It’s Mother’s Day in Stratford. And mothers and daughters are swathed in the sunlight pouring through the coloured windows of Revival House, and across white linen tablecloths. Triple-tier cake stands are stacked with savouries and sweets. The staff serve from fine china teapots into Royal Albert cups and saucers. The clotted cream is fresh and the cranberry jam is vividly red.
Carrie Wreford, co-owner of Bradshaws & Kitchen Detail scans the room. “There is so much change and busy-ness around everything we do,” she says. “So there is great value in traditional experiences that we can carry over, where we take time, sit together and share in a beautiful environment. I believe we need this.”
It’s Bradshaw’s High Tea at Revival House, and Carrie is pleased with what she sees. With a nod to the influence of Downton Abbey, she also has her own memories of tea-time while working at the Windsor Arms and King Edward Hotels in Toronto. “It seemed such a civil and kind thing to do. We want to reintroduce some of these finer things to a younger generation.”
These days, the taxonomy of British tea-time, afternoon tea and high tea is blurred but mostly associated with the Victorian era. The ‘high’ in high tea originally referred to a more substantial meal later than four o’clock tea but became conflated with formality and “ladies who lunch”. Modern flexibility prevails though, so it is now a light midday lunch shared with a pot of tea.
Still, the cultural bar is set high, so Wreford collaborated with Royal Albert to supply teapots, cake stands, and cups and saucers from their Miranda Kerr collection, “A very feminine design in pink, aqua, pale yellow and sky blue with butterflies and peonies,” she explains. “Quite girly, but perfect for a Mother’s Day event with mothers and daughters.”
For the tea itself, she sourced from Sloane Fine Tea Merchants, a Toronto company supplying five-star hotels around the world, for a flight of three teas, the third served both hot and cold: Blood Orange Oolong, semi-balled with hibiscus, citrus peel and blood orange flavours; Heavenly Cream black tea with bergamot and vanilla; and Rouge Provence, a rooibos (South African “red bush”) tea with floral and fruit accents.
Back in Revival’s kitchen, Chef Loreena Miller was challenged to provide food that would span tradition and creativity: three kinds of sandwiches, with house-cured gravlax and bacon; scones baked with Sloane tea, and flourless chocolate cake balls on the middle tier; topped by chocolate truffles and black currant and mixed citrus paté de fruit jellies. Revival’s Candice Wigan created three tea-infused cocktails. The sugared dehydrated rose petals were an extra touch.
“High tea is such a natural for Stratford,” says Revival House’s events manager Alysha Ford, “So we plan to serve high tea monthly, plus on holidays.”