I grew up hearing stories from my mother about High Tea service at Fairmont hotels. She spoke of the elegance of the table setting, and the way that the staff at the Fairmont would make her feel special. To my mother, it was the closest to royalty that she would get and that was ok with her.
We were greeted by welcoming staff and immediately seated by the window which overlooks the bustling Vancouver International Airport’s docking bays with an impressive backdrop of mountain vistas. The tea menus arrived quickly and our server walked us through the most popular choices. I chose the highly recommended Maple Maple tea which is a black tea with warming caramel notes. My friend went the herbal route with an incredibly aromatic Peppermint tea. Both teas were exactly what we wanted and paired beautifully with our food.
Now, onto the goodies! Our server, who was one of the loveliest people I have met, brought us our three tiered tray and explained each of the edibles to us with knowledge and a clear passion for what she does. She went through each of the pieces describing their ingredients and preparation which made us even hungrier than we were before.
I am a big ‘savoury’ fan. It has always been my favourite tier in an Afternoon Tea service and this one did not disappoint. So, what did we eat? A smoked salmon sandwich on rye bread with finely sliced cucumber, freshly grated horseradish and a smooth dill cream cheese. This sandwich was my personal favourite of the group. Its ingredients were balanced, fresh and made for a brilliant start to our service. Next was a lovely morsel which consisted of vine ripened tomatoes, bocconcini, fresh basil, and lemon drizzle served on fresh baguette; a refreshing addition to the savoury edibles. This was followed by a simple house smoked turkey prepared with cranberry mayo on a light and airy croissant and a Dijon marinated roasted striploin with caramelized onion mayo on sourdough. Both were solid savoury additions. It was a scrumptious start to whet our appetites and prepare us for the sweet treats that were coming up.
On to the scones, arguably one of the most important elements to a Afternoon Tea service. The scones were delivered to us still warm and begging to be draped in Devonshire cream and strawberry preserves. The scones were infused with cranberries and a light orange zest which added a lovely flavour to them. The Devonshire cream was smooth and just the right level of sweetness. I tend to be a bit zealous when dressing my scones, but I took direction from my more reserved accomplice and went with a “less is more” attitude. The scones were, without a doubt, the highlight to the three tiers.
After being incredibly satisfied with the first two phases of our service, we moved on to the highly anticipated dessert tier. What was included? Chocolate cones filled with salted caramel and caramelized apples, chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate mint cake that was layered with crème de mint whipped cream, lemon tarts with a sweet shell and lemon curd and finally, a cheesecake made with the Fairmont Vancouver Airport’s honey, and topped with a fresh raspberry. I must say, I loved the lemon tart! It stole the show for me and had me wishing the entire tray was full of them. But alas, it was not and we moved on to the remaining sweets. My friend’s favourite was the chocolate cone with salted caramel and apples because it such a unique dessert. It had a buttery filling that made her go on a Pinterest binge trying to find a similar recipe to make them at home for her family.
As we sat at our table, watching planes land and take off, sipping our tea and feeling incredibly satisfied with the meal that we had just completed, we spoke of childhood tea parties. I can recall countless times that I would gather up my favourite stuffed animals, and pour tea for my grandparents to join us on the kitchen floor. In retrospect, I could have chosen a classier location, but as a kid, I remember it as the perfect place to create the elegant tea service that my mother had spoken so fondly of.
With Mother’s Day right around the corner, I can think of nothing more fitting than to take my mom back to the Fairmont, something that I have wanted to do since I was little.