Toronto’s best afternoon tea experiences

Toronto’s best afternoon tea experiences

Why just binge a season of Bridgerton, when you can live the Lady Whistledown life? Nothing says lavish escapism quite like idling away the day with tea, twee treats and—because sometimes Earl Grey isn’t enough—a glass (or five) of bubbly. Here, a bunch of the city’s best afternoon tea experiences.

Photo courtesy of Epoch
Epoch at the Ritz-Carlton

Last fall, the Ritz opened its splashy new restaurant, Epoch. You’ve heard of gilding the lily? Well, DesignAgency really gilded this lily. The Toronto-based design firm (Momofuku, The Drake Hotel) created a space fit for a queen, with antiqued-mirror insets that cast the room in a golden-hour glow all day long. Even the carafes are gold-rimmed here. Epoch’s crown jewel, though, is its lush, Simcoe Park–facing terrace—this is one of the few places in the city where you can take high tea outdoors. The service itself is a classic tower of butter scones, finger sandwiches (cucumber, smoked salmon) and three-bite sweets: lemon cake, apple tart and chocolate fondant. $60 per guest. Served Wednesday to Sunday, 2 p.m.-4 p.m. 181 Wellington St. W., 416-585-2500, ritzcarlton.com
 

Photo courtesy of Joni
Park Hyatt Toronto at Joni

Joni’s Tea at the Park is a lavish, multi-course affair. Although guests are free to choose from more than a dozen different teas, a suggested pairing for each course—sweet and savoury—is provided. Nibbles start with dainty canapés, which include teeny croque monsieurs, gouda-and-leek quiches and shrimp rolls. A yuzu-grape gelée cleanses the palate before dessert descends upon the table. Each bijou gateau is flawless. Chocoholics will adore the black forest cake (which looks like a gleaming, oversized cherry), while those with a pastry predilection will be delighted by the black sesame choux. $188 for two. Served Saturday and Sundays 1 p.m.- 4 p.m. 4 Avenue Rd., 647-948-3130, exploretock.com/joni
 

Photo courtesy of DBar
Four Seasons at D-Bar

At D-Bar, this very British tradition gets a soupçon of Franco flare, thanks to Daniel Boulud. The menu changes seasonally, but expect a three-tier affair that starts with small but satisfying savouries: gruyère, truffles, brie and béchamel find their way into mignon quiches, tartlettes, and other treats. There’s no trace of the Norman victory when it comes to the very English scone tier, but the Four Seasons’ sweet finale brings you back through the Chunnel to Paris. Pastry sous chef Kevin Levionnois’ petit fours are exquisite. The rhubarb compote-strawberry mousse entremets and lavender eclairs are a late spring garden you can eat. No fête would be complete without bubbles. Thankfully, both Perrier-Jouët and Moët & Chandon are available by the flute. $70 per person. Served Saturday and Sundays 12 p.m.-4 p.m. 60 Yorkville Ave., 416-964-0411, dbartoronto.com
 

Photo by Rick O'Brien
Clockwork at the Fairmont Royal York

With its sepia-hued lighting and railcar-inspired banquette seating, Clockwork transports guests back to the golden age of train travel. (A pianist playing Gershwin’s “Embraceable You” helps complete the illusion.) Although there are no windows to gaze out of on this imaginary voyage, there’s plenty of eye candy to distract. Even the dishware is regal: stunning Japanese bone china rimmed with gold is exactly what you’d expect at the Royal York. Service begins with a pot of Lot 35 loose-leaf tea—there are nearly a dozen teas to choose from, although the creamy Earl Grey is heavenly. Two house-baked scones (vanilla bean, lemon thyme) are then followed by the pièce de résistance: a cubist tea tray decked with delights. Highlights include mushrooms en croute, tarragon-citrus chicken salad served on a miniature croissant, and a mini matcha-strawberry ganache opera cake so delightful it will have you hankering for a full-size portion even though you are already very, very full. $80 per person. Served Saturdays from 12 p.m.-4 p.m. and Sundays from 12 p.m.-5 p.m. 100 Front St. W., 416-368-2511, clockworktoronto.com
 

Photo courtesy of Kitten and the Bear
The Kitten and the Bear

R.I.P. to afternoons spent sipping loose-leaf at The Kitten and The Bear. Although dine-in won’t soon return to this darling tea room, owners Sophie Kaftal and Bobby Zielinski have doubled down on catering. Now, you can get Kitten and the Bear goodies—including afternoon tea—delivered straight to your door. And, somehow, they’ve managed to package their special brand of dainty enchantment in a box. Of course their Afternoon Tea for One comes with one of their oh-so-flakey buttermilk scones, but that’s just one of the many delights. Inside you’ll also find pristine finger sandwiches (the smoked salmon with preserved lemon and herbs is a standout), a slice of buttercream-slathered tea cake, and seasonal sweets like a lilac shortbread cookie. For the true British experience, pay a bit extra for some U.K.-imported clotted cream. $28 (delivery extra). Available Friday through Sunday. 1414 Dundas St. W., 647-926-9711, kittenandthebear.com
 

Photo by Renée Suen
Ladurée

While afternoon tea in a shopping mall might not be fit for Her Royal Highness, it doesn’t mean it’s not over-the-top fancy. This Parisian patisserie—done up in a Wes Anderson palette of pastel pink and turquoise, and decked out with a crystal chandelier—delivers some serious energy. Ladurée’s afternoon tea may be decidedly un-English, but it is also decidedly decadent—especially the dessert portion. An order comes with an embarrassment of sweet treats, including macarons, freshly baked madeleines and financiers, and petit fours. It’s all served with coffee, tea or hot chocolate. $50 per person. Available Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Yorkdale Shopping Centre, 3401 Dufferin St., 416-629-2391, laduree.com
 

Photo by Kristen Wells
Shangri-La Toronto

Typically, the Shangri-La offers your typical hotel lobby afternoon tea: seasonally inspired, itty-bitty frou-frou bites. Right now, however, they’ve teamed up with Cirque du Soleil to create an avant-garde experience. Expect a feast for the eyes that plays with molecular gastronomy to create theatrical plates—think an invisible lobster roll and a dessert sculpted to look like a seriously lifelike cigar. Includes a complimentary glass of sparkling or a select mocktail. $98 per person. On now until July 10. 188 University Ave., 647-788-8888, shangri-la.com
 

Photo courtesy of the St. Regis
Astor Lounge at the St. Regis Hotel

The St. Regis isn’t shy when it comes to pomp. Here, even Monday evenings kick off with champagne sabrage, but the weekends are when the hotel doubles down on its American aristocratic traditions. This spring, the hotel is resurrecting the Gilded Age’s panache for parties. Afternoons start with a Prohibition era–inspired tea service in the lobby. For those looking for something a little more celebratory, teapots of cocktails (iced, of course) are sure to delight. Savouries include classic finger sandwiches—lox, coronation chicken, cucumber, egg and smoked ham—on house-baked bread. The pastry department here does exquisite stuff—the raisin buttermilk scones and vanilla bean canelé are standouts. Lounge long enough, and you’ll be treated to live jazz, which kicks off at 6 p.m. $77 per person, plus $20 per teapot cocktail (serves two). Prohibition tea pop-up runs through July. Afternoon tea offered every Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. 325 Bay St., 416-306-5800, marriott.com
 

Photo courtesy of Reid's Distillery
Reid’s Distillery

If, on first blush, a former CrossFit-gym-turned-distillery doesn’t sound like a place to pop your pinky, banish your preconceptions. Reid’s strikes a balance between industrial chic with British pub elegance. Think copper pot stills juxtaposed by tufted velvet sofas and lush tropical plants. Their newly launched afternoon tea service will feature food from Daniel et Daniel (scones, finger sammies, two-bite quiches, miniature sweets), Tealish teas and teapots of cocktails featuring Reid’s house-distilled gin. $45 per person, cocktail teapots extra. Available on Sundays. Two seatings in May (noon and 3 p.m.); 3 p.m. only after May. 32 Logan Ave., 416-465-4444, reidsdistillery.com