Traditional Afternoon Tea 

Library Bar - The Fairmont Royal York
100 Front Street W
Toronto, ON M5J 1E3
(416) 368-2511

Library Bar - Fairmont Royal York on Urbanspoon


  1. This hotel has the great facilities like library, playing club and so on. This hotel has the best food and facilities, so people can attract from this hotel.

  2. I love me some high tea as well! have you tried the one at Windsor arms? I know this is a well debated topic, but I think I like the Windsor Arm's one better. Just a bit. :)

    1. I been a follower of your blog and love all your post!
      I'm JL, another author of this blog. "Less is more" and I have tried Windsor Arms and we were disappointed with the quality of the food. The only thing we liked was the scones. I really want to try the afternoon tea at Ritz Carlton, hopefully in the next couple of weeks.

    2. I had my first experience of Afternoon Tea at Windsor Arm with JL. I had nothing to compared it to until I've been to Royal York. I have to agree with you that I liked my experience at Windsor Arm much better. I like that Windsor Arm served fresh fruits as the last course, as it was refreshing to eat it after eating so much sweet pastries. I also like that they served tea in the traditional steeping fashion. But the most important reason I prefer Windsor Arm over Royal York is the scones. However, I did enjoy the sandwiches at Royal York much better than the ones at Windsor Arm. Some people love the roll sandwiches at Windsor Arm and commented that the bread is really soft. Personally I thought it was very soggy and tasted like they were made the night before and served to us right from the fridge. For people who had never tried Afternoon Tea before I would recommend Windsor Arm over Royal York because they can get a more traditional experience there.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. This hotel has the best food and facilities attract the people with great service,thanks for sharing.

    Hotel furniture

  5. Hello friend, I just came to your post and reading above thing it is very impressive for me and it is very nice blog.Thanks a lot for sharing this.

    Hotel furniture installation