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C5 – a room with a view and Afternoon Tea too (lengthy review + pics)

I have been out of touch with the Chowhound community over the past week, as both work, and my SO coming to town took up much of my time – many apologies! But onto a new posting that I’ve been slowly building over the week each time my SO had been occupied (so it may be a bit disjointed)…

The SO was back in town and requested yet another afternoon tea excursion. As such, I decided to try the newly created C5 offering. Priced at $25, it was one of the more affordable (ever so slightly) options. I thought I should take a chance at a slightly less conventional space, as I figured they would attempt to compensate for their lack of a typical afternoon tea atmosphere with above par food. As well, since they had just recently started offering afternoon tea, they would probably try hard to establish a name for themselves.

(The outside of the restaurant: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

)

We made a reservation about ½ a week in advance and were able to secure a space. They offer tea sittings between the hours of 3 and 5pm, Thursday through Saturday. There seemed to be a number of seats still available the Saturday we attended afternoon tea, so it appears that a reservation would not be that difficult to secure.

I have been to C5 on a previous occasion when they first opened for lunch and was quite impressed. This gave me comfort over the quality of the food coming from the kitchen. The menu consisted of the following items:

• Chanterelle & cave aged gruyere quiche
• Dungeness crab and wasabi finger sandwiches
• Duck confit & citrus cured foie gras profiterole.
• Green tea sponge cake with butter cream icing and pistachios
• Honey pink peppercorn madelines
• Cranberry scones with clotted cream and homemade preserves
(menu: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

)

Along with your finger foods, you have a selection of teas by Mighty Leaf. The selection during my visit can be found at this link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

At first when I saw the mock-ups of the proposed building design, I was not very impressed. I felt that it was going to mar the beautiful ROM, and become yet another one of those ‘over-designed’ modern, dated pieces that would eventually become an eyesore as tastes evolved. However, I would have to say the design has grown on me and now I love the additional light that has infused the once dark and dull interior of the ROM. I was apprehensive of the tea room itself, as it is the restaurant space and I have visited it on a previous occasion and I could not see it lending well to the relaxed atmosphere I generally seek out when having my afternoon tea. I worried that the sharp edges, tightly spaced tables, modern (read stylish, slim and not lounge-y in the least) chairs and tables would become uncomfortable all too soon, thus not allowing us to soak in the sunlight and immerse ourselves in conversation for 3hrs, as we did at King Edward. But I ventured to take a chance, as I figured this was probably as good as they’d ever be, as they were on the top of their game in trying to build a solid reputation. Windsor Arms would always be around…

The restaurant space itself: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

The afternoon experience began with a ‘full-sized’ quiche. This course came alone and was served alongside a nice mesclun mix with a subtle citrus dressing. The quiche was excellent – the egg was fluffy and light, with a creamy texture from the cheese. The crust was really a stand-out - light, like a phylo/puff pastry. It was handled deftly and I would have ordered this on another occasion on its own. The salad was dressed with a very light citrus vinaigrette and was a fresh compliment to the more savoury quiche. This dish was an eye-opener and a hint of things to come. I was very pleasantly surprised by the size of it, as I was used to the miniscule servings at other afternoon teas that were not ‘full meals’, but rather a ‘snack-sized’ meal. This set the tone, and my expectations for the rest of the meal. The plates utilized were also very nice and varied between diners. I enjoyed the variation as it went well with the museum ambiance.

Quiche photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

After the quiche, we were presented with our tea selections in a stainless steel, sleek, modern vessel. I ordered the Organic Mint Mélange, the SO had Chamomile Citrus – both were herbal selections, as we are trying to cut out caffeine from our diets. I was worried at first that the mint would be overpowering and interfere with the tastes of the snacks, but it sounded so unique that I just had to try it. In retrospect, I probably should have chosen something a little lighter and less aromatic, because my SO kept complaining that the scent of my tea interfered with their own tea’s scent and caused great confusion! The pots used were very modern and leant well to the surroundings and atmosphere. It was quite a departure from the usual, more traditional tea sets. It did not have a strainer though, neither inside, nor outside, to rest the tea bag in to prevent over steeping of the tea bag. However, the teas we selected were not overtly pungent, hence ours were not as affected as say a heartier Earl Grey may have been. Our teas did not become too strong over time, which was actually quite unexpected.

Tea: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

The towering platter of tea snacks came soon there afterwards. The plexiglass contraption was rather refreshing – quite a change from the more traditional silverware towers. However, the production quality of the tower itself left something to be desired – it appeared that it was slapped together by a group of 2nd year engineering students. But I am just being overly critical. It looked great against the immense windows and really complemented the feel of the room. A novel design that felt very organic.

Tea Tower: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Tea with a view: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

We began with the bottom tier: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

Because of the appearance of the lobster toastada, we were attracted to it first. This delicate wafer was topped with a very sweet piece of lobster. The lobster was excellently prepared – not overdone, nor rubbery in the least. It was moist and flavourful - a treat and quite an amuse. The caviar atop it did not add much unfortunately, but the silkiness of the avocado complimented the crunchiness of the toastada and the lobster quite nicely.
Lobster: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
(And yes N-dawg, it was as good as it looked

)

Next, we tried the foie gras and duck confit profiteroles. The profiterole had a nice texture – firm, and structured. The foie was very smooth and went well with the strands of confit. It was good, but not a great dish. Once again, I am analyzing this as a restaurant quality dish, and not an afternoon tea quality dish – these are two very different animals. Since the quiche elevated my expectations, I have decided to compare it to more worthy adversaries. If compared to other afternoon tea experiences I have had, it would blow the competition out of the water.

The last item on the bottom tier was a crab finger sandwich. Quite a departure from the usual ham and cucumber sandwich I usually get with my afternoon tea. This sandwich was possibly the highlight of the afternoon. The crab was very succulent and exceptionally sweet. There was a wasabi mayonnaise whose heat really brought a kick to the dish, and contrasted nicely to the crab’s inherent sweetness.

The second (middle) tier: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

First off were the scones. Upon my first taste of these scones, I found them to be a bit cakey and dry. They were definitely not the traditional scones in flavour, nor in taste. My SO, however, convinced me that this was an interesting departure and that if one does not bite into it expecting a scone, it was, on its own, quite a delight. I enjoyed the honey-sweet crust surrounding the scone, and the bits of dried fruit were nice as well. The clotted cream was much better than the King Edward version, and was nice and thick, as well as mildly sweet.

scone photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

The earl grey chocolate cakelet was nice and moist. I could not taste any tea “essence” if you will, but it was a nice dessert course. It was not very memorable, as I can barely recall it now while I am trying to write this review. I do not remember it being offensive, nor exceptional. Overall, it was still much better than any offerings from King Edward.

Lastly was the overly sweet pistachio, green tea sponge cake. I think there was too much cream atop too little cake. The sweetness thus became a bit overpowering. The pistachios added a nice textural element though. The tea flavour did not come through, as I believe the icing was too sweet, and the pistachios covered what remaining flavour the tea may have exuded.

green tea cake photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

Top Tier: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

Atop it all rested a Madeleine with pots of clotted cream and homemade preserves. The preserves were quite sweet, and very syrupy in consistency. I cannot recall what flavour we were offered, but it was quite sweet, with a touch of tartness. I was mostly surprised I think by the liquidy texture of the preserve, as it was difficult to ‘spread’ and would drip off the edge of the scones. This was a mild turnoff for me as a result, as it made it very sloppy to try and consume. The ‘drippings’ did create an elegant kaleidoscope on my plate once I done though! The Madeleine was very petit and was mildly sweet, though I would have to be honest and say I could not taste the supposed pink peppercorn flavour.

Overall, I was very impressed by the food offerings of C5’s afternoon tea. The teas themselves were also nice and light, though I would probably appreciate a strainer to remove my tea bag, just out of habit more so than the flavour becoming overpowering from the over-steeping. The modern stemware and silverware were also a welcome departure from the classics, as was the starkness of the room itself. Everything was very minimalist and pared-down, which I appreciated for a restaurant. However, this also lent to a rather ‘cold’ and unwelcome feeling, when compared with my more sumptuous surroundings of King Edward (my only other afternoon tea experience in Toronto). If I were in search for excellent food, I would no doubt head back to C5. However, I find that I am there as much for the ambiance, as the food – and as a result, the relaxed feel emanating from the comfy couches of more classic hotels would probably suit my tastes a bit better. I really enjoyed the 'experience' at the King Edward, personally preferring to place emphasis on the atmosphere more so than on the food. But to each their own, and if you are in search of superior food during your afternoon tea experience, look no further than C5 to fill your desires. I can only hope that the other more traditional spots take heed and elevate their culinary offerings to match that of C5, or at least make it a reason to indulge in afternoon tea. Great atmosphere and good food should not be two distinct subsets when it comes to afternoon tea – each should go hand in hand. We Torontonians should come to expect tasty food when we go to Afternoon tea – and we should demand this as a minimum. I welcome C5’s offerings with open arms and am excited to see if it makes its mark in Toronto. Traditional spots, such as the King Edward, have unfortunately become complaint over the years in Toronto. But they should beware, as a new thoroughbred has joined their ranks. And it looks like it’s in it to win.

Cheers and Happy Eating!

C5 Afternoon Tea (Thursday, Friday and Saturday only): 3 pm - 5 pm
Location: The ROM restaurants entrance, located on the west side of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal at Bloor and Avenue Rd.

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  1. Sounds nice. Did they offer any choice of the menu? Vegetarian options for the sandwiches?

    1 Reply
    1. re: ddelicious

      Hi ddelicious,

      They did not offer any choices on the menu that was provided, however, I am sure they can make accomodations for vegetarians if requested. It would be best to contact them though, as I am not sure.

      Cheers!

    2. That does sound rather lovely, re-interpreting tradition items and such. I also agree, the price is quite modest all things considered.

      My only afternoon tea experience thus far has been at the Four Seasons and I found it adequate at best. They are quite traditional in their menu (cucumber sandwiches etc.) which I have nothing against; however, the desserts were particularly bland and uninspiring.

      My next stop was going to be the King Eddy, but after this detailed post, I think I'll have to swing by C5.

      Thanks

      1. I didn't know they offered Afternoon Tea at C5 so thanks for that info. The price is actually quite reasonable. I agree that the space isn't quite what one would expect for a traditional type tea atmosphere. More modern and not so comfy. But I am still curious to try. The space is great for dinner, after the sun has set (and not shining in your eyes!), and drinks. I enjoyed my meal there when I went last year.

        16 Replies
        1. re: always_eating

          Hi Rudiger and always_eating,

          Glad my post was of some assistance - always interesting to see new offerings around the city. Please let us know what you think after your visits!

          Thanks for the comments on Four Seasons - I peaked in the window a couple of times when passing on street level, and it looked good. Your review now provides some context - so thank you, Rudiger.

          always_eating, the sun does get a bit harsh at times, but I love the sun - SO not so much. They also found it a touch toasty when we were dining there, guess it was the sun on their back. I found it perfectly acceptable - but I generally run a bit cooler.

          Cheers

          1. re: BokChoi

            Reporting back on my visit over the Holidays. I really wanted to like the Afternoon Tea at C5 but I have to say, I was disappointed. The problem was the portion size.

            For the savoury - two small profiteroles with two different fillings and a Chinese soup spoon filled with a smoked salmon combination (no bread or pastry with it). Even just one finger-sized sandwich would have made me happy! So obviously the portions were totally different from what you experienced (and photographed), BokChoi, in October.

            Same with the sweet - 2 small squares (I'm talking maybe an inch) and the madeleine. Again, nowhere near the sizes BokChoi experienced and posted pictures of.

            Thank goodness for the quiche, though. Or I would have been really starving by the end. I'm not sure if C5 was practicing portion control for us visitors over the Holidays, thinking we had eaten enough already - which I admit, I had! :) - or if they are trying to up their margins (as little as they can) on the food they are serving because of the economy, but I just expected more. So strange the difference between October and December!?

            As an aside, the picture of the Afternoon Tea at Langdon Hall for $27 p.p. on their website shows what we had last summer and it was more scones (2 each), actual finger sandwiches (again, I like a different take on an Afternoon Tea but give me something a little more substantial for a savoury) and a variety of nice sized sweets.

            http://www.langdonhall.ca/dining_tea.htm

            I'm still looking for my favourite Afternoon Tea place in Toronto...

            1. re: always_eating

              Weird, I ate there today and the portion size was the same as Bokchoi's photos...

              1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                That IS really weird! I guess we went on an off day? Just my luck!

                1. re: always_eating

                  hmm that is odd. i went today (sat) with a friend, and we had the same experience as you, always_eating.

                  our portion size was no where near the ones displayed on bok_choi's pictures. our sweets (brownie, and some type of ginger cake) were each about a square inch. for our savouries, we had 2 small profiteroles w/ dif. fillings and a soup spoon with salmon, etc. everything was tasty, but they did seem a bit small. maybe the quiche is supposed to make up for that?

                  it was a nice afternoon snack, but i wouldn't have minded some finger sandwiches either! :P

                  1. re: tygrr_lily

                    tygrr_lilly, did you guys not receive any finger sandwiches?

                  2. re: always_eating

                    always_eating,

                    That's too bad that the portions were not as you expected. When I look back at the photos, the ones I received were not too much larger than you described. I found myself satiated after the meal and was quite happy due to the overall quality of the dishes served. I was much happier with the food here than I was at King Eddie several months earlier. My only complaint was with the ambiance. Though it was modern and airy, I found it to be too noisy, cramped and rushed compared to some of the more traditional venues.

                    I'm surprised that both you and tygrr_lily did not receive any finger sandwiches. Have they changed their tea menu completely? Good thing that I went early on (I believe it started in August) before the alterations.

                    1. re: BokChoi

                      No, we didn't receive any finger sandwiches. I thought we would get at least one each. And the soup spoon thing was a little odd. The menu we received the day we visited was very different from what is posted on the C5 website. It wasn't the worst Afternoon Tea I've experienced, but it was definitely the smallest!

                      1. re: always_eating

                        i was expecting finger sandwiches as well after seeing your post and checking out the menu on the website, but we just had the small savoury profiteroles/puffs. notorious pig above says they received the same portion size as you yesterday, so i wonder if they alternate menus?

                        1. re: tygrr_lily

                          tygrr_lily and always_eating - that is quite strange indeed. I would say it was false advertising on their part if their online menu outlines a more vast offering than what you received. What was on your menu?

                          1. re: BokChoi

                            sorry in advance, because my descriptions are going to be very vague as this all from memory and my palette isn't as distinguished as yours :)

                            the quiche we had was the same one you had, i'm fairly certain

                            on the lower tier, we had a chinese soup spoon filled with a bit of salmon and fish eggs i think it was. there was also a bit of a horseradish taste. we also had a savoury profiterole/puff of what tasted like cheese and a bit of meat. the other had pickle and cheese in it

                            in the middle tier, we had a nutella brownie square and another small type of ginger cake. each of these desserts were a tiny one inch by one inch square. we also had currant scones that the waiter told us was the "best thing on the menu". at the top, was a small madeleine and the little pots of blueberry jam and clotted cream for the scones.

                            sorry my descriptions are so vague. everything was fairly tasty, but the menu was VERY different from what you describe. i have to say, your menu looks a lot better

                            1. re: tygrr_lily

                              tygrr_lily,

                              Thanks for the menu description. You are correct in that the menus sound quite different. They did not even have two tea menus on my visit several months ago. I wonder why they have decided to go that route - was your menu any cheaper? I certainly hope so.

                            2. re: BokChoi

                              tygrr_lily pretty well covered off what was on the menu we both seemed to experience. Definitely no lobster or crab in the savoury section. Both profiteroles had cheese, one with meat, the other I think without. No Green Tea sponge in the sweet section and the chocolate square may have been Earl Grey Chocolate but the portion was too small to really decipher.

                              1. re: always_eating

                                Maybe you guys should have gotten the "Diamond Tea?" The lobster and crab where included in that option as is Foie Gras. Sounds like you just ordered the "C5 Tea" option.

                                1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                  Actually, the "C5 Tea" option, according to the menu online, lists Lobster Tostada , Dungeness Crab & Wasabi Finger Sandwich and Duck Confit & Citrus Cured Foie Gras Profiterole under Savouries. So lobster, crab & foie gras are supposedly in both the "C5 Tea" and "Diamond Tea" options.

                                  1. re: always_eating

                                    I have known some online menus to be notoriously out of date. Was the hard copy menu presented the same as what was indicated on the online version? I too would have been quite disappointed if the food was as described. Not afternoon tea-worthy, that is for sure.

            2. Great review, as always! I am anxious to try this place out.

              This line:
              "However, the production quality of the tower itself left something to be desired – it appeared that it was slapped together by a group of 2nd year engineering students."

              ...made me laugh so much. My 2nd year engineering project featured a lot of Lexan too. :)

              1 Reply
              1. re: mogo

                Glad the review provided you with a good laugh - that was honestly the first thing that came to mind! Food and laughter - what honestly goes better together?

                Hope you enjoy it and do report back

                Cheers, mogo!

              2. That's a great review. I haven't been to C5 yet...do you think afternoon tea would be enough to get a feel of what C5 is about? Or would a proper dinner be better?

                8 Replies
                1. re: stonedtoronto

                  I have only been to C5 for the winterlicious when they first opened and then again for afternoon tea. Both times I was pleasantly surprised. The flavours were well composed and dishes well executed. However, I have not been as of late and cannot give an accurate review of their regular menu. Apologies.
                  I enjoyed my afternoon tea experience. Make sure you clarify which menu you order - there appears to be a slight discrepancy with the menus per the above conversation. I enjoyed myself, though I found the atmosphere to be a bit lacking compared to King Edward. The food was much better though.

                  Cheers!

                  1. re: BokChoi

                    I had tea there on Friday -- the $25 version -- and it was very good. The online menu is indeed not current -- the "sandwich" layer of our three tiers consisted of a ham and smoked gouda profiterole, and two squares of glazed puff pastry: one with smoked mackerel, and one with caramelized leek. The second tier held two scones (I agree, they're not what come to mind when I think of scones, but I preferred them -- much flakier and less doughy), an apple square and a brownie. On top were two bowls with pineapple preserve and devon cream. The portions sizes for these were really a bit ridiculous -- the devon cream was artfully balanced on the tinest possible dessert spoon inside the bowl, and there was only slightly more of the preserve. This was for two people. Come on, guys -- devon cream isn't *that* expensive! All the food was excellent and, though the portion sizes were small, the quiche starter was substantial enough that the meal felt balanced and sufficient. Service was prompt, efficient and friendly.

                    My only quibble would be that when I made the reservation, I requested a window table. Instead we were shown to a table in the middle of the room. When I asked if we could sit next to the window, the hostess said, "No, I'm afraid that isn't possible right now." I assumed that the empty window tables were reserved for others. However, they remained vacant the entire two hours we spent there! Who were they expecting, the Queen? *sigh* It would have been nice to be able to enjoy what was really a very nice experience without feeling slightly aggrieved. It would have cost the restaurant nothing to have accommodated our request, and would have bought a more than proportional amount of goodwill. Instead, it seemed purely capricious and a little insulting.

                    1. re: voracious

                      Your experience with the window table is pure crap. I can't believe they did that. I would have been really pissed.

                      1. re: JamieK

                        It's unfortunate, because otherwise I would have been back in a New York minute ... as it is, I'll probably hold off for a while. I have a membership to the ROM, so might have become a frequent customer. Maybe shoulda joined the AGO instead! :)

                      2. re: voracious

                        Voracious -

                        My one non-experience at C5 saw us receive the same treatment. We wanted to have cocktails and snacks on a Saturday afternoon. They were serving tea and we were told that we could not have a table unless we specifically ordered the tea menu. We were told the only place we could sit was in the dark bar area which was quite uninviting.

                        I get that they might want to free tables in the dining room for those focused primarily on eating, but the room was literally empty save one table. The hostess was really snotty about the whole thing and we went across the street to the Hyatt where we easily spent more than "tea for two" at C5 on drinks and snackies.

                        Turned me off completely and have had zero desire to go back.

                        1. re: Rabbit

                          Sorry you had that experience, Rabbit! It never feels good. However, thanks for the tip about the Park Hyatt, it's a good alternative.

                          1. re: Rabbit

                            Seems like a re-occurring issue with them. Hope someone from their team reads these boards and quickly remedies these faults before they turn off more potential customers. Sorry to hear you had a similar experience Rabbit.

                          2. re: voracious

                            Glad you enjoyed the food, but it's terrible that they treated you in such a way. Given that you are a VIP member on top of it all, they should at least have explained themselves to you if they had a legitimate reason for not accommodating your request. When I made a reservation that visit, they did warn me on the phone that they may not be able to provide a table by the window, but luckily I did get a seat there when I arrived. Strange that they left those prized seats vacant instead of trying to make their clients happy.