Sunday, August 21, 2011

Red Tea Box on Queen St West

The Red Tea Box on Queen St West is a unique tea shop and restaurant that fits well with the other fun and quirky establishments on that street.  The store is at the front and sells tea leaves and teapots as well as sweets (cookies, cakes, chocolates).  There are also a few dining tables and chairs in the middle of the store that hint at the tea salon and restaurant area in the back.  It seemed strange to dine in midst of the shoppers so we opted to have our lunch in the official dining areas.

Walking through the store and then down a narrow hallway adjacent the kitchen, we emerge into a beautiful garden patio that was perfect for a warm summer afternoon.  The decor in the patio complemented the zen feel of the tea shop with a large red Asian parasol, and an ornate metal screen that had Indian motifs.

I was intrigued by the idea of the soup sampler - small bowls of three different types of soup.  Since it was such a hot day, the daily sampler consisted of a set of chilled soups - pea and ginger, fennel vichyssoise, corn and cilantro chowder.  Each of the delicious and refreshing soups had a distinct flavour.  I love the concept of getting to try a bit of everything rather than having to choose from equally enticing options!

The featured lunch bento box of the day included generous portions of moist seared black pepper chicken with brown jasmine rice, grilled octopus salad, and roasted vegetables with a sesame dressing.  The presentation was quite appealing with little cucumber chunks cut in the shape of butterflies and the rice heaped on a porcelain spoon.  The crisp fresh vegetables came as a triangular wedge artistically layered in alternating colours. 

Since we were eating at a tea salon, of course we had to order tea.  Again because of the heat, we opted for iced tea.  While there were over 30 types of hot tea,  the selection of iced tea was more limited. We picked the ceylon tea with kaffir lime which was perfectly brewed, sweetened and chilled.  The taste of the actual tea was evident, unlike most store-bought iced tea.

After such a large lunch, we were quite full but could not resist ordering the gorgeous looking dessert cakes that we saw passing by on route to other tables.  We picked a chocolate hazelnut toffee cake and a pistachio lime caramel cake, then waited to be surprised by the decorative fondant toppings that they came with.  The cakes were almost too beautiful to eat, and in fact when we did eat them, we found them a bit too sweet.

Further back behind the outdoor patio was an enclosed dining area called "The Coach House" that offers a totally different dining vibe than the outdoor patio.  The Coach House has a more European feel with an eclectic assortment of mismatched tables, chairs and chaise lounges.  We will return when the weather is colder and try the "tea bento" in this room.  Served from 2pm (noon on Sundays), you can choose to have either savoury or sweet snacks with your tea.

Red Tea Box
696 Queen St W

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