The Niagara Blog:
Tea for Two at the Prince of Wales - Afternoon Delight in Niagara-on-the-Lake |
Guest Blog by Nora Quinn
Afternoon Tea in the luxurious Victorian Drawing Room at the Prince of Wales Hotel
"God is in the details," observed the celebrated Modernist architect
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe , in an aphorism perfectly - if somewhat ironically - suited to Afternoon Tea in the luxurious Victorian Drawing Room at the
Prince of Wales Hotel. While the food and the selection of teas do indeed appeal to our English palates, we appreciate even more the charming ambiance created by the antique furniture, the huge bouquets of roses, the perfect table settings (the white linens, the single rose in a slender crystal vase, the silver bowl filled with sugar cubes, the three tier cake stand, the Wedgewood china) and the servers in their severe, black dresses (shades of the housekeeper Mrs. Hughes in Downton Abbey!). Indeed from the moment we entered the lobby of the hotel with its unique Victorian Lace pattern flooring, mahogany wainscoting, hand-painted roses on the ceiling, and stained glass wall depicting the goddess Athena, we felt like we were stepping back into a more leisurely, more gracious, more privileged time.
It is a beautiful day so we choose a table by a window in the conservatory that allows people watching: locals walking their dogs, theatre-goers en route to the Shaw Festival and tourists meandering along Picton Street. The flowers outside are spectacular, in particular a superb purple rhododendron that provides a favorite photo opportunity for Japanese tourists. We indulge ourselves by ordering the Prince of Wales Tea that combines the Traditional Afternoon Tea with a selection of Canadian Cheeses. The four cheeses, served with green grapes and a variety of crackers, are delicious, my favorite - the decadent triple cream Brie.
From an extensive list of whole leaf organic teas, my friend Melanie, a tea aficionado and local historian, selects a Classic Ceylon Orange Pekoe, while I opt for the Golden Tippy Assam. Both are perfectly brewed. We admire - and indeed covet - the exquisite bone white Wedgewood teapots with their exotic vine design of pale green with bursts of red flora. Rimmed with 22-karat gold, they are a perfect blend of the modern and the traditional. I am not surprised to learn that this Oberon pattern (reflecting, no doubt, the woodland setting of A Midsummer Night's Dream) is the dinnerware choice of First Lady Michelle Obama!
The accompanying "goodies" of the Traditional Afternoon Tea are elegantly presented on a triple tier stand: four different types of finger sandwiches, a large scone and a selection of delicious, dainty pastries including my favorite - a sharp lemon tart. The
highlight is the scone ("made with Plump, Jasmine Tea Infused Sultana Raisins"), served warm and accompanied by local strawberry jam, clotted cream and churned butter. It is absolutely delicious and filling. Because we have enjoyed the cheeses, we fail to do justice to the rest of the food, but we are provided with a neat box to transport the treats home.
We linger over the ritual of tea for almost two hours, feeling very pampered and enjoying the attentive yet not intrusive service and a leisurely conversation about local history and the upcoming celebrations for the War of 1812 (Who knew, for example, that in 1860 an appreciative
Prince of Wales (the future
Edward VII) had met the local heroine
Laura Secord , 85 years old, and that this very hotel would be re-named to honour his son and heir, the Duke of York, when the latter visited Niagara-on-the-Lake in 1901?) .
This is not our first visit to the Drawing Room. For several years, like many Niagara-area residents, we have also enjoyed the 2-for-1 opportunities for
Afternoon Tea offered by the
Prince of Wales in November and March. In late November, when the hotel is splendidly and opulently decorated for the Christmas season, we gather for a mother/daughter tea that has now become an annual tradition. In March, when the Canadian weather is cold and miserable, we take Afternoon Tea in the Drawing Room itself, enjoying the comfort of the plush sofas and armchairs and the warmth of the blazing fireplace.
Whatever the season,
Afternoon Tea is an experience steeped in tradition and a delightful way to withdraw for a short time from the hustle and bustle of twenty-first century life. It is offered each day in the Drawing Room from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. and reservations are recommended.
Nora Quinn is a St. Catharines resident, born and raised in England, and believes in the therapeutic qualities of Afternoon Tea, especially in the perfect setting of the Drawing Room at the Prince of Wales Hotel!
Prince of Wales Video, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada