I am taking a look back to May at part of my birthday celebrations. It is bittersweet to go back about 6 months because some things have changed since then. For one, I no longer live in Ottawa. We moved from Ottawa a few weeks ago, so I am glad I can now look back on the many amazing experiences I had there, including afternoon tea at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier. With having a special momentous birthday for me this year, I wanted to do something extra special to celebrate. I requested the fanciest high tea in the city at the historic Chateau Laurier.
The hotel serves afternoon tea every day in Zoe's Lounge. The lounge was named after Sir Wilfred Laurier's wife Zoe Laurier Lafontaine who was also a piano teacher. It features elegant comfy chairs, chandeliers and an amazing atrium style view of the Parliament Hill surroundings. As soon as we walked in, I felt special and even a little bit regal to be able to sip tea and eat nibblies in the gorgeous setting.
The first thing you need to do is pick your choice of tea. A tea sommelier comes around with a vintage tea cart of the Fairmont selection of teas that you can smell and look at to make your choice. As a tea lover, it was neat to see the cart being brought around and being able to see the tea being brewed in front of me. You need good tea to have a satisfying "afternoon tea" after all. I believe I chose a classic Earl Grey as my flavour.
The second part is a classic fruit salad. It is a nice start to the service as well, and I liked how not everything was brought out at once so you could take your time with everything. Then they brought out the main attraction on tiered plates. The food at the Chateau Laurier tea room is selected by Chef Darren McGrady who was a former chef to Queen Elizabeth II and Diana Princess of Wales. So you know the finger food will be of the finest and most royal quality.
Starting from the bottom of the tray were classic scones with clotted cream and jam. Then the middle of the tray included the savoury--and my personal favourite--finger food options, including an egg salad sandwich, a curry chicken salad sandwich, a smoked salmon and rye wheel and roast beef with beet and horseradish. The combination of beets, roast beef and horseradish was apparently a favourite of Princess Diana. The top tier featured gorgeous mini desserts such as a French macaron, chocolate tart and a jam and custard sweet sandwich.
You might be thinking "what a dainty selection of finger food, but hardly a meal." Yes, it looks deceiving, but you would be wrong. Although the size of the individual pieces is small, the overall tray is actually quite a lot of food. That is why I would recommend going either right after lunch time or just before dinner time (around 4pm like we did), as you may find yourself too full for a meal afterwards. Also, you tend to also fill up on liquids, like tea (although you can opt for the "champagne" or "cocktail" service as well) so everything together is surprisingly filling.
Living in Ottawa, I walked by the hotel many times on my way around Parliament Hill or downtown, but to sit in the lounge and see the passersby as you sip tea, as well as people watching other people having high tea, is also an experience. For children, they will also create a Little Prince or Princess tea with smaller portions and a smaller price tag so they can have the experience as well.
When I thought I was stuffed with bite sized goodies, they surprised me with another tray for my birthday. I think someone tipped them off that is was my birthday...As much as I loved the personal touch and great service, I had to take those ones home because I couldn't eat another bite. I would recommend afternoon tea at the Chateau Laurier if you are looking for something special to do in Ottawa, however, it definitely not an everyday activity. Another more affordable option is to just take a quick detour through the lobby of the Chateau Laurier to admire the architecture on your way to the Rideau Centre for some shopping.
We walked back along the Rideau Canal on the lovely holiday Monday day that it was. I will miss those walks along the canal now that we have moved. Because my husband's birthday is also in May, there are usually two different cakes and celebrations close to each other. I made him a chocolate orange cake and he showed off his decorating skills with an immaculate cake for me. The balloons from Urban Outfitters were my touch and stayed up on the wall for the entire month.
Even though my big birthday didn't include a crazy big party, I was perfectly alright with how I celebrated. I don't need all of that pomp and circumstance anymore, although I definitely appreciate feeling like a princess for a day.