These Alberta Restaurants Are Redefining Afternoon Tea
For Brasserie Kensington, Café Linnea and Mount Engadine Lodge, it’s out with the cucumber sandwiches and in with the house-made sweets and savouries.
Most of us associate afternoon tea with Fairmont hotels (all of them do their own unique version) and fancy tea shops, but in recent years unexpected eateries have begun to offer high or afternoon tea. (For the record, the phrase “high tea” typically refers to a heartier meal eaten in the late afternoon or early evening, often including something from the oven; “afternoon tea” is a sort of mini meal in the late afternoon, consisting of tiny sandwiches, scones and sweet pastries in the British tradition—what we generally envision both afternoon and high tea to be.)
At Brasserie Kensington in Calgary, serving a not-so-typical high tea is a means to bring people in during a traditionally less busy time of the day, but also a new way for those out for a social visit to connect around the table. Their high tea is served Saturdays and Sundays from 2:15 p.m. to 4 p.m. The savouries, scones and sweets arrive dramatically on tiered plates, British style, with the rules of engagement—a tongue-in-cheek guide to British tea-drinking etiquette—on the table alongside your vintage cups and saucers.
“It’s just a nice way for people to come in and spend a couple hours,” says chef-owner Cam Dobranski, who opened the restaurant seven years ago. Virtually every menu item incorporates honey from hives residing in the neighbouring community of Sunnyside—and $1 from every high-tea purchase goes to a local charity. Honey-sweetened cocktails include the honey kir royale, a French 75 and a boozy kombucha. And finger sandwiches go far beyond the usual cucumber on crust-free white bread—there’s a spicy salami and arugula pinwheel with manchego cheese; a pickled fennel and salmon gravlax salad with lemon aioli and duck rillette on pumpernickel rounds, wrapped in a thin ribbon of cucumber. Scones come with real Devonshire clotted cream and preserves inspired by the season: in the fall, there might be freshly made quince jam and brilliant pink nanking cherry jelly made with cherries harvested from neighbourhood back yards. They ask for reservations 24 hours in advance, and the cost is $35 per person.
In Edmonton Café Linnea, a casual eatery offering a regional take on French and Scandinavian cuisine (recently named one of the top 10 new restaurants in Canada by enRoute magazine), offers a high tea service on Sundays at 3 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. that includes an amuse bouche, a three-tiered tea tray with savouries, pastries and petit fours, and your choice of teas. Tickets are $55 per person, and seatings are two hours long. (They also offer a full wine and cocktail list for an extra cost, if tea just won’t cut it.)
And outside the city, tucked away in Kananaskis country, Mount Engadine Lodge caters to those who have worked up an appetite in the great outdoors. In Spray Valley Provincial Park, about an hour from Calgary, it’s a beautiful drive if you’re looking to make an afternoon of it—their Rocky Mountain-style afternoon tea service is licensed and open to the public daily from 2 to 5 p.m. Teas and craft beers are accompanied by cheese and locally made or in-house charcuterie along with baked goods—a substantial afternoon tea for anyone who has spent the morning out on the trail (or even in the car).
1131 Kensington Road NW, Calgary
10932 119 Street NW, Edmonton
Mount Engadine Lodge
1 Mount Shark Road, Canmore