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King Edward Hotel - Afternoon Tea + photos

After a very pleasant High Tea experience in Hong Kong (at the Peninsula Hotel), I finally got around to trying a local Afternoon Tea purveyor. I settled on King Edward Hotel on King Street, as the location brings many fond memories of past significant events.

My SO and I decided to sample the gamut of offerings by sharing the King's Tea (finger sandwiches: egg salad with pommery mustard and arugula, duo of smoked salmon and lemon shrimp, turkey waldorf with sun dried fruits, cucumber cream cheese and coriander cress; selection of delicate pastries: lemon blueberry meringue tartlet, passion fruit mascarpone cheese cake, queen of hearts raspberry sandwich cookie, lavender honey scented madeleine, chocolate pistachio ribbon square; current scones with devonshire cream and strawberry preserves; choice of premium tea from our humidor: we selected the King Edward Blend - floral jasmin and Ceylon blended with the malty character of Yunnan, finished with a sprinkling of rose petals), and the Ploughman's High Tea (pate en croute, savoury sandwich selection, aged tuxford cheddar with raisin walnut crisp bread, Scotch egg with Branston pickle, warm tourtiere, choice of tea: Golden Assam is the one we chose - second flush, large-leaf golden-tipped Assam produces a full-bodied cup with a copper liquor noted for its lively character and distinctly malty flavour - this was their marketing description, not my own).

The atmosphere of the dining hall was excellent, as the ceilings were high and the space well lit by natural light streaming through the sun-roof (sittings are in the hotel lobby). The sandwiches were nice and light - though I would have preferred less usage of mayonnaise throughout. The desserts were their strong point (the lemon tartlet was sweet, yet pucker-inducing), and the scones with cream divine (though I would have preferred an artisan's local jam, or preserve as opposed to the mass-produced Swiss offering of Hero).

However, the Ploughman's version left something to be desired. The tourtiere was a bit tough and chewy and the cheese presented was a very plain, non-aged cheddar. I would have preferred something a bit sharper. The Scotch egg had a crust that was soggy, dense and flavourless (perhaps it just wasn't to my liking).

High Tea: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...
Close-up of Desserts: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...
Ploughman's: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...
Seating Area: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...

The teas, unfortunately, were a bit of a letdown. I sampled a rose-scented tea in Hong Kong and was blown away by its subtle floral aroma. I could drink that tea all day long without being bored. However, I found that the K.E blends were very robust (for my tastes) and left me quite parched, probably from the high caffeine content. Perhaps my tastes were nurtured alongside more Asian tea blends, such as floral jasmine and chrysanthemum, or Ceylons, Genmaicha and Sencha - so I am most likely biased since I was not raised on more traditional British blends.

Overall, their classic tea remains their strong suit, though the variety was a pleasant addition with the introduction of the Ploughman's option. For taste alone, I would not order the Ploughman's again, but for the sake of diversity, I would order it again - who knows, maybe it was just an off-day?

What are people's thoughts on the best Afternoon Tea venues of the city? The next on my list to try is Windsor Arms, followed by the Park Hyatt. Any other suggestions? The emphasis for me would be the decor/atmosphere as I like to lounge for a few hours while sipping on my tea. Thank you in advance.

Cheers and Happy Eating!

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  1. Good post, thanks BokChoi. I really enjoy The Windsor Arms high tea, and have been a few times. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on it as compared to the King Edward's. Judging from the pictures alone, I would have to say WA's serves a more elegant selection. Besides that, their scones are wicked good!!!

    1 Reply
    1. re: millygirl

      Thanks millygirl, I'll post my photos once I get around to trying it - though I think I'll be all Tea-d out for a while (LOL)! I'm still searching for that great-tea-experience that will live up to Peninsula (live string music, white-gloved service, usage of actual silverware - I was actually shocked to see that K.E. used very basic ceramics/porcelains and not actual silverware. Not in the least impressed). One unexpected highlight of the Peninsula's version was the inclusion of a delicious 'frozen tiramisu'. Excellent contrast to the other offerings in terms of temperature and texture.

    2. Interesting. My only experience was at the Royal York and it rated a resounding meh. I think I am not an Afternoon Tea sort of person.

      3 Replies
      1. re: mogo

        agreed - I would have to say that there was a time when I would have definitely found high tea to be a let-down. I think I've developed a hankering for it now though! I basically just go as an excuse to sit somewhere with a nice atmosphere and chat for 3 hours without feeling rushed. Though good food is also on my list of criteria!

        1. re: BokChoi

          I haven't had high tea in ages, last time was at The Four Seasons in Yorkville, can't comment because it was so long ago. The best high tea we've had was in Maui at The Sheraton. It was so good that we remember it to this day.

          The Ploughman's version didn't look all that great, sorry you did not enjoy it either. I would love to try High Tea again in Toronto, however my husband has a GI-normous appetite and it would not suit him at all ...LOL. He would go and enjoy it just for me, but it would not fill him up!

          As always, beautiful pics. Bokchoi? Do you get the same stares as I do when I take my camera out and start snapping away? I did this when we visited Chicago and had deep dish for the first time. I actually talked back to the customers at their remarks!

          1. re: red dragon

            Yes, I would agree that Maui would probably have a nice atmosphere (white sands, cool ocean breeze...LOL), but alas, I am stuck here in the great, cold north! I actually don't get too many stares when I whip out the camera (as well, it's more common now than when I upgraded my camera a few years back). Thank goodness - I actually get a few kitchen tours as a result - my most recent one being at WD~50 in NYC. I got to meet Chef Wiley, which was a great highlight of the trip. Could also be a combo of my inquisitive mind with respect to ingredients and preparation method alongside the copious amounts of picture-taking though...I have photos posted from that tour as well. Thanks for the compliments re: photos. I'm glad they're appreciated. I'll keep it up!

            Too bad about those sitting around that didn't appreciate your photo taking - do you tend to use flash? I try not to, so maybe I'm a bit under the radar...But at a pizza joint...it's not like you're destroying the atmosphere or anything... strange

      2. I have been to the Four Seasons afternoon tea twice this year. The first time was with 15 girls for a bachelorette party, the second time was with my family for Father's Day. I love it there. The teas are hit and miss, but the food is amazing and the service is awesome. I really like the fact that they are okay with people being vegetarian (the veggie sandwiches are just as good if not better than the meat/seafood ones). They even served sparkling fruit water one time I was there (on the house)! I highly recommend it. Go hungry.

        2 Replies
        1. re: canadianbeaver

          Canadianbeaver - how much was the Four Seasons afternoon tea? From their website, the tea was held in the lobby bar then?

          1. re: jennjen18

            It was $30/person. They held it in the front bar, not the main restaurant. They close the whole thing off for afternoon tea. It's really pretty.

        2. I have heard the Sutton Place Hotel does a wonderful tea, the Old Mill does one with great scenery and if you do not mind driving I love going for tea at the Doctor' house (on Saturday's you can watch the bride and grooms getting ready for the chapel ceremonies throughout the gardens) in schomburg after an outting to the McMicheals gallery.

          4 Replies
          1. re: smr714

            Thanks everyone for the suggestions. I'll put it on my list to sample.

            1. re: BokChoi

              Just my usual note: High Tea is the working class Englishman's supper meal: strong tea, lashings of bread and jam, with eggs or side meat or some other stick to the ribs dish, served without ceremony as in effect a family meal. Afternoon Tea or just "Tea" is what this thread is really about, and what the various venues written about attempt - more and less successfully - to charge a great deal of money for !

              1. re: Bigtigger

                that is why the High tea is correctly the protein-rich and rustic "Ploughman's" one.

            2. re: smr714

              Quick correction -- the Doctor's House is in Kleinburg, not Schomburg.

            3. I'm not an afternoon tea expert, but I do enjoy going. I've been to a few around the city.

              I wasn't that impressed with the tea at the King Eddy. The first time I went, the food was fine. The second time, the KE served their Christmas themed tea menu and it was horrible and the service was appalling. We sat in the cordoned lobby area both times and the atmosphere wasn't relaxing.

              Four Seasons has I think, a better enclosed space, but I haven't been too impressed with their food. The first time we were served less than fresh food (think mold). The staff immediately replaced the entire tiered tray with a fresh offering (which unfortunately also was less than fresh). Third time was a charm and the manager offered a bottle of champagne for our troubles. Service is attentive, that's undeniable and they do have the flowering teas.

              Park Hyatt is great. I've been a few times. It's a nice space and servers are friendly. The pastries are not as good as I've had elsewhere but the sandwich offerings seem fine. It's a laid back feel and I've always enjoyed my experiences there.

              I wasn't that impressed with Windsor Arms. The staff were a little condescending in that they felt we needed to be coached on the proper tea to select. I don't mind receiving a recommendation, but do not appreciate when my own choice is looked at with some mild derision. The food was okay, nothing spectacular.

              Red Tea Box offers a more hearty type of bento box style tea. It's interesting to try if you want something beyond convention. While some comment that the space is cutesy and eclectic, I personally find it uncomfortable to relax and sit in. Also, I've walked into the shop a few times and can swear that I've gotten the look where the person giving me the look seems to think that I'm going to abscond with one of her cupcakes. Call me nutty, but I don't really enjoy being treated as if I'm a criminal in an establishment.

              The tea at the Royal York is average, nothing fantastic. It's spacious and comfortable but there's not much more to be said about it other than we were given a tour of the rooftop herb garden.

              1 Reply
              1. re: daeira

                Thanks Daeira, I will try to check out some of your recommendations the next time I have a craving for afternoon tea. Cheers

              2. I've been reading some of your posts since I'm looking for a place in downtown to have afternoon tea and lots of authentic Chinese food in Markham/Richmond Hill area. Your posts are not only enjoyable but also really helpful esp. to someone like me who only gets to come to Toronto once a year or once every two years and is not familiar with the current food scene in GTA.

                This year we're bringing DH's parents with us from New York again. Last time in 2006 I took my mother-in-law to Windsor Arms for afternoon tea and she loved it thanks to many helpful hounds here. It was her first English afternoon tea and she really enjoyed it so I want to take her to another English afternoon tea this year. I was going to repeat the experience at Windsor Arms but I heard they had made changes to their tea room in decor and food receipes for the worse, unfortunately.

                The other option I didn't get to try last time I was in town was the King Edward and after reading your post here it got me really interested. However, couple issues concern me and I hope you or the hound here can help me. First, mother-in-law had teeth implants done couple weeks ago and can not wear dentures for a little while and really can't chew food. She would have problem eating sandwiches. At Windsor Arms they have a cream tea option where only sweet are served and she can handle that. Does King Edward have such an option? The second concern is about the restaurant being closing for lunch and dinner until 9-2-08 but they're still serving breakfast and afternoon tea. I found this out from their recording when I called around noon on a weekday. There was no live person to answer the phone and people who want to make reservation for afternoon have to leave name and phone number. Did anyone had gone thru this? I wonder if they are having a staffing issue and that might affect the quality of the food/services. Are they having a strike? This would be the only non-authentic Chinese meal I can take my parents-in-law to and unfortunately for my mother-in-law she will be eating mostly soup, tofu, congee and fish for the rest of the trip so I want to make sure her only non-Chinese meal is an enjoyable one. Thanks in advance, Bok Choi and hounds.

                6 Replies
                1. re: eatingpal

                  Hi eatingpal,

                  Thank you for your kind words. For some unknown reason, I actually took photos of the menu (though they are not of high quality - I had intended to just take the photo to help myself remember what I ate that day). I have posted them here so you can take a look to see if anything interests you (strangely enough, they offer a 'Chinese Tea' that includes little 'dim sum'-like dishes. Personally, I would not risk it, because I would not think that they specialize in creating asian dishes. But who knows?)

                  Menu 1: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...
                  Menu 2: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...
                  Menu 3: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...

                  I have relatives that went recently to Windsor Arms and they loved it there - however, they have not been to another afternoon tea anywhere else - so I am not sure if they can rate it comparatively. Nor can I say anything definitively about WA since I, myself, have not dined there. I will try to go by year-end though. They told me that the food there was top-notch.

                  I called the main hotel line and had no problems being patched through to the dining room that holds the afternoon tea event. I would recommend making a reservation in advance since it appears there may only be one seating per afternoon. The restaurant is closed during the summer months.

                  I would say that the food is not stellar at the King Edward - it is just an enjoyable meal to sit down, relax and chat amongst friends. I am not really looking for good food (emphasis is not on food, but rather atmosphere/decor) when I go to afternoon tea, so it met my expectations. The service is not top-notch, but then again, I wanted to be left alone so that I could relax and chat for the afternoon (they arrived to fill water periodically, which was all I desired - so once again, met my expectations).

                  I hope you do enjoy it, but I really do not want yourself and your family to put all your hopes up on this one meal. I just want you to go in with your expectations in the right place. Hope this post is of some assistance.

                  Cheers and Happy Eating!

                  1. re: BokChoi

                    Sad to say Toronto has nothing like tea at Hong Kong's peninsula. IMHO the closest I have found locally is the Prince of Wales in NOTL - no string orchestra but pretty surroundings, very relaxed service and good selection of scones, sandwiches, sweets and real clotted cream. I like their tea with the cheese and champagne!

                    1. re: JToronto

                      I always walk past it, but I never made my way in (for tea that is - I have tried the dinner and it has gone downhill since a year or so ago). Thanks for the review. I will try it out the next time I go to NOTL.

                      1. re: BokChoi

                        Boy I didn't realize there were all these high teas in Toronto. I was gonna go to King Edward one time, but then change of plans.

                        I will definitely read this post more carefully and pick one.

                    2. re: BokChoi

                      Greetings! Bok Choi,

                      A very nice lady from the hotel called me back the next day and explained the menu to me which was just how you described it. I asked her if they serve a sweet only tea and the answer was no. She suggested that we ordered two king's tea and two extra pots of tea for $6 each. This sounded good to me since DH doesn't eat sweet so it would actually work out for us. Everytime we had tea at Windsor Arms DH left the sweet almost untouched while ate more than his share of savory. We always ended up leaving a lot of food at WA so sharing makes sense. I also asked the lady about the restaurant being closed for the summer and she assured me it's due to the slow summer season and not a strike. I am weary of hotel strikes because it seems to happen to me in whenever I am staying or visiting in Toronto.

                      We don't go to afternoon tea expecting great food. This is one of the reasons why DH always resists going to afternoon tea. He doesn't think it's a good value for the quality of food we get for afternoon tea but to please the two important women in his life he compromises once or twice a year. However, he does enjoy the relaxing atmosphere and the usual attentive but un-intrusive services. I love taking girlfriends to afternoon tea. It's such a perfect setting for friends catching up and food isn't as important as atmosphere for gathering like this where topic of conversation is juicier than the food. I'm not comparing food quality of afternoon tea to food quality for a regular meal in a restaurant but I do want to know if it's a true representative of the afternoon tea they serve at King Eddie and not a level down due to the summer restaurant closing or short staffing, esp. I only get to try it once a year or so.

                      We arrived after 3:30pm on a Saturday and saw most of the sittings in the lobby taken. The lobby was quite noisy with a lot of people standing around so we opted for the restaurant when the nice hostess offered the choice. The setting inside the restaurant was tranquil and more suitable for taking tea. We're glad we're sitted inside instead of lobby. As soon as we sit down we noticed the pretty Wedgewood china on the table. Not knowing if the parents-in-law would like or could eat the food I took them to dim sum/congee for lunch first so they wouldn't go hungry if the food doesn't please their palates. The waiter suggested we order more later if we didn't feel it's enough so we started with two king's tea and two extra pots of tea just as the lady on the phone suggested since the in-laws were still stuffed from lunch. It turned out to be plenty of food for us with some sweet left on the plate.

                      The tea arrived first and we waited for the staff to pour at least the first cup but no one did. We're a bit disappointed. This is the first time no one poured the first cup for us in a upscale setting like this. I do not expect a white glove service and tea being poured for every cup but everywhere we went like Lady Mendl's, St. Regis in NYC and even Windsor Arms would at least pour the first cup. The waiter at King Eddie simply set down the tea pots and left us. He didn't tell us if the tea was ready for pouring or offered to pour. Taking tea is different than dining in a restaurant IMHO it's more like being invited in someone's house and guests and hosts should act accordingly, at least not so business like. A gracious host would always pour tea for his guests. Has pouring the first cup fallen out of fashion?

                      The food was pretty much presented the same way with no explanation of what sandwiches and sweets were being offered. I had to ask the waiter if scones presented were of the same flavor and his answer was yes even two were dusted with powder sugar and others weren't. We noticed one particular staff abrupt and rougher than other waiters but he did what was required of him and no more.

                      I will not go into details about food since Bok Choi had described it and she did it rather well. The only thing I would add was the sandwiches were enjoyable with one exception. I got one piece that was rather dry. Other sandwiches tasted fresh but this particular piece stood out so much because the bread was so dry it was probably a leftover from the day before. I could even tell this by looking at the bread since the corners sort curled up and the color of bread a bit lighter than others. That was the only bad piece and everything else was fine. The kitchen staff probably got this old piece mixed in by mistake but it was disappointing that this could happen in a hotel like this. The scones were not remakable but ok. I like flakier version but that's just a personal preference. Sweets were as what Bok Choi described and I found the cookies tough and not really fresh. The food overall was not on par with other afternoon tea I had but passable except for that dry piece of sandwich.

                      We tried 4 different teas: Jasmin, Lemon Verbena, Lady Grey and Dajeerling. Lady Grey was a let down. It wasn't that fragnant. The gentlemen made no remarks on their Jasmin or Dajeerling tea so I guess they were fine. However, mother-in-law loved her Lemon Verbena tea and could not stop talking about it. Perhaps we're more critical on tea since we drink a lot of it.

                      Overall the food was passable and the service good. The wait staff did come over from time to time to add more hot water in the pots without us asking or being instrusive which we like. Except for not pouring us the first cup of tea the service was fine. We really enjoyed our time there. The setting was nice and relaxing. If we return it will be for the elegant yet relaxing atmosphere, not for the food. For afternoon tea the setting plays a more critical role for us and good food is just icing on the cake. Perhaps the food did suffer from the closing of the restaurant during summer but we will not find out. I think I will go back to Windsor Arms next time and I hope it will be as enjoyable as the pre-renovation time. Comparing my previous experiences at Windsor Arms to Hotel King Eddie I prefer Windsor Arms. The food quality and services at Windsor Arms exceeded Hotel King Eddie and the setting was more intimate and a little bit better at least pre-renovation when I was there in summers of 2004, 2005 and 2006. With this said I would not hesitate to try King Eddie again. The setting was pleasant and it was time well spent in a lovely summer afternoon at King Eddie. Bok Choi, thanks very much for your assistance. It took a lot of guess work out of this one for me.

                      1. re: eatingpal

                        You are most welcome, eatingpal. I am glad that my posts have helped you. I am happy to hear you were not too disappointed and that you and your family had a pleasant experience. I will do my utmost to keep up the level of my posts and hopefully they can assist you again in the future. Based on your comments, I will most definitely try to head over to Windsor Arms next time I have a hankering for afternoon tea.

                        Cheers and Happy Eating

                  2. I went this past Sunday to the afternoon tea at the Royal York. It includes a tour of the rooftop garden and bee "farm". The food was atroscious. The sandwiches were horrible and the desserts were boring. The tour was rather strange, too. You couldn't go close to the bees, and the tour guide was the sous-chef, and he seemed nervous and unknowledgable. None of the others in my party had been to high/afternoon tea before, and I was sad that this was their first experience. I would never go back.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: canadianbeaver

                      Sorry to hear about the poor performance of Royal York. Glad I can learn from it though.

                      Cheers and thanks for the review.

                      1. re: canadianbeaver

                        Thanks for the report! However, I'm stuck with a gift card from the Royal York that a friend gave me to use specifically for tea. I've never had afternoon tea in Toronto, so now I'm reluctant to have it @ the Royal York.

                        1. re: Tabinet

                          Everything tastes better when it's free - I'm sure you'll have a good time!

                      2. I just went here a couple weeks a go for my birthday thing... and I was pretty disappointed ): I liked the little sandwiches and the tea was just kind of alright... I was expecting a lot of the pastries but the lemon curd in the lemon tart had a fishy taste to it, the pistachio square was.... to put it bluntly... nobody finished theirs.... and the madeleine was chalky. I did like the mascarpone cake and the cookie was nice and light, the scones were also warm and lovely. They also wrote in chocolate on one of the plates "Happy Birthday Katie!!" with cute exclamation marks with hearts as the points... the one problem is... my name isn't Katie. It was nice though and my friends had a good laugh about it. So all in all... tea was just alright, the only other thing would have been that I wished they sat us in the lobby, but we got stuck in the actual Cafe Victoria instead.. even though I did ask them when I made reservations to be seated in the lobby.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: moonflow

                          Try this http://www.cuppa.ca/teashop.htm in Markham - huge selection of teas.
                          Everyone dressed in costume.

                          1. re: moonflow

                            moonflow. I would agree that King Edward is not the place to go if you want good food. Also, if you were in the restaurant, that removes the grandeur of the local as well (which is the only reason I went). If you like good food with your tea, do give C5 a try. You have to keep in mind that tea is not generally known for tasting good, but C5's version is as good as any meal I would be willing to pay for.

                            Sorry to hear you had a disappointing birthday experience.


                          2. Lovely to see that people in the area enjoy a little high tea here and there. I do too! I went to the Royal York about 5 years ago when they had a promotion for the Princess Diana exhibit that was town at the time. I really admired the silver wear and pastries, little creme puffs shaped like swans.

                            I treated my Mom to the High Tea service at the Dorchester in London this spring when she came to visit me as I had been living there for about a year. They didn't arrange everything on the tiered platter, which kind of bummed me out... however the service was impeccable and they walked around with trays of finger sandwiches to replenish your fine china plate throughout the majority of the service.
                            I also had a service at a smaller cafe in High Kensington which was less formal but fun no less.

                            Wanting to go again this year for my birthday I have decided on the King Eddy, mainly because the menu had what sounded good to me and it is somewhat traditional there which is what appeals to me. Thanks for posting your pics of what you had and the menus! I am also tempted to get the Ploughmans in addition to the Kings choice, will let you know if it was an off day for you depending if I have a big breakfast that day or not ;)

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: mellecat


                              I hope you enjoy your birthday celebration at King Edward. I am sure the quality of the baked goods/ tea won't measure up to London, but the atmosphere is quite nice there. Make sure you are seated in the Foyer to fully enjoy the space/atmosphere of K.E. I just want you to have your expectations in check before heading there - I prefer to have a pleasant atmosphere rather than stellar food when I have tea. I have very low expectations when it comes to food at these places. If you keep this in mind, I am sure you will have a wonderful time. I am glad the photos helped you to decide on a venue. Please do report back! Have you had a chance to read the entire thread in its entirety? I want you to have a well-rounded opinion going into your meal.

                              Cheers and Happy Birthday!