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Disappointingly Unspectacular Tea at the Four Seasons: what to do ?

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Since an out-of-town colleague wanted to meet with an associate from Hamilton and me within a fairly tight time frame today, we settled on getting together for Tea at the Four Seasons at 4:00 pm

Our well-situated table was reserved as requested by phone; and when two of us had gathered we were asked our preferences by a pleasant, but not very adept in English, waiter. Shortly after, our teapots arrived - the brew was not piping hot to start with, seemed somewhat watery even after steeping, and were not refilled with hot water until we asked (this involved catching one of the two busy staff's eyes). Curiously, the second infusion of hot water seemed to produce a stronger tea. Go figure. A hotel like the FS should have staff hovering to provide more boiling water as required.

The rest of the offerings, presented all at once on an étagère, were reasonably good, but certainly nothing either memorable or spectacular. (NB: ordering tea for two plus a pot for the third person provided plenty of food, with leftovers.) Top tier: sandwiches, the best of the food - moist, fresh, tasty - cucumber, beef, cheese, etc. Not too fussy. Middle tier: generous assortment of mini tartlets and small patisseries - the chocolate one was outstanding, the berry ones pleasant, the cheesecakey ones blah. Bottom tier: scones. (A very mini portion of whipped clotted cream, not the real Devonshire plentifully available in Toronto, plus two jam jars, were served on a separate plate.) To me, it is INEXCUSABLE that a hotel of the FS' standing does not present scones warmed, in a basket covered with napery to keep them hot. The scones were delicious and light - but would have been better served separately and warm at the stage when they were to be consumed. It is also INEXCUSABLE at $29.00 or whatever to offer a tiny ramekin of some whipped cream in lieu of the real thing, Devonshire or clotted cream.

The check came quickly once I could catch a waiter's eye. I did not raise the above issues with them, or seek a manager, due to the presence of our out-of-town colleague. But I am disappointed. We had a run-of-the-mill tea shop, not a Four Seasons, experience. Anyone have similar experiences ? Is it worth writing the Manager of the Hotel ?

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  1. It's always worth sending your feedback. When I had afternoon tea there in March, the sandwiches were getting dry on the edges from being exposed to air for too long. I didn't complain but I wish I had! I was so unimpressed with the experience. I've had much better food at afternoon tea at Windsor Arms.

    1. I'd send in the feedback to the manager of the hotel, then make a reservation at the King Eddy....

      1. Your tea at the FS sounds better than mine was at the Ritz in London in May. I had a good time because of the surroundings, etc., but the food was blah at best and the scones were not warmed either. Service and the actually tea were excellent though.

        1. I think it's worth sending feedback, if only because Four Seasons Hotels is both a local company and extremely (if not pretentiously) proud of their image as "the best of the best".

          Why not write to both Issy Sharp, the CEO, and Lynn Crawford, the very high profile executive chef?

          Having said that, we have had tea there exactly twice in the last decade, both times more than five years ago. Our experience was similar to yours both times. There was lukewarm tea that was not as good as we were told it would be, and that wasn't refilled without a hassle, stale sandwiches that had been sitting out under plastic wrap, room temperature scones that paled in comparison to those at Mildred Pierce, banal desserts, and a small serving of ordinary whipped cream. Service was perfunctory when it was possible to even get service. Our guests (visiting from the States) were suitably impressed, but we felt quite ripped off and have never been tempted to go back. Methinks this may be as it always is, alas.

          1 Reply
          1. re: embee

            Don't bother writing a letter to Lynn Crawford, she is too,too busy doing personal PR to answer I'm sure.(does she actually have time to run that kitchen??) I had tea there 5 years ago and it was the same(maybe the same people working there?? lol) Also I heard Lynn is going to New York as the executive chef. Poor,poor Manhattan...

          2. NOt exactly downtown, but next time, meet your Hamilon associate in Hamilton (believe it or not) at Vintage Tea House on Locke St. I was there yesterday - everything was perfect (except the service -they were a little overwhelmed, it wasn't bad, just not as perfect as the rest of the experience) & $16 / person (a steal if you ask me). Amazing scones, fresh Devonshire cream, excellent jam, fresh and tasty sandwiches & wonderful tea. It's also served in vintage tea pots and cups which I thought was lovely. The tables are all antique dining tables with lovely table cloths. The only thing missing decor-wise was linen napkins. The paper ones seemed really out of place. They've just moved into a cute little Victorian house so the atmosphere is not fancy, but definately comfortable & charming. Make reservations as it can get really busy & is not a big place.

            1. The whole fancy hotel afternoon tea thing strikes me as selling an experience, with the actual details never measuring up to the price. The best way to get great tea and clotted cream is probably at home. Although I was once served scones and Devonshire cream on a BA flight back from London - that made a life-long impression!

              1 Reply
              1. re: julesrules

                Yes! Us too! That blew us away (internal BA flight after the long and awful international air canada flight)... It's amazing what makes an impression - it doesn't take much - it just has to be well-executed...

              2. chiming in to say that i've had a similar experience at the FS, albeit it's been a few years now. since then, i've never had the desire to go back. i found both windsor arms and king eddie to be better.