As a very young child, I remember being in a room at the Prince Hotel with the soft clink of silverware on china chiming in the background. My mother is seated on a low sofa, knees properly together and legs set at an angle as she chats animatedly with some memory-blurred guest at my periphery. Seated at the low coffee table, I am focused on carefully cutting through a slice of flaky mille feuille, its distinctive chocolate-striped decoration smearing under the pressure of my fork. Every time my mother went to tea, it was this dessert that I would quickly pick out of the cart and then slowly savour.
It’s a fond memory that lingers and lends a kind of rosy warmth to any afternoon tea I take. As an adult, there’s now much more of an awareness to the ceremony and ritual of things. But at the core, I am still delighted by all the desserts and sandwiches to try.
So it was that my globe-trotting friend Lisa Hsia made a pit stop in Toronto last week and suggested we take afternoon tea so that we could catch up. It being a holiday and a Monday meant all the usual suspects were fully booked or just not serving tea. Thankfully, no one adheres strictly to the hours between 4pm and 6pm when afternoon tea is traditionally taken, and so I made a mid-afternoon booking at Annona at the Park Hyatt. Not having heard much about the tea service here, I hoped for the best. And was pleasantly surprised.
Despite not necessarily enjoying every bite offered, the quiet of Annona’s dining room was an enjoyable space and we lingered long enough to almost make it to high tea! Not that we could have fit in dinner right then.
To most, afternoon tea at Annona is merely serviceable, perhaps lacking the more traditional trappings of a proper tea room. But at $28, the food and service are both solid and I most certainly have had other teas with less quality and at a higher cost. I also love the fact that they source their teas from Tealeaves out in Vancouver – much appreciated by this tea-lover.