They say a soothing cup of tea can make a world of difference to your day, adding calm, contemplation and a soothing warmth. High tea is a meal the Brits have long celebrated, enjoying the pause in the late afternoon to savour a sweet treat with their steaming cuppa. Here in Richmond, the concept is starting to catch on and a handful of eateries have established a niche with their teatime offerings. Here’s the lowdown on where to go.
One of Sugarholic’s smartly dressed servers shows the Triple Chocolate dessert, one of the many decadent treats offered daily at this Aberdeen Centre eatery. (Photo: LAUREN KRAMER)
Sugarholic Café (4151 Hazelbridge Way; 604. 285.6199) in Aberdeen Centre boasts a 60-seat restaurant decorated with crystal chandeliers, white drapes and servers impeccably dressed in black and white pinafores. “We’re a fusion-style tea house,” the manager told me, suggesting I try the red date with longan tea. It was among 14 varieties of tea, including fresh tropical fruit, honey chrysanthemum, hibiscus, wild berry, French lavender and cranberry grenadine.
Tea prices range from $5.95 to $6.95 for a re-fillable pot at Sugarholic, making their set meal of tea and four pastries at $13.95 a great deal, particularly if you have a sweet tooth. I drifted over to the glass counter, behind which the delicacies of the day were showcased, and chose Japanese cheese cake, green tea and white chocolate mousse, Ferrero Rocher chocolate cake and a triple chocolate cream in a shot glass. The tiramisu, crème brulee, passion fruit mousse and berry cheesecake would have to wait for another visit.
All desserts are made in-house, with the macarons being the only exception. It was mid-afternoon when I made myself comfortable in the clean, contemporary, elegant interior of Sugarholic, loving the high-backed upholstered chairs and the sense of occasion fostered in this carefully assembled restaurant.
My red date with longan tea was served in a glass teapot with real dates and longans floating in an infuser. (Photo: LAUREN KRAMER)
My tea was beautifully presented in a refillable glass teapot, carefully positioned over a glass container holding a tea light candle. Inside the infuser floated red dates and longans, and my beverage, sweetened with passion fruit syrup, was deliciously sweet and very different to the orange pekoe I usually opt for.
My array of delicious sweets included the Japanese-style cheesecake, green tea and white chocolate mousse, triple chocolate cream dessert and a Ferrero Rocher chocolate cake. (Photo: LAUREN KRAMER)
My favourite pastry was easily the triple chocolate cream, followed closely by the Ferrero Rocher chocolate cake – but I’m easily won over by chocolate. Both were rich, creamy and smooth on the tongue, and their presentation alone made all resistance futile.
Interestingly enough, a good number of dishes heading to other tables were savoury rather than sweet. Sugarholic has a broad menu offering a wide range of options, such as savoury risottos ($11-$14), sweet honey toast boxes piled with fruit and ice cream ($8), salads, pastas and much more.
The sweets menu consists of vanilla bean profiterole, coffee hazelnut shortbread, peanut butter marshmallow, strawberry macaron and lemon cupcake with raspberry buttercream. They come with a chocolate fondue and an invitation to dip as often as you like! (Photo: LAUREN KRAMER)
A day later I found myself overlooking the tarmac at the Fairmont Airport Hotel’s Globe@YVR (3111 Grant McConachie Way; 604. 248-3281), anticipating a high tea significantly higher in price. The set tea menu costs $75 per person ($30 for Junior Tea for 12 and younger). Fairmont has a well-earned reputation of doing things beautifully and their high tea experience is no exception. There are 12 loose leaf teas to choose from on the menu, among them Belgian chocolate rooibos, Versailles lavender earl grey, safari masala chai, lapsang souchong butterfly and kea lani orange pineapple. The “Jetsetter” is the hotel’s signature tea, a low-caffeine blend touted for aiding in jetlag recovery. Suffice to say, choosing one isn’t easy!
Our Belgian chocolate rooibos and Fairmont Breakfast loose-leaf teas arrived in large French presses, closely followed by a three-tier tray of goodies containing an exquisite selection of munchies. There were apricot and ginger scones with Devonshire cream and strawberry jam, peanut butter marshmallows to be dipped in the chocolate fondue bowl, lemon cupcakes with raspberry buttercream, pink strawberry macarons decorated with hearts, vanilla bean profiteroles and coffee hazelnut shortbread.
It’s hard to start with savoury when you’re faced with desserts like these, however the smoked salmon croissant was a mouthful of bliss. Other savoury items included chicken and mushroom pie and baby shrimp and crab gougères. (Photo: LAUREN KRAMER)
The savoury items tried valiantly to vie for attention but it’s fair to say their thunder was stolen by the sweet treats. Still, we loved the smoked salmon croissants, which sat shoulder to shoulder with chicken and mushroom pie, ham with ricotta and orange sandwiches and baby shrimp and crab gougeres.
The chocolate rooibos was a decadent steaming beverage that I highly recommend, and the whole experience, a meal consumed amid the fabulous entertainment of planes taking off and landing (but without the sound effects) was beautiful from start to finish. Suffice to say, high tea at Globe@YVR is a great destination for Valentines’, Mother’s Day or any special occasion.
Attention to detail makes a significant difference in the restaurant industry, and L’Opera Patisserie (153-5951 Minoru Blvd., 604 270.2919) on Minoru Boulevard is perfect example. Sandwiched between the Marriott and the Sheraton, it’s a tiny eatery hidden amongst other retailers. Walking through the front door, you’re immediately transported far, far away, to a French salon de thé. Walls are decked in beautiful maroon and gold wallpaper, ornate crown mouldings add a stately touch and heavy brocaded curtains drape the front windows. Inside, tables are decked in gold tablecloths and set with gold-rimmed Royal Albert crockery. Crystal chandeliers illuminate the room and baroque classical music plays in the background. Add the rich, buttery scent of croissants and you get the complete picture. L’Opera Patisserie is someplace special.
Owner Janice Marta fell in love with French pastries while visiting Paris several years ago and came back determined to make her own. She opened L’Opera four years ago and now spends her days baking 23 varieties of dainty macarons in flavours such as rose raspberry and white truffle mushroom, mille-feuilles (a French custard slice also called the Napoleon), scones and lots of croissants.
A teensy cup of asparagus soup, topped with a cap of puff pastry, sets the tone for a meal of spectacular quality at L’Opera Patisserie. (Photos: LAUREN KRAMER)
You can stop in for a cup of tea and a pastry at any time but if it’s high tea you’re after, Marta and her team need 24 hours’ notice. The $45 per person meal includes one of 13 varieties of tea with names like Don Giovanni, Madame Butterfly and Romeo & Juliet. It comes with a two-tier tray containing an impressive array of sweet and savoury pastries, all of them made lovingly by hand at L’Opera. My tea began with a small cup of steaming asparagus soup, topped with a divinely soft puff pastry. The tray followed shortly after, containing a filet mignon crostini, a stuffed mushroom, lobster vol au vent, quail egg and pork mini-pie, liver pat é gougère and a mini brie and chive scone. The sweet items included a chocolate strawberry perched in a honeycomb toffee basket, a macaron, crème caramel, a forêt-noire mini, tiramisu and matcha opera cake, a French cake made with layers of almond sponge soaked in coffee syrup. It was quite the feast and one that’s best savoured slowly and shared in good company.
As of February 6, London Heritage Farm (6511 Dyke Rd., (604) 271-5220) re-opens on weekends and with it, the heritage tea room in this historical home. London Lady Tea is the house blend, arriving with a home-baked scone with jam made on-site, and three other sweet items that change daily. Diners sip tea from fine bone china teacups and alternative beverages such as coffee, juice and hot chocolate are also available.