What are the essentials for an afternoon tea? I take afternoon tea seriously and feel like I can be a discerning guest. For me, there are five key things I like to look for that I think makes a great afternoon tea worthy of recommending:
1. Quality of Service
2. Scone Quality
3. Mixture and Balance of Savoury and Sweet
4. Quality and Selection of Teas
I recently had the great pleasure to have afternoon tea at the Fairmont Palliser, located in Calgary, Alberta, and I have to say that it excelled on all of those key points! Firstly, the stunning, classic Rimrock Room where the Palliser holds their tea is steeped (pun intended!) in history. This grand room has played host to many guests over its 101 year history, including everyone from Canadian Prime Ministers, Sharon Osbourne, British Royalty, and the Game of Thrones cast!
The service is impeccable. We were attended to from the moment we arrived - and not in an annoying, hovering way. They genuinely want to ensure you are looked after and have everything you need and want. I was amazed at the depth of knowledge that our young server had of the teas he brought around in a lovely box. He could give you every last detail of the entire extensive selection from where the leaves were from, pros and cons of loose leaf versus bags, what goes best with what food, and how long to steep the tea for.
When you arrive at your table, there are the loveliest little touches and attention to detail, such as the beautifully presented menu, a gift of the Palliser's own blend of tea to take home (Margaret's Hope Darjeeling), the white lace tablecloth and crisp linens, and classic centrepiece of a single white rose. It is obvious that a great deal of care and attention has been put into making guests feel welcome and have a luxurious experience that they will remember.
The vanilla scones were just perfect - not too sweet and perfectly baked - and paired with a delicious selection of jams and cream. Having the right cream for scones is essential and the Palliser's choice was terrific: not too heavy and not too sweet. There was a delicious range of sandwiches from classic cucumber, to salmon, to a very light curry chicken. I'm not usually a fan of curry chicken but I have to say that it was so fresh and very light in flavour, surprising me with how much I enjoyed it! And the little cakes... absolutely divine! I've had afternoon tea in other places around the world where the desserts can dominate the experience, making it sickly sweet and you leave feeling a bit ill. Not here - the desserts were the perfect ending and everything was in balance with each other.
My friend and I were a bit of a last minute addition to attend the tea. My friend, Andrea, is celiac and as soon as we mentioned it to our waitress, she went to the kitchen and worked with the chef to produce an incredible speed of treats that she could enjoy. It was incredibly thoughtful and we were stunned by the service and how they went out of their way. We later had the opportunity to meet with the Chef who came to our table, which was another absolutely brilliant touch. It was great to let him know how much we appreciated it and how much we enjoyed his tasty treats all around.
Now, we had the opportunity to attend afternoon tea on a special day at the Palliser, which was celebrating Heritage Day in Calgary. As such, all of the guests moved to another beautiful room where we had the chance to enjoy a talk on the fascinating history of the Palliser over the past century and experiences and memories from its many guests over the years! Who would have thought it has played host to everyone from members of the British Royal Family, to Prime Ministers, to Brad Pitt and Angelina Joie, Bill Murray, Marilyn Manson, and the wildly popular Comic Con celebrities (and eager fans!).
Overall, it was such an enjoyable experience with impeccable service! I just wish it was closer to home so that I could enjoy it on a regular basis; though, perhaps the distance is what also makes it special to enjoy every moment. This would be a brilliant outing to go to with girlfriends, take your mum, a bridal or baby shower, or just because it's a weekend!
If you're in Calgary, make this a must-do on your list! The Palliser's Afternoon Tea Service is held daily between 1 to 3pm. To ensure that you can enjoy this service, give the Palliser a call and they will be more than happy to help you with securing a reservation (tip: book before 11am on the day of the service at the latest, if possible) The tea is $37.50/person plus tax and worth every penny! Also very cute - there is a junior high tea menu offered for children under 12, which would be a lovely experience. Keep your eye out also for special tea events that the Palliser will hold during the year for an extra special experience.
A big thank you to the Palliser, Jacqueline and team for a wonderful, memorable experience. I can't wait to return!