Afternoon Tea at the White Heather
In Victoria, tea is serious business. Tea rooms can be found on every second street corner, and the most famous (read: biggest tourist trap) of them all -- the Empress -- rakes in $50 a head. Clearly, I had to participate in this Victoria tradition when I visited my pal Leah in Garden City this past weekend.
Not willing to pay Empress prices, Leah and I did some research (teasearch?) before settling on the White Heather Tea Room (1885 Oak Bay Ave). We needed to make reservations to snag a Friday afternoon spot, which we took as a good sign. The unassuming White Heather is located in a mini-mall of sorts, and isn't much to look at when you first enter. It's sparsely decorated, and resembles a quaint retirement home cafeteria more than the opulent British dining room we were expecting.
Our friendly waitress seated us immediately and brought some ice water while we looked at the menu. White Heather offers three afternoon teas: the "Wee Tea," the "Not So Wee Tea," and the "Big Muckle" tea for two. Each has a variety of different goodies, and all are very reasonably priced. Leah and I each selected the Not So Wee tea service, with Mad Hatter tea to drink (the most popular tea on the menu). Our tea was quickly brought out in a big pot for sharing and our food arrived soon after, piled high on a three-tiered tea stand.
White Heather was very accomodating in my request for an all-vegetarian selection, which included egg salad and cucumber cream-cheese tea sandwiches, a cheese scone with veggie filling, a piece of coconut-lemon pound cake, hazlenut shortbread, a mini sundried tomato quiche, a lemon tart, and an apricot-ginger scone. Leah's spread was similar, except with a ham tea sandwich and a cheese scone with chicken salad filling. In general, the food was amazing. The tea sandwiches were a little standard, but this was more than made up for by the mini cheese scone filled with smoky, roasted eggplant, cream cheese, and a tangy artichoke heart. The quiche was two bites of warm, flaky, creamy heaven, and the scone was light, fluffy, and decadent with devon cream, lemon curd, and raspberry preserves. The lemon tart was clearly home-made, with not-too-sweet lemon filling and real whipped cream topping. The huge slice of moist, lemony pound cake and sweet, nutty shortbread were delicious as well. I couldn't even come close to finishing all of my treats, although I certainly tried.
Even more fabulous than the food was the Mad Hatter tea. It's a sweet mix of black tea with bold strawberry and vanilla flavours -- perfection with just a touch of sugar. The tea went great with the food, and it was so good that I bought a bag of it to take back to Toronto with me.
The White Heather Tea Room is a near perfect afternoon tea experience, and a great value at less than $20 per person. If you ever find yourself on the Island and craving tea, give the Empress a pass and head on over to Oak Bay -- your wallet and your tastebuds will thank you.
9 high noon teas out of 10
Labels: restaurant review