Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A filling afternoon tea at The Secret Garden

Secret Garden Tea Company on Urbanspoon Somewhere along the way I got hooked on afternoon tea, and I suppose it's only natural I ended up at probably one of the most well-known afternoon tea venues, The Secret Garden.

On the Saturday afternoon for our 2:15pm seating, every seat was full. Definitely get a reservation. Ambiance is lacking, sadly, although in part it is because the place was buzzing not just with conversations of the other diners, but also the traffic jam at the counter in the back half of the room. The room is very bright, and decor feels like a too-airy rustic tea house. Not a calming, elegant, tea experience sadly (for that, try Pâtisserie Für Elise).

The items on the tea service change (they have recently switched to a December menu, as well as rolled out a Christmas menu), so the next time you go, what I mention here will probably not be anywhere to be seen. Individual pieces were generally good, and there is evidence of attention and care to presentation, such as with the white bread cream cheese rolls in the middle on the bottom tray, and the lovely desserts on the top tray. However, there were also no stand-out particularly good items, either. Overall my experience of The Secret Garden was that there wasn't anything really outstanding, but at the same time you are getting good quality, good quantity, and good value for $26.95 (a cheaper take-out option is available).

There is a vegetarian option, which basically involves the bottom tray of sandwiches. The regular option was tuna sandwiches and steak (ground up) sandwiches. The veggie option had egg or brie, and was terribly boring to my omnivorous sensibilities. But beggars can't be choosers, I suppose. At least they do have some sort of option for non-meat-eaters.

It is also a rather deceptively filling tea service. On the bottom tray, you get TWO mini croissants and TWO mini sandwiches, PLUS maybe three small cream cheese rolls in a large stack made from white bread and therefore camouflage themselves from your active perception until you realize you are starting to be full and there's still food on the trays. Elsewhere, typically you get one of each type of item.
On the middle tier, it's one small scone (that I thought could have been much tastier with a bolder use of butter) and two slices of cake. The top tray had several dessert pieces, and happily did not succumb to the current fad of macarons.

We also got a couple of items from the counter at a mere $1.95 a piece. Again, good but not excellent. And perhaps a mistake on our part because it really was quite a filling tea service.

For teas, myself and one other (out of our party of four) opted for "weird tea" -- we just let our server choose, with the emphasis on wanting something out of the ordinary. Well, we definitely got it. One tea had the aroma of toffee; the other had a smoky aroma strongly reminiscent of bacon. Neither tasted like how they smelled, for better or worse. But they were definitely interesting conversation pieces!

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