Unlike afternoon tea houses that aim for "elegant" or "refined", the furniture here feels more cozy and "at home". When you're at the table, it feels like you're at your old-fashioned grandma's dining room for Thanksgiving. Overall, the ambiance feels closer to "adorable Alice in Wonderland", minus any tacky wackiness.
A big plus for La Petite Cuillère is its location compared to what it offers. At that busy intersection of Kingsway and Broadway, to duck in here for an hour or so is to escape into a quiet, tranquil oasis.
Service is friendly and enthusiastic, although our server had a creepy talent for putting on the most disconcerting agonized look that is sure to make any hardened heart sorry. It looked like she was in absolute dread of being spanked when she gave the bad news to the kitchen.
The occasion for this tragedy was a bit of a goof-up with the reservation. At La Petite Cuillère, if you make a reservation for their tea service, items are prepared ahead of time. So, if some/all of you don't show up, it goes to waste presumably. Also, if you order something else, that screws them up to.
I had booked "afternoon tea" for a party of eight (and happily, they had a big table to accommodate all of us at the same table, which not all smaller establishments can do). I had assumed that everyone would just go for afternoon tea, and that it wouldn't be a big deal if they chose from one of the lesser options (which are basically the afternoon tea minus a few items). However, it was apparently quite a big deal that not everyone at our party wanted the full $24.50 afternoon tea.
For their part, they had assumed from my e-mail that everyone would, and hadn't bothered to check. I don't want to get into portioning out the blame here, but I do want to say,
- There's a good reason for the saying about how to "ASSuME" just makes an ass out of you and me. Obviously some of this is my bad as I had made an assumption that they could be flexible. Many afternoon tea services get around this by simply offering basically no choice -- You get the one tea service that everyone else gets and all you choose is what tea you want.
- They were awfully nice to not press the point and let it go.
The food was, however, a bit mediocre. Which is not to say "bad", but it did not strike me as exceptional either. The one stand-out, unfortunately, was a little fruit tart booby-trapped with a lot of syrup. If you didn't take it all in one whole bite, you were liable to make a dripping mess. If you see that on your tea tower, I recommend you find yourself a spoon and tip it to see if you end up with a teaspoon of syrup. Our encounter with it was probably just a fluke, though. Karma biting us on the ass for the reservation screw-up, maybe?
Also interesting was a tuna salad tart that was really quite lemony. A very nicely done and flavourful macaron finishes your tea service.
At $24.50 it comes in at the low end for afternoon tea services. It doesn't look like much on the tower, but two small scones can go far toward being filling. Devonshire cream and fruit preserves come in a very un-wasteful but seemingly stingy portion. There is however no fuss at all if you ask for more.
Gluten-free and assorted dietary requirements can be accommodated, but you can end up with a very different-looking tower. Best to call ahead.
On your way out, don't miss the round business cards or the super-cute cat-in-an-apron teapot.