Saturday, March 14, 2015

Reservations absolutely necessary at Audrey Moment

Audrey's Moment High Tea on UrbanspoonI saw an article in Klip magazine Feb-2015 on [Audrey's] Moment and decided to give Audrey's Moment High Tea a try after a long hiatus on "high teas" / afternoon teas. At $28, the "Luxury [Hightea] set" weighs in price-wise on par with their Vancouver counterparts like The Secret Garden. I had heard that gluten-free versions were available, but when I called I was told that too much of the menu was bread-based so that option was out.

Honestly I didn't know what to really expect from a high tea / afternoon tea place in Burnaby. I mean, it's Burnaby, and near Metrotown. It just feels so out of place there -- but I guess that's also why the location is brilliant. It's about time we got a nice high tea place.

They've only been open since October, so it's too soon to tell how the menu and operations will stabilize, but at the moment, they are trying to keep costs down by limiting unnecessary waste. Which is why if you want to do any of their tea sets, reservations are ABSOLUTELY necessary.
Unless they happen to have extra on hand (because this is the Vancouver suburbs and people often no-show on restaurants), you WILL be turned away. I know because I saw it happen on the Saturday I was there. It was just before 2 PM and the place was empty. Two girls tried to do a walk-in for the tea service without reservations and they were turned away.
This is an unfortunate situation because their menu of items you can order at any time is very small. But if the items we had today are any indication, that menu is probably also worth checking out.

So make reservations 24-hours beforehand if you want the tea service and try not to cancel on them. Our party had one person no-show, but they were kind enough not to charge us for it. Still, that's not a nice thing to do to a restaurant, especially a new one.

As high tea places go, the décor and ambiance is ace and reminded me of my experience at Pâtisserie Für Elise: Bright, lots of white, and elegantly beautiful. Definitely take a good look around if you can. Things to look for include a picture of Audrey Hepburn, a vintage-looking phone, a large portrait in the back room above the couch, and a silver horse head.
Yeah -- a horse. And Audrey Hepburn: For some reason I thought it was named after the chef, but nope. It's some sort of Audrey Hepburn influence. No sign of Tiffany blue in the restaurant, though.
What the décor does have is a feel of luxury. Comfortable seats, wide tables for four persons, and ample spacing. Some afternoon tea houses are perhaps too popular and to try to seat everyone they end up with stingy spacing, which for me detracts from the atmosphere. For the moment, Audrey Moment is in its early days and you might as well go and savour the legroom and unrushed service. On top of this are beautiful full sets of painted bone china and cutesy teddy-bear-hilted cutlery.

Our server on Saturday was the super-sweet and adorable Alex--Whom the restaurant just throws to the wolves because the menu says one thing but the kitchen throws out another. Looks like they didn't tweak the printed menu because a couple of items were different, or at least looked different from the February feature article in Klip magazine. SakuraSweets and U Magazine  have pictures of the menu items as they appeared in February. Expect the menu to continue to evolve as the months go by and they adjust to customer feedback. Wish they'd reprint the menus, though, or at least update them online.

Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta
  • Looks like this, or a version of it, is still available.
  • White panna cotta topped with a layer of tamely flavoured grapefruit jelly, and a piece of orange.
  • Not sharp or bitter as you  might expect grapefruit to be. Others at our table thought it was "refreshing", but I would have personally liked a stronger, sharper flavour to qualify as such. Still, probably the best item with which to end your Luxury High Tea experience.
Chocolate Peanut Tart
  • Gone! But we got two mousse cakes.
House Special Mousse Cake
  • Two types: Strawberry and chocolate.
  • Very tough to pick up with your fingers because it is so soft. You might want to get a fork under it to help stabilize it when transferring it to your plate. They are one-bite sized, so you could also just transfer it straight to your mouth (is that gauche?).
Fresh Strawberry Napoleon Cake
  • Very delicate "sandwich" of puff pastry, topped with almonds.
"Macaron of your choice"
  • Poor Alex had to fast talk her way out of this one. Just the one rose-flavoured macaron to "choose" from. Everyone got the same thing.
  • As macarons go, they were decent. Nothing wrong with them at all.
Blackcurrant Scone served with Mascarpone Cheese and Rose Jam
  • To be honest it looked like raisins. Maybe it was raisin scones today.
  • Not crumbly and not too firm -- always plusses.
  • Not overly buttery, which falls into the middle ground of still tasty but maybe not rich enough.
  • Looked like two rounds pasted together before being baked. They came out stacked unevenly which looked odd -- until you easily and cleanly pull them apart for butter and jam. At that point you recognize the convenience of it all. Interesting choice.
  • The Mascarpone Cheese was so firm that I honestly thought it was butter. And it tasted like butter. Was it butter?
Bacon & Spinach Quiche
  • The ping-pong ball sized quiche we got is not the same as in the pictures I've seen. But its composition looked like what is described in the article: "combination of spinach, bacon, and mashed potato" except possibly diced potato instead of mashed. Also maybe topped with a bit of caramelized shallots? That or it was over-baked.
Smoked Wild Sockeye Salmon Ciabatta
  • I would have personally preferred a softer bread here. The bread was definitely on the firm and dry side, and that didn't help especially as I'm not keen on salmon to begin with. Needless to say I'm starting out biased here, so take this with a grain of salt.
Potato Salad and Tiger Prawn Sandwich
  • There's potato salad here? Secret sauce for sure, though.
Seafood Basket
  • Instead of a mini ice-cream cup we got mini cones in a green wrapper (no, don't eat the paper wrapper).
  • Salty-savoury creamy seafood-y filling.
  • They probably changed the recipe from using curry powder, and I think that's a good choice since curry is powerful stuff and can take away from the other flavours.
Salami Croissant
  • There's salami in here?
Proscuitto Sandwich
  • Same with the salmon item -- bread could be softer, especially when the topping is so light.
  • Strangely not very salty or flavourful.
Tea
  • Interesting variety of scented teas available including a "Creme Caramel Green Tea".
  • You pick your tea for the "Luxury Tea Set" from the tea menu. There's the left hand side, and the slightly pricier right hand side. If you choose from the right hand side, you pay the difference, which could be as little as 25 cents.
  • Comes with your choice of honey, rock salt, and regular salt. Yup, all three are brought to the table.
Overall, the presentation is good and there's a feeling that the items were individually carefully and properly prepared, but the food was strangely not very memorable. Only the Seafood Basket and the Rose Jam had a strong flavour that really stood out. The scone was also nicely done unless you demand buttery richness. And maybe if you prefer more delicate flavour, then the menu will find more favour with you. There are two ways you can read this:
  • "It's not very tasty", OR
  • According to the article (see picture below, purple section at the bottom), "to maintain the health of each customer, they choose their ingredients with utmost care, and you will find that everything is not too sweet nor too salty".

And I think the latter is probably the more correct interpretation. We are used to demanding sensory pleasure and already conditioned by packaged food to demand saltiness or sweetness, and excessively so. When health-conscious food appears, it's often "lacking" even though we are told again and again to cut back on sugar and sodium. So before you judge the high tea set at Audrey's Moment, give this a thought.

At $28, price is on par with many other places. The total amount of food you get isn't as filling as some tea places that use more bread (here, on the savoury tray, except the croissant you get open-faced sandwiches), but a filling meal / lunch substitute isn't necessarily the proper judge of what a high tea service is supposed to be.
Combined with a beautiful space and especially the roomy surroundings and un-rushed service, high tea at Audrey's Moment is a good deal if you also also count ambiance in the price.

*

I also tried the intriguing looking "Puff Pastry Soup" ($8). This is basically a medium bowl of soup topped with a slab of puff pastry capping it in lieu of getting bread or crackers to go with your soup. The bowl isn't filled to the brim probably because that would destroy the puff pastry while it was baked on.

I chose the Dungeness Crab Bisque because, according to our server, it was one of the rarely ordered items.
  • Clear crab flavour.
  • Being a bisque, you are getting a soup, not a stew, so don't expect to see large chunks of anything. If you want something thicker and heavier, go for the chowder.
  • There was also a richness to this soup which made it very tasty. All things considered, $8 was a good price for this order.



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