Afternoon Delight: Top High Tea Restaurants

Whether it’s the iconic three-tiered silver tray with canapés and white-glove service or something fresh like al fresco iced brews and a “TeaJ” in lieu of a harp, afternoon tea is getting pinkies and thumbs up. Boston Public Library has even gone so far as to cancel its lunch service to make space for sippers all week long, and dads can get in on the game with boozy brews and heavier snacks like s’mores with maple-smoked bacon at another seaside hotel in that historic city. Blame it on an urge to celebrate British traditions with all of this Brexit talk — the union of savory and sweet in the afternoon will always win on this side of the pond at one of these top high tea restaurants.

The Courtyard Restaurant at the Boston Public Library, Boston, Massachusetts
Tea is just as much a feast for the eyes as the stomach at Boston Public Library, where the historic McKim Building, circa 1895, was declared a U.S. national historic landmark in 1986. The Courtyard Restaurant overlooks an open-air Italianate courtyard with a vaulted ceiling and ornate chandelier originally installed over a grand staircase in the 1950s, and the aesthetic was completed with the installation of a marble floor in the nineties. “Enjoying tea in the restaurant is transportive,” says manager Akiko Yamagata. “Sitting in the serene dining room in a historic building, one’s imagination takes hold, into a different time and its customs — just like reading a captivating novel.” The extensive menu — which changes several times a year — is just as captivating and features blends from Massachusetts-based outfit MEM Tea Imports, including the popular Wedding Blend, a fruity, flowery, and herbaceous green. Make a reservation at The Courtyard Restaurant at the Boston Public Library.

High Tea Restaurants

 Pavilion at The Langham, Chicago, Illinois
Pavilion at the Langham in Chicago, truly brings a tradition from across the pond to the shores of Lake Michigan with its Afternoon Tea with Wedgwood — which first debuted at the Langham in London in 1865. Sweet and savory bites like artichoke and melted leek quiche, a grilled asparagus sandwich with petite lettuce salad, pickled mustard seeds, and fresh ricotta, lemon-cherry scones with grapefruit marmalade and blackberry jam, and chocolate verrine with dark chocolate brownie and milk chocolate mousse are served much the same way they were more than a century ago. The Pavilion serves up 25 blends including five blends exclusive to the Langham, including a fruity rhubarb for kids. Make a reservation at Pavilion at The Langham.

High Tea Restaurants

Butchart Gardens, Victoria, British Columbia
It’s no surprise that being in British Columbia the folks at Butchart Gardens would honor the British tradition of teatime — but what is unique is the way in which they incorporate West Coast flair. Both executive chef Travis Hansen and pastry chef Keith Tran — both of whom have worked at the Gardens for more than 25 years each — pride themselves on signature items such as locally smoked wild salmon, curried Cowichan Valley chicken salad, and candied ginger scones from an old family recipe. Summer is an especially ideal time to visit the Gardens for another reason, says sommelier and dining room manager Dave Lane, who notes that the Backyard Flight program is a “must-try. We’re extremely fortunate to be surrounded by wineries and orchards that provide us with world-class wines, spirits, and liquors, and every year we pick the best to pair with our teas to showcase the terroir and character of the growing conditions. It’s a unique experience not found anywhere else.” Make a reservation at Butchart Gardens.

High Tea Restaurants

Modern Tea, Chicago, Illinois
A tradition gets a makeover at Modern Tea in Chicago, where the Radisson’s swanky lobby with couches and a gold-plated mirror puts a new spin on live music from a jazz or string quartet with a “TeaJ.” There are eight Rishi teas from which to choose (available over ice when the mercury climbs) and outside seating for al fresco dining featuring sweets from the hotel’s new pastry chef Caroline Kolaja. One of her specialties is a basil passion tart, though she also admits to having a penchant for cake batter ice cream — her first industry job was as a Ben & Jerry’s scooper in high school. Make a reservation at Modern Tea.

High Tea Restaurants

Pembroke Room, New York, New York
Good things come in threes at the Pembroke Room, which features three styles of service: the classic, the Pembroke Royal, and the Lowell Imperial. Each includes a selection of more than 20 Dammann Frères fine French tea varieties, classic finger sandwiches (curry chicken, cucumber and watercress, lobster roll) a dill, egg, and cornichon salad, caviar blinis with goat cheese, scones, petit fours, and more. But the latter two options give you a chance to enhance your experience with a glass of rosé, port, or sherry as part of the Pembroke, and Champagne and caviar with the Lowell Imperial. Look for further enhancements starting in September, when the space will get a spruce-up with new furnishings, carpet, window treatments, and design elements meant to keep the spirit of the room while maintaining the tradition of classic elegance that’s been the setting for generations of bridal bashes and baby showers. Make a reservation at the Pembroke Room.

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Introducing the 100 Best Outdoor Dining Restaurants in Canada 2016 #OpenTable100

With the Victoria Day long weekend in the books and summer travel plans on our calendars, we are pleased to welcome the  season by unveiling the 100 Best Outdoor Dining Restaurants in Canada 2016. The list reflects the combined opinions of more than 275,000 restaurant reviews submitted by verified OpenTable diners for more than 1,700 restaurants in Canada.

Best Outdoor Dining Restaurants in Canada 2016

Featuring restaurants that offer some of Canada’s most stunning views and dining experiences, the complete list includes winners in picturesque regions from coast to coast, all the way from Lake Country, British Columbia, to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Ontario leads all provinces with 41 winning restaurants, followed by British Columbia with 34, Alberta with 18, and Québec with 5.

The list of 100 Best Outdoor Dining Restaurants in Canada is generated from more than 275,000 restaurant reviews collected from verified OpenTable diners between May 1, 2015, and April 30, 2016. All restaurants with a minimum number of qualifying reviews and “overall” rating were included for consideration. Qualifying restaurants were then scored and sorted according to the percentage of qualifying reviews for which “great for outdoor dining” was selected as a special feature. Check out our slideshow below.

 

Based on this methodology, the 100 Best Outdoor Dining Restaurants 2016 in Canada according to OpenTable diners are as follows (in alphabetical order):Continue Reading

Just in Time for Mother’s Day: The 75 Best Brunch Restaurants in Canada

Best Brunch Restaurants in Canada

With Mother’s Day around the corner, we’re excited to make it easier for Canadians to find the perfect place to celebrate mom with the 75 Best Brunch Restaurants in Canada. The awards reflect the combined opinions of more than 275,000 restaurant reviews submitted by verified OpenTable diners for approximately 1,700 restaurants across Canada.

The 75 Best Restaurants for Brunch list includes award winners from five provinces. Twenty nine Ontario restaurants, 18 Alberta restaurants, 14 British Columbia restaurants, ten from Québec and four from Manitoba made the list.

In addition to naming the 75 Best Restaurants for Brunch in Canada, OpenTable today released two sets of data on the Mother’s Day habits of Canadians. One set of findings is based on an online survey of 1,568 Canadians conducted between April 18, 2016, and April 21, 20161, while the other is based on reservations made for Mother’s Day 2015 in Canada through OpenTable.

Mother’s Day Canadian Online Survey Findings
Based on an online survey of 1,568 Canadians conducted between April 18, 2016, and April 21, 2016, OpenTable found that:

  • Forty-seven per cent of Canadians who celebrate Mother’s Day will dine out to celebrate this year, on the second busiest dining day of the year across the country.
  • Thirteen per cent of Canadians who celebrate Mother’s Day and dine out try different cuisines/restaurants in their own neighbourhood, while another 13 per cent surprise Mom with a different restaurant every year.
  • Compared to Canadians aged 35 and older, millennials (18-34 years old) who celebrate Mother’s Day are most likely to find at least one part of the day stressful (70 per cent versus 52 per cent). As well, among Canadians who dine out, millennials are most likely to read reviews before selecting a restaurant for Mother’s Day versus Canadians 35 and older (17 per cent versus four per cent respectively).
  • The most common stress experienced by Canadians who celebrate Mother’s Day is finding the perfect gift for mom or an activity that will make mom happy (25 per cent), followed by coordinating schedules so everyone can celebrate together (10 per cent).

OpenTable Canada Findings
Based on Canadian diner reservation data from Mother’s Day 2015, OpenTable found that:

  • Canadians love brunch on Mother’s Day. According to OpenTable diner data, Mother’s Day is the busiest day of the year for brunch reservations. It’s also one of the busiest Sundays of the year to dine out, with three times more reservations booked as compared to an average Sunday.
  • Canadians are procrastinators. Sixty-four per cent of Canadians wait until the week before Mother’s Day to make their reservation. Fifteen per cent of Canadians book their table on Mother’s Day.
  • Mother’s Day is a family affair: It’s the largest group dining day of the year, with an average reservation size of four guests.
  • Canadian OpenTable diners are adventurous on Mother’s Day. In 2015, 78 per cent of Canadian diners made a reservation on Mother’s Day at a restaurant that they had not booked on OpenTable before.

The 75 Best Brunch Restaurants in Canada are amassed from more than 275,000 restaurant reviews collected from verified OpenTable diners who dined at Canadian restaurants between April 1, 2015, and March 31, 2016. All restaurants with a minimum “overall” score and number of qualifying reviews were included for consideration. Qualifying restaurants were then sorted according to a score calculated from each restaurant’s average rating in the “brunch” category.

Based on this methodology, the 75 Best Brunch Restaurants in Canada according to OpenTable diners are as follows (in alphabetical order):Continue Reading

How to Holiday High Tea in the Pacific Northwest

Maybe you already high tea annually during the holidays, or maybe you’re eager to try out this tradition. Either way, these spots offer both classic favorites and innovative twists that make for a festive — and filling! — holiday experience. Read on to find out where to enjoy holiday high tea in the Pacific Northwest.

The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, Vancouver, British Columbia
Seeking a side of glamour and grandeur with your tea? This is the place. Right smack in the middle of downtown, with a view of Vancouver’s skyline, the Fairmont’s Nutcracker Tea (December 20 + 21; $64 per person, $27 for children) includes delicate honey yogurt panna cotta, curried chicken finger sandwiches, crab cakes, and a live pianist playing favorites from the score of the ballet. And while you enjoy a glass of port, Prosecco, or wine, kids are treated to the Prince or Princess tea service with bubblegum tea, scones, and Black Forest ham and cheddar sandwiches — all in a building that genuinely looks like a castle. Someone cue the sugarplum fairies!

Holiday High Tea in the Pacific Northwest

Neverland Tea Salon, Vancouver, British Columbia
Neverland’s whole vibe is about whimsy, accessibility, and excellence. Accordingly, the High Tea service respects some traditions (the tea tower, small portions) and upends others (servers wear jeans and t-shirts and sport a relaxed attitude). Also central to the Neverland experience: food worth eating. “We’re not a place where the ambiance outshines what’s being served,” co-owner Terri Tatchell says. “Our food is actually worth indulging in.” To that end, the Holiday High Tea (offered through December 31, at $38 per person) features flank steak on focaccia with green peppercorn aioli, an insane macadamia and salted caramel brownie, and gooey sticky toffee bread pudding with brandied caramel sauce. Pots of tea are never-ending, and Neverland takes gluten- and dairy-free options seriously. In fact, the special order towers so closely resemble the standard ones that customers often think their requests haven’t been honored. “We want those with special needs to enjoy the full Neverland experience,” explains Tatchell. So while the ingredients have been tweaked, the taste is just as dreamy.

High Holiday Tea in the Pacific Northwest

The Butchart Gardens, Victoria, British Columbia
Here, the setting’s the thing. There are 55 acres of lush gardens, plus the dining room is located in the Butchart family’s Craftsman-style former residence. Admission tickets to the garden are required for tea, but they’re worth it because they grant access to ice skating, strolling carolers, and a proper carousel. The traditional High Tea (served through December 22; $33.75 per person) features classics including egg salad sandwiches with watercress and Cornish pastry. But it’s the Flavours of Christmas High Tea from December 22-27 ($39.50 per person, $18.95 for children) that really screams happy holidays. Heavy on regionally sourced items such as Salt Spring Island goat cheese brioche and a Dungeness crab salad sandwich, the festive high tea can also be paired with wines from three Vancouver Island wineries to make it a hyper-local experience. Pro tip: Make a late afternoon reservation for tea, but arrive early. That way, you get to appreciate the garden during daylight hours and also see it dressed up at night.

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