Monday, November 25, 2013

Gluten-Free Afternoon Tea at Neverland

Neverland Tea Salon on UrbanspoonNeverland Tea Salon offers a gluten-free and dairy-free (but not vegan, since it still uses egg) option on its $30 "High Tea" menu. I'm not gluten-intolerant but I was curious about it, so when we went last Saturday, that's what I opted for. This option comes at no extra cost. The selection on the tea tower is slightly different, however.

Neverland is a smallish place and can be quite busy. Our table was for 4:00 PM and there was a card marking this as the third booking of the day. 4:00 PM tea can feel quite late, especially in this fall/winter season when shortly after it will be dark. However, if you want an un-rushed time (especially if you have a party larger than four), it's probably the best reservation option. When I arrived, it was still buzzing with people, but there apparently weren't many 4:00 PM reservations because the place quieted down quite a bit; and we had a lovely conversation at our table until closer to 6:30 PM.

The flowery decor and the teapot logo lends itself more to Alice in Wonderland imagery than pirates-on-a-tropical-island Neverland (and the website even sports a framed picture of Alice), so you'd be forgiven if this confuses you into thinking "Alice in Neverland". Even so, there really wasn't enough fantastical Wonderland to theme it that way, so the net result was a tea salon neither Neverland nor Wonderland, but just trying to emulate an elegant teatime. Which it does well enough with older furniture and of course beautiful teacups and saucers.

They bring out a lit of teas in little containers for you to choose based on the aroma, but there is a full tea menu as well. The box are just the most popular ones, which interestingly doesn't include their Captain Hook tea. Maybe Vancouverites just aren't all that adventurous when it comes to tea.

If you are not gluten-intolerant, I do NOT recommend you opt for the gluten-free option unless you insist on it for other reasons. Gluten-free bread can have a grainy feel to it, which may be off-putting (or at least distracting). There are techniques to mitigate this, but at Neverland, the predominant experience of their bread was, sadly, the dryness and graniness. Also, because the gluten-free option is also dairy free, you won't get a croissant and no butter to your scone.

For afternoon tea, I am used to sandwiches where the filling comes through strongly, either because of richness of taste, sheer quantity, or both. Here, maybe because of the distracting bread, it was the bread that dominated. In particular, I felt this with the little brioche bun with crab salad. The poor salad was lost in the dry bun. (If you go, I recommend opening up the bun, putting the salad onto one half and eating that open-faced, and using some jam on the other half).

The pastries/desserts were OK on the gluten-free tea, except the one biscuit that tasted like dried prawns. Maybe some combination of something else I ate mixed badly with it, but that certainly turned out very strangely.

In quantity, this afternoon tea felt a little lighter than the others I've had at Soirette and The Secret Garden, but that is not necessarily the measure of afternoon tea. My personal expectations are for exquisite bites rather than a light lunch. Maybe the regular (non-gluten-free option) tea service may yield a better experience.

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