Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Hotel Selkirk - Afternoon Tea


Recently I've discovered yet another place that serves afternoon tea, but it's only available at 3 pm every Wednesday from May to August. Since there is only one seating per week, it's a good idea to make reservations early. Reservations can be booked online or by calling Hotel Selkirk at 780-496-7227.

Hotel Selkirk is a reconstruction of a historical hotel that used to be on Jasper Avenue. It is currently an operating hotel in Fort Edmonton Park on 1920 Street. Admission to the park is not required for afternoon tea at Hotel Selkirk's Johnson's Cafe. Just buzz the hotel at the gate and ask them to open it, then drive along the narrow scenic road lined with trees. Guest parking is available right behind the hotel. I think being immersed in a street straight from the 1920's with quaint little stores and vintage ads is already well worth the visit.


Johnson's Cafe is attached to the hotel lobby with plenty of spacious seating. The room is not luxurious by any means, but it is clean and bright with a cozy feeling.


As the waitresses in old style dresses and aprons began serving tea, a couple of costumed musicians outside the entrance broke into song. They sang some country style tunes, but quickly left after a few short pieces.


The table was already set with an antiquated jewelry chest filled with teabags and a plate of 3 condiments including berry compote, Devonshire cream, and strawberry butter.


Shortly after we were seated, a waitress brought each of us a pot of boiling water for the tea. I thought the round sugar bowl and cow-shaped cream pitcher were rather cute.


Warm and fluffy scones made their appearance soon thereafter. Thanks to them, I didn't have to leave hungry. The scones weren't very buttery or savoury, but they went well with the condiments.


Then the food towers came out of the kitchen one by one. The 2-tiered tower in the picture shows the portions for 3 people. It's much smaller than the ones at other afternoon tea places, but it's more than enough for a light afternoon snack. And a price of $16.67/person is excellent value for the scones, the food tower, the tea and the ambiance. With tax and a mandatory gratuity of 15%, it comes to about $20/person.


Note: Every table gets a different assortment of food items.

The first thing I noticed was that there were only 2 cucumber slices but 3 of everything else. I asked the waitress if it was an oversight on their part, but she said the food was mix and match and they just randomly select items to put in the tower. At that point I started paying attention to other people's towers and was disappointed with what I saw. I can understand replacing a shortbread cookie with a ginger cookie so that every table gets something different, but I don't agree with some tables getting more food and others getting less. Even though the meal is very good value in any case, it is unfair that some tables got up to 3 more items than others. In particular, I noticed that the table next to mine didn't get the smoked salmon sandwich which many would consider a highlight.

bottom tier: cucumber slices with cream cheese, egg salad open-faced sandwich, smoked salmon open-faced sandwich, ham and cream cheese wrap, brownie, jam shortbread cookie

Almost everything on this tier was good. I especially enjoyed the egg salad sandwich with paprika. The only thing I disliked was the shortbread cookie which was unbelievably bland and tasted like crumbly raw dough.


top tier: assorted fruits, creampuff

This tier consisted of just one strawberry, a thin slice of orange, a few grapes, and mini creampuffs. No comment on the fruits, but the creampuff was by far the worst creampuff I've ever had. The choux pastry was slightly chewy and tasted like cardboard that had been soaked in water, then stored in the freezer. It had a very strong freezer smell and taste.


Despite the disappointing cookie and creampuff, I wouldn't hesitate to come back because of the price and ambiance. Afternoon tea at Hotel Selkirk is a nice and relaxing afternoon activity for the family.

Hotel Selkirk / Johnson's Cafe on Urbanspoon
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