Showing posts with label tea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tea. Show all posts

Les Café Des Chats (Montreal)

Up until recently, I was living a bleak life – without a creature comfort that I always yearned for. Yes folks, I was cat less. So, when a trip to Montreal with the girls was planned, visiting one of their cat cafes was a top priority.

Without the strict laws that constrain Toronto counterparts, at Les Café Des Chats the feline are allowed to roam around the two-roomed establishment freely, and if they’re experiencing too much human contact, duck into a separate cozy sleeping area that’s customer free. Some sill like to stay with the crowd and sit atop high shelves so they can sleep just beyond arm’s reach.

Unlike the bad press that has plagued Toronto’s TOT Café, in Montreal, they don’t have kittens who require more sleep and are less likely to defend themselves against pesky children. Moreover, the larger space allows Les Café Des Chats to have more cats (there was about ten) so each one isn’t constantly being harassed by multiple hands.

For the most part, all the cats were friendly and playful – especially a white one that I named Snowball who loves belly rubs and stayed steadfastly by the window watching people pass by. But, there were a couple who rightfully would be annoyed when children pet them while sleeping. Is it mean to say I also loved watching them swipe at the small hands or bite the air beside them as a warning?

The food and drink offerings aren’t bad either – had I known they served soup and grilled sandwiches, I would have had lunch there! Instead, at first, I resigned myself to hydration only, sipping on a refreshing iced tea ($4.25) and then when the air conditioning became too much, cups of the hot Moroccan mint and cream of earl grey versions ($4).

Since it was a rainy afternoon, with no desire to trudge around the city with wet shoes, we stayed at Les Café Des Chats for almost four hours! Dividing our time between petting cats, taking videos to flaunt to my husband, and just sitting around chatting.

Feeling a little guilty for staying so long and only having drinks (although the staff there were nothing but patient and kind), I ordered a house salad ($6.50). The bowl of lettuce free chopped vegetables (tomatoes, cucumber, purple cabbage, and corn) sure hit the spot … the garlicky lemon vinaigrette a great dressing.

Some would view a rainy afternoon while travelling as a terrible affair. For me, it gave us an excuse to stay at Les Café Des Chats just a bit longer. After all, as the Cat in the Hat would say about sitting around on a dreary day:
“Why do you sit there like that?
I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny.
But, we can have lots of good fun that is funny!”

How To Find Them
 Location: Montreal, Canada
 Address: 3435 Rue Saint-Denis

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Les Café Des Chats Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Celebrating the Queen's 90th with afternoon tea at the Fairmont Royal York

Fairmont Royal York afternoon tea

First of all: is it high tea or afternoon tea? I had incorrectly thought high tea was simply the frou-frou name for the same event. When in fact, according to About Food, afternoon tea is actually the more elite social gathering of the two. Since it happens in the afternoon, the foods served are lighter; small cakes and sandwiches, essentially the items we traditionally link to the occasion. Whereas, high tea occurs in the evening when the working masses are done for the day: meals are heavier, even including items such as fish and meat pies. Hopefully, that assures you I’ve named the post correctly.

The Fairmont Royal York is a great place in Toronto to indulge in afternoon tea. The hotel, a historical landmark to our city, is rich with architectural elements and the elegant touches that makes having tea there an experience.  

Not to rest on their laurels, Executive Chef Robert Mills recently re-vamped the menu, taking inspiration from properties across the world – including the Savoy in Britain – while maintaining some tried and true favourites such as their signature Chantilly Swan. Interesting fact: this pastry was inspired by the hand painted ceiling in one of the hotel’s ballrooms.

My favourite part of their new menu are the sandwiches, made with different breads and topped with plenty of varied ingredients:
  • Vibrantly coloured grilled vegetables sitting on a soft pretzel spread with hummus, great for the summer months.
  • Encapsulated in airy brioche is smoked turkey breast slightly sweetened with cranberry aioli and a crunchy chicken salad mixed with caramelized pecans for added texture.
  • The smoked salmon mini bagels are cute and dainty, the essence of afternoon tea sandwiches.
  • Even the traditional cucumber sandwich is jazzed up by being served open-faced in a beautiful fan and the cream cheese spiked with pink peppercorn.
Yet, Chef Mills understands when to leave things alone, which is the case when it came to the scones. The recipe has been used in the hotel for decades; these freshly baked biscuits simply require plenty of silky Devonshire cream and preserves to spread on top.

The top tier holds a tempting selection of pastries: aside from the cream puff swan there’s also a rich dark chocolate truffle torte, cute meringue tart and a chocolate cup filled with refreshing guava cream with fruits.      

In celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday, I was lucky enough to get invited to experience afternoon tea inside the ROYAL SUITE … the same place the Queen herself (and consequently Prince Harry just the week prior) stays in when they visit Toronto.

With two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a comfortably sized living room complete with fireplace and full dining room (perfect for private dinner parties), the Fairmont Royal York is the official royal residence. In fact, the family even stores personalized furniture at the hotel, which gets moved into the suite before they visit.  

Alas, staying at the Royal suite is by invite only; under normal conditions it hosts other world leaders (Bill Clinton) and an array of celebrities (Leonardo Di Caprio, Justin Bieber, Helen Mirren and Vin Diesel).

As a special treat, Chef Mills served a chocolate biscuit cake (not normally part of their afternoon tea menu), the same cake served at Prince William and Princess Kate’s wedding. Chocolate lovers would swoon with its luscious smooth dark chocolate interior, crunchy bits of cookies along the circumference and silky sweet ganache on top.

It’s a rich cake, but went particularly well with the Librarian Liberation whiskey chai tea, a bespoke blend made at the hotel that smells faintly of whiskey but packed with the taste of exotic spices (cardamom, cinnamon and cloves). The tea is so flavourful it didn’t need milk or sugar.    

Afternoon tea ($50 per person) is normally served in the hotel’s Library Bar (near the lobby) on Saturday and Sunday with 12:00, 12:30 and 2:30 seatings. After the filling meal, stick around for the complimentary tour at 2:00 and 4:00 where you’ll be whisked around the hotel, learning interesting details and even visiting areas not normally accessible to the public (including the hotel’s rooftop that houses over 300 honey bees and herb garden)!

The hotel has come a long way since it started as its own city within Toronto – spoiler alert from the tour: Royal York use to have a connected golf course, bank, 12,000-book library and even hospital beds on site!

Nonetheless, in a world that’s always changing, sometimes it’s nice to embrace tradition, slowing down and simply relaxing over a cup of tea. The fact that the tea comes with three tiers of delectable sandwiches and pastries? You deserve the royal treatment.  

Disclaimer: the above meal was complimentary. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will still provide an honest opinion.

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 100 Front Street West

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Library Bar - The Fairmont Royal York Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

An InstaMeet at Infuse Cafe (Toronto)

Rest assured fellow readers, for me, blogging will always come first. Meaning photographs are snapped quickly (and without staging) to ensure food is consumed at its optimal temperature. With that said, over the last year, I’ve started dabbling in the Instagram realm (@gastroworldblog), as a means of showcasing the photos I’m most proud of or others that will never be included in a post. 

What I love most about this second social media platform, is the sense of community and feedback you receive. People are quick to give kudos and there’s so much interaction in the comments field! Even though it doesn’t showcase Gastro World’s writing very well, it has allowed me to connect with a new group of foodies.

@FeedMyPhone hosted an Insta Meet at Infuse Café’s new location inside the Gerrard Square Mall. The perfect opportunity to meet the people behind the photos that entice me; a collection of individuals who love food photography and their friends (often relegating to holding objects and pouring with a slow grace). To watch the true photographers at work – the equipment (a far cry from my iPhone) and the care they take to ensure things are placed optimally – was eye opening.

Truth be told, my attention was quickly stolen by the high tech gadget used to vacuum extract tea and coffee using reverse atmosphere infusion (are any engineers reading this?). These machines end up costing $20K+ after being installed and requires a special technician flown from San Francisco to get the job done. Infuse Café is the only establishment in the country that has the right to use the machine for the next couple of years.  

So what does a machine that costs as much as an entry level car get you? For tea, a richer tasting cup without the bitterness as the machine doesn’t use scalding water, which unfortunately can sometimes scorch the leaves. For coffee, a cup of java that has 15% more caffeine! The fruit flavours in the blueberry hibiscus iced tea ($3.99/16oz and $4.49/20oz) was prevalent so that the drink could almost be juice. Meanwhile, the classic milk tea (same price as hibiscus) did offer a robust tea flavour without the bitter end note.

Personally, I would have loved to try iron goddess of mercy (or tae guan yum), normally ordered at at dim sum, in order contrast the tea naturally. After all, what should high quality tea made with a specialized machine really taste like? For those who want something luxurious, Infuse offers milk latte versions of their drinks and most can be ordered in a hot or cold form (with no additional charge for making it cold)! Their teas range from $3.49 for a 16oz yerba mate blend to $8.99 for a 20oz cup of their “prestige” line such as the Silver Needle.

A variety of cakes from Cecilia’s Cheesecakes, which can normally be purchased at Infuse, was also tasted at the event. Their original cheese cake ($10) was just as satisfying as Uncle Tetsu’s and the matcha, chocolate or orange flavoured versions ($15) tasty as well. 

But, it was the matcha ganache cheesecake ($18) that was my favourite, combining the fluffy lightness of a Japanese cheesecake with a sweet icing to really make it dessert. It was so good I purchased a personal-sized version ($4) for my husband.

While learning about the machine, we were advised it could even make cocktails – morphing the alcohol to make it sweeter. Oh boy, when Infuse Café becomes the next Starbucks and gets their liquor license, that would be something I’m most excited to try. Just imagine the state of the attendees of an Insta Meet after a couple of those...
How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1000 Gerrard St. E (inside the Gerrard Square Mall)

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Infuse Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

CLOSED: TOT - The Cat Cafe (Toronto)

TOT The Cat Cafe Toronto

FINALLY! Toronto’s first cat café has successfully opened despite the red tape and hesitant landlords across the city. Having contributed to a couple failed crowd sourcing start-ups, the thought of a feline friendly café was but a distant dream. So, when TOT quietly opened on College Street, steps from the lively Kensington Market district, visiting the establishment instantly became my New Year’s goal.

After waiting so long, Toronto’s first cat café is … better than nothing, but definitely not as heavenly as I imagined. Firstly, the cats are segregated into a room beside the dining area, that you’re allowed to bring drinks into, but feels more like visiting a fancier adoption chamber than café.

During our morning visit, the three kittens were still sleeping and one of the house rules is to not wake the animals. 

Watching them sleep and not being able to play with them is excruciatingly difficult, it’s like dangling a lollipop in front of a kid. The only benefit of arriving early is there’s virtually no wait and we were able to stay in the room for double the allotted 20 minutes.

However, when the cats finally awoke, it was quite fun watching them stretch, eat and play. Ranging from 2 to 6 months, they are awfully cute and surprisingly patient with being petted by multiple strangers.  

TOT’s menu offers a selection of drinks ranging from $2 for a bottle of water to $5.15 for a large specialty drink. The Calico macchiato ($4.35 for a small) I ordered had a decent shot of espresso capped with creamy foam and a sweet drizzle of caramel. After purchasing a drink my name was added to a clipboard awaiting a call to enter the room.   

There was also a selection of sweets (cheesecake, butter tarts and cookies), fruit cups, yoghurt, veggies and dip, premade sandwiches and soup. Everything looked fine but no different from what you’d find in a cafeteria.

I really want TOT to do well… in fact, I NEED the place to succeed. So, to the owner: please do something to increase your bill totals so the business thrives (and opens more locations)! You have to make the food appealing so the café becomes a place where people stay and eat.

Given the establishment’s proximity to Kensington Market, use that to your advantage! Offer a couple of Wanda’s Pie in the Sky desserts, make toasted bagels using the wood fired ones from Nu Bagel and offer savoury easy to heat options like beef patties. There doesn’t seem to be a kitchen, could a catering service with a local restaurant work for more substantial plates during peak hours?  

Additionally, TOT definitely needs more cats, I dream about being surrounded by cats… not surrounding a cat with other people. To be fair, an employee explained they normally have five (still not sufficient) but since some were adopted they hadn’t been replaced. Which brings me to the best part of the café … you can adopt the cats!

Coming from the Toronto Humane Society, these cute balls of fur are in need of a loving home. What a great opportunity to spend time with them to access their temperament; if you have children they can even come along to get acquainted with the cat.

Although, TOT didn’t live up to my dreams, I nonetheless enjoyed the visit. Given I can’t have a cat at home, playing with one elsewhere is the next best thing. Unfortunately, bringing home a kitten would be one take-out item my husband wouldn’t be pleased with.

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 298 College Street

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CLOSED: MoRoCo Chocolat (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 99 Yorkville Avenue
Type of Meal: Tea

Hidden off of Yorkville Avenue, MoRoCo is combination retail store and restaurant.  At the entrance is their chocolate and macaron shop; your eyes are in for a treat with the brightly lit, sterile looking, white and pink room.  After passing the retail front, you’re greeted with the restaurant which is completely different – dim, dark grey & purple motifs and a cozy environment.

Indeed you can come here for a meal since MoRoCo offers an extensive brunch, lunch and dinner menu.  We visited after dinner just for some herbal tea and something sweet.  After pursuing their extensive menu I settled on an artisan tea the Cream of Avalon ($10) which also came with a macaron.  The tea was decent, sorry I can’t remember anything memorable about it, but the macaron quite delicious with a thicker cream filling and chewier texture.  You weren’t given a choice of flavours but my mint and white chocolate one was lovely. 

For $18 you can get an artisan tea accompanied with three small scones, clotted cream and lemon curd. The plain scones were passable but we found the chocolate one too chalky. The clotted cream was good; we just needed more of it! In terms of the lemon curd although it is a unique offering, I’d much rather just have the regular strawberry preserve given a tart lemon cream is an acquired taste. 

Overall, I quite enjoyed the experience and glad to have found a place where you can have a cup without having the entire high tea experience.  Coffee with desserts is very popular in Toronto, but my preference will always be for a nice pot of steeped loose leaf.

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Gastro World's Grading System
  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

The Tea Room at Harrods (London)

Location: London, England
Address: 87-135 Brompton Rd (inside Harrods, 2nd floor)
Type of Meal: Tea

If you’ve ever been to Harrods, it’s a multi-level mad house with shoppers and merchandise everywhere.  Their Food Hall, on the main floor, certainly draws crowds who are looking for something to eat. My preference is for the Tea Room tucked away from the hustle and bustle on the second floor. It’s not the Ritz where you’d dress up and go for high tea that last for hours.  Rather, it’s a great alternative for those who just want tea and a quick bite – exactly what my husband and I needed after a morning of site seeing.

We both ordered the Chelsea (£12.50), which is simply tea with scones, clotted cream and jams. Harrods offers an extensive list of tea but the 1849 Blend, a black tea, caught both our interest given it was made to commemorate Harrod’s 150th anniversary and promises an intense aroma with rich flavour.  At first, the 1849 Blend really didn’t taste that different from regular teas, but once we skipped the milk and sugar, the intensity came through and the slight bitterness went well with the sugary jam.

Two large scones, plain and with raisins, arrive with a generous dish of thick clotted cream. This really is the quintessential thing to try when you go to London and it’s great at Harrods.  The scones were freshly made arriving hot, soft, slightly doughy but still airy in the middle. For me, the best part is the clotted cream which makes everything so much better. The thick, buttery spread is heavenly and goes well with the strawberry or raspberry jam or on its own.

If you’re visiting London for the first time, likely you’ll end up in Knightsbridge at Harrods.  My suggestion, take an hour (perhaps at the Tea Room) to just sit back, relax and enjoy some tea with company – and I guess scones and clotted cream doesn’t hurt as well.

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