Windsor Arms Hotel: Afternoon Tea

Monday, May 25, 2015
Last Wednesday, my friend Cynthia and I went for Afternoon Tea at the Windsor Arms hotel. Groupon featured a promotion on it sometime in December, and neither of us had ever experienced an afternoon tea service, so we thought we'd try it since it was a discounted deal. The coupon expires in June, so we finally decided to go last week when we both had the day off. We got seated in the Purple Room, which is gorgeous. It's called so because of the deep plum colour of the walls and the matching plush velvet seating, but it's trimmed in white with cream marble floors and has plenty of sunlight coming in with a huge chandelier hanging from the ceiling and a beautiful fireplace, so it looks chic and classy rather than drab or gothic. Tables of all sizes are lined with crisp white table cloths and set with adorable floral motif tea sets, and there's plenty of cheerful framed paintings on the walls. Almost all the tables were filled, which is pretty impressive given that it was a Wednesday at 3:00.

Dainty tea cup sets

A tea pot each

We started off with choosing our teas. Windsor Arms serves loose leaf teas only, so each person gets a strainer along with their tea cup. I decided on the Private Windsor Arms Breakfast Blend because I prefer black ceylon teas. I just think it pairs well with all foods; to me, it almost acts like a palate cleanser and makes the flavour of whatever I'm eating brighter and cleaner. No regrets on my choice with their Breakfast Blend; they describe it as "robust, hearty, and malty" and it tasted great both black and with milk and sugar. Cynthia wanted something fruity, so she picked their Passion & Envy tea, which is a passion fruit green tea. We each got our own tea pot; the Victorian-style one in cream and black is adorable, but we weren't so impressed with that white and blue Chinese patterned one. It looks like those basic tea pots you get at dim sum. 

Strawberry rhubarb and mixed berry preserves, and Devon cream

Three-tiered stand

Fresh scones and goat cheese and caramelized shallot tarts

Scone with Devon cream, mixed berry preserves, and raspberry preserves

And then the food came! As with all afternoon teas, it was presented over three tiers. The bottom tier featured their fresh scones, two per person (one plain, one raisin), and goat cheese and caramelized shallot tarts. The goat cheese tart was good, with the tang of the goat cheese working well with the sweetness of the onions, but it could have been warmer, and the shell could've been flakier. I don't think they were freshly baked at that point; it seemed like they were made earlier in the day and left to sit on the counter. The scones, on the other hand, are by far the star of the show. Warm, freshly baked, crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, with just a hint of lemon. A smear of Devon cream and a dollop of their housemade preserves just make them sing. I would come back just for those scones.

A selection of fresh sandwiches

The second tier featured a selection of sandwiches: potato blinis with smoked salmon rosette, pinwheel egg salad, vegetarian with sundried tomato paste and dill cream cheese, and Croque Monsieur. The sandwiches were a little underwhelming, to be honest. Not terrible, but not great. All the flavour combinations were wonderful, but they just weren't that fresh. The sundried tomato ones and the egg salad ones are rolled, which made the bread (like, typical Wonder bread) a little too soft, almost soggy. They both would've worked better if they were styled in a typical sandwich fashion (like filling in between two slices of bread). The Croque Monsieur was good, too, ('cause, really, you can't go wrong with a grilled cheese with ham) but they were totally cold and somewhat hardened by the time we got to them. I wish they had put the Croque Monsieur with the goat cheese tarts on a single tier, made them piping hot in the oven before bringing it out, and eaten those first while they were warm. There's so much potential there. The smoked salmon ones were by far my favourite; the salmon was fresh (well, I guess raw fish has to be, otherwise food poisoning) and the potato blinis were substantial enough to hold everything on top without getting soft or mushy. Honestly, I could've just done with a whole plate of those.

Petit fours

The third and top tier featured a selection of petit fours: hazelnut mousse in a dark chocolate cup, a red velvet cupcake, chocolate and hazelnut ganache, and a lemon meringue tart. None of these were anything to write home about, to be frank. They seemed like the kind of desserts you could buy in bulk at Costco. According to their website, they're "exquisitely hand-crafted on site," but it seemed like they bought them elsewhere and just added some adornments on top. The red velvet cupcake was particularly bland, and the cake was hardened. I don't know if this quality is typical for afternoon tea services, but I've definitely eaten way more impressive petit fours (haha, I sound like such a snob). Mostly, I just wished they had a wider variety of petit fours. Three of them were chocolate-based, and I felt like they could've incorporated different flavours, maybe more fruity or more mellow like vanilla.

Weirdly enough, a lot of reviews about the Windsor Arms afternoon tea complain about the service, but I thought the girl who was serving us was polite and pleasant, and as efficient as she could have been (she was actually the only server there, so she had eight tables to attend to). She stopped by at least three to four times to clear things away and ask us how our tea was going and to see if we needed hot water refills. All in all, it was a good experience and I'm glad I tried it out. It was my first afternoon tea, so I have nothing to really compare it to, but I think I'd want to try some other ones before making any conclusions. I probably wouldn't return to Windsor Arms just because there's just so many other hotels that offer afternoon tea service for the same price (I mean, even with our Groupon, it's still over $40 per person after tax and tip, which is pretty standard), but I don't regret trying it. 

Windsor Arms Hotel Tea Room
18 St. Thomas Street
Toronto, ON M5S 3E7
(416) 971-9666
8 comments on "Windsor Arms Hotel: Afternoon Tea"
  1. I love going for tea! There was a great place in Seattle that I miss dearly, lol, but we also did one in Vancouver when we were there for my honeymoon, and I've been to one in Hawaii, as well. It's a bit of an indulgence, but always fun. It's a shame that the food wasn't spot on, though - it really has to be, when you're in the mood to be pampered and everything.

    1. I feel like I need to experience more afternoon teas. I quite enjoy the idea of it, being so indulgent and leisurely. :) And sometimes I just wanna feel posh, ya know? I think I just need to discover the best places to go in Toronto.

  2. I'm not big on these teas because most of the food aren't very good. I had a similar experience at King Eddy's and at a specialty tea shop on Queen West that's now closed. It's nice if you're not feeling for a full meal and just want to chat with a friend in a nice setting. Still, it's a novel experience and Windsor Arms is a nice place.

    1. Weirdly enough, I was really full after our tea! I wasn't expecting that, TBH. I think it was the scones. But there's gotta be afternoon teas where the food is really on point. I'm gonna have to do some more research for next time, lol. I'm thinking The Royal York might be a good one!

    2. I've heard so many complaints about the food at Royal York that I never tried. That was some years back though, so could be good now. Apparently Shangri La does a good tea!

    3. Such mixed reviews on Royal York! It seems to be about the same as Windsor Arms. Though Shangri-La seems like a good suggestion! It has consistently good reviews and ratings. I think I'll make that my next afternoon tea destination. :)

  3. I've been the The King Edward and The Royal York and I prefer the latter (minus the crappy service last time, but they apologized and reimbursed to make up for it).

    Your pastries sure look good! It's a shame they weren't up to par.
    lol, at the dim-sum tea pot! I'm all for mix and match tea sets, but that one looks compared to the other. :P

    Do they serve tea with sugar cubes or rock sugar?

    1. Yeah, I remember reading your posts on your afternoon teas and thinking I should try The Royal York. It's not that Windsor Arms was our first choice, it was just the Groupon we got, lol.

      They just serve regular white sugar in a little pot with a spoon. A rookie mistake!


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