Fairmont Banff Springs - Afternoon Tea

October 08, 2013
A trip to Banff would not be complete without a visit to The Fairmont Banff Springs, the most historic hotel in the area with the best view of the Rocky Mountains. Constructed in 1888, this majestic castle looms over the river valley amidst pristine lakes, flowing rivers and chiseled peaks. From the windows of the Rundle Lounge where afternoon tea is served, we can truly appreciate the stunning beauty of nature.

The afternoon tea experience ($41/person) began with a palate cleanser of fresh berries. Devonshire cream and strawberry jam were also served in preparation for the scones to come.

Next we got to choose our teas. Our server came around with a wooden cart of glass jars filled with various colourful tea blends, and invited us to take a whiff of each one. I was interested in the round flasks in the front, filled with beautiful pastel-coloured powders. She told me those were matcha powders used to make their exclusive matcha martinis. Interesting... because matcha is always a bright green colour, so I'm not sure what else was in the mix. Though this had definitely piqued my interest in trying one of those matcha martinis.

As for my choice of tea, I had my eye on the organic vanilla orchid. A whiff of sweet vanilla mixed with rich Ceylon black tea only helped confirm my decision.

In the end I took the bait and ordered a matcha martini — a $16 glass of Samurai Saki (2 oz), a smooth blend of gyokuro green tea, daiginjo sake, Absolut kurant vodka and creme de cassis. I'm sure matcha purists would be furious with this combination, and while I do enjoy drinking matcha in the traditional way, I also really enjoyed this cocktail. The fruity blackcurrant flavour was very prominent, with a muted taste of malty rice wine.

After the fruits and drinks, the blueberry scone made its appearance. I didn't find it particularly memorable because it wasn't very fluffy. It seemed a bit dried out, but it was alright with jam and cream.

The food tower arrived shortly after, loaded with dainty tea sandwiches and two full tiers of dessert. I would've preferred more savoury selections.

bottom tier: cucumber on white with avocado cream cheese, prosciutto on rye with fig goat cream cheese, smoked salmon crostini, egg salad on croissant
I noticed that we were missing a croissant, so I notified the waitress and she quickly brought a fully stuffed one from the kitchen. The croissant was my favourite out of this tier because the egg salad filling had crushed black sesame seeds that added a nice kick of flavour. As for the cucumber and prosciutto sandwiches, both fillings were sliced so thinly that I could barely taste anything apart from the bread, so I didn't enjoy those very much. The smoked salmon was nice, but you can't really go wrong with that.

middle tier: chai brulee, chocolate raspberry cake, Saskatoon berry tart
The chai brulee was cloyingly sweet, had a very creamy texture, and tasted like a chai latte in custard form. But since it was so over-the-top sweet, I could only manage a few spoonfuls. The chocolate raspberry cake had a nice and spongy texture, but the icing on top was also too sweet for my liking. The Saskatoon berry tart was better with its buttery pastry crust and tart berry filling.

top tier: eclair, maple and walnut roulade
The roulade was my favourite dessert. It was a cake roll with bits of crunchy walnut and a delicious maple flavour. Not too sweet, and perfectly moist and spongy. The eclairs were alright, but I never liked eclairs that much, and these were nothing to write home about. According to the menu shown to us at the beginning of the meal, we were also supposed to get macarons, which never arrived. I'm not sure if the restaurant had changed the menu, but it was a bit disappointing because I love macarons!

All in all, it was a decent experience. The only food items I would recommend are the croissant (with black sesame egg salad filling) and the maple walnut roulade. But I would recommend coming here just for the view and the opportunity to explore the hotel.

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