The next stop on my ongoing local afternoon tea journey is a (less than) 10-minute walk from the first. The Fairmont Royal York, located in Toronto’s Financial District, has participated in the tradition of serving afternoon tea since the hotel opened its doors in 1929! Upon entering the Library Bar, there was a very noticeable difference in ambiance and decor. The restaurant/bar features a much darker, more intimate setting, all the while emulating a cozy in-home library. There are a lot of reds and rich warm browns, in addition to all the books strategically placed throughout.
Shonna and I were there for the standard afternoon tea service, there was also the option to upgrade the experience, adding either a mimosa or glass of champagne for an additional $10-30. When we were seated at our table, there was already an assortment of tiny jars filled with fruit preserves set up, as well as a pitcher for milk/cream and a pot for sugar. The fine china featured pretty flower and butterfly imagery. As you can see in the picture below, the tea was supplied by Lot35, with at least a dozen options to choose from. Although I typically would be inclined to pick one of the four black teas listed, I needed some further help deciding.
After flagging down our server, it was confirmed that there was a “sensory” box set up nearby (covered in a gorgeous, glossy royal purple hue), complete with dishes of each loose leaf tea, in which to get a closer look at and smell the contents. There’s a pretty great mixture of blends, straight orthodox teas, caffeinated, as well as decaf. We were given the option to swap out teas, if our first choice wasn’t satisfactory.
Between the Ontario Icewine, Niagara Peach & the Sweet Watermelon, I ultimately chose the latter, which really won me over through its scent. My guest ended up selecting the Niagara Peach, which worked out perfectly, because then I was able to try hers, in addition to my own, and compare. The Oolong Sweet Watermelon was incredibly fragrant, brewing to a bright, yellow-ish cup with a very candy-like scent. There was no need for any additional sweetener, or even milk. I easily finished off a pot of tea (refill too!), and was more than pleased with my choice.
Our sweet and savoury goodies were soon presented on a silver tiered tray. My finger sandwiches were plated at the bottom, while my guest (who happens to be pescaterian) received her sandwiches separately, with slight alterations to omit meat. From the triangle shaped open faced sandwich moving counter clockwise, the sandwiches were as follows: Smoked Steelhead Gravlax with rooftop honey mustard and dill spread on Pullman loaf; Roast Beef with golden beetroot and horseradish crème fraîche on rye bread; Sage Derby Cheese with heirloom tomato chutney on Harvest bread; Coronation Chicken with watercress on a croissant; and lastly Late Summer Ontario Jam pennies… Ontario Strawberry & Raspberry Jam on Farmers bread.
I am starting to come to the realization that seafood is always going to be a component of the afternoon tea menu, when it comes to the finger sandwiches. This time around, it was trout on the menu. And for my first time trying it, I can confidently say that I’m not really a fan. I did enjoy both the roast beef, as well as the chicken salad. But that’s about it, unfortunately. The little jam sandwich in the middle was also such an odd addition to the plate.
Next level up were the cranberry scones... Two scones each, with a little dish of Devonshire cream. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of the scones, even with the cream slathered on. Maybe if they had come out warm and fresh, I could have been persuaded otherwise. Of the three jams/fruit preserves, the orange was my least favourite, as it was a little too bitter tasting. Cherry and strawberry were just alright, nothing too special.
Finally, on the top tier were the selection of pastries: vanilla shortbread, raspberry tartlets, chocolate biscuit cake, and Earl Grey fruit cake. The tartlets, although presented nicely, tasted quite “eggy”, while the fruitcake was dry and lacking on its intended flavour of Earl Grey, which was disappointing. Strangely enough, it reminded me more of a spiced cake, even from a visual standpoint. If anything, “my favourite” would be the shortbread, but that’s not saying a whole lot.
All in all, my time at the Library Bar has left me with a strong sense of indifference. I don’t feel as though I got a worthwhile afternoon tea experience for close to $60... Apart from my tea selection, which I thoroughly enjoyed. In my opinion, there wasn’t enough natural light present inside of the restaurant, and the decor felt outdated. There was aspects of the meal (both sweet and savoury) that were on the dry side, with one word repeatedly coming to mind throughout: basic. Which really is a shame, because I made our reservation for the first time slot on Saturday, with the hopes of getting the best service and freshest food.
Would I go back? Probably not, but at least I can cross The Fairmont Royal York off my list, and move on to the next location.
Are you open to trying new teas or do you stick with what you know when out for afternoon tea? Sound off in the comments below!
Stay tuned for a fruit infusion inspired by a candy from my childhood!
Until we steep again…