By Lori Bosworth
Torontonicity was invited to experience the King Edward Hotel’s Nutcracker Tea on Thursday, December 12, 2013. What a fabulous way to insert a pause in frenetic holiday activity by slowing down the pace to relax in the late 19th century historic hotel, named after Queen Elizabeth’s great grandfather, King Edward VII. Guests can enjoy their afternoon tea in Victoria’s dining room or in the hotel’s grand lobby next to a 25-foot Christmas tree. Not being able to resist dining by the majestic tree, we opted for the latter seating.
The King Edward’s Nutcracker Tea ($42) includes a selection of fine loose leaf teas, finger sandwiches, scones with Devonshire cream and strawberry jam and assorted festive pastries. For $52, you can also get a glass of sherry or Cuvee Catherine Rose Sparkling wine and if you really want to live it up, it will cost you $59 for afternoon tea with a glass of Moet & Chandon Brut champagne.
I started with the Mountain Berry loose leaf tea while my dining partner chose the Floral Jasmine loose leaf tea. The Mountain Berry tea has a rich aroma, which awakens the senses, of Saskatoon berries, currants, blueberries and raisins. The tea tasted more deeply fruity as I let it steep. The Floral Jasmine tea is a much more delicate blend providing a more subtle balance to the sandwiches and sweet tray. Other fine loose leaf teas available include Darjeeling, Spiced Chai, Earl Grey, Organic Green, English Breakfast, Organic Peppermint, Lemon Verbena, Lapsang Souchong and Golden Assam.
Each guest is then served a plate of finger sandwiches (after our server checked to see if we had any food allergies) including duck confit on cranberry sage stuffing, deviled chopped egg, lemon and dill crab with house-cured salmon, honey ham with pineapple chutney and Beef Wellington inspired pinwheel. My favourite sandwich was the Beef Wellington inspired pinwheel, which combined succulent beef on a puff pastry base. Not usually a fan of duck, I was surprised at the winning result when paired with cranberry sage stuffing. The flavours perfectly complemented each other.
Make sure you leave room for dessert because you are definitely going to want to try the homemade cranberry and citrus peel scones with Devonshire cream and strawberry jam. Having never tried Devonshire cream before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Imported from the Southwest region of England, the cream is a thick spread equivalent in texture to butter. By no means is Devonshire cream low in saturated fat, but this high-fat indulgence is definitely worth trying. And it’s really recommended that you put a dab of strawberry jam on your scones before topping them with the rich cream since they go together tremendously.
The piece de la resistance is the pastry dish! I dare you to finish them! Pastries include Sticky Carrot Toffee Pudding, Sherry Trifle Shooter, Apple Mincemeat Tartlet, Peppermint White Chocolate Mousse and Orange Infused Millionaire Shortbread. The sticky pudding was fabulous since the sweet toffee topping lent moistness to the drier pudding. I also enjoyed the tartlet whose delicate crust enclosed a fruity, not-too-sweet filling. The sherry trifle shooter featured fresh blackberries, raspberries and blueberries coated with a white chocolate topping. Also delicious!
Listening to classic Christmas songs by Bing Crosby and Andy Williams while enjoying our traditional afternoon tea in the lobby of this vintage hotel full of history took us back a step in time to Christmases long ago. If you’re looking for things to do in Toronto at Christmas, the King Edward Hotel’s Nutcracker Tea should be high on your list.
Nutcracker Tea is available at the King Edward Hotel, 37 King Street East until December 31, 2013 (Dec. 24 and 25, 2013 excluded). Call 416-863-4106 to reserve.