[03/07/2014] It’s my girl Tray’s 17th birthday coming up, and since I’m away on vacation on the actual day this year, I thought I would celebrate with her ahead of time. Before anyone else that is, hehe. I treated her to high tea at Secret Garden Tea Company, and we spent some worthwhile heart-to-heart chat time together. ❤ Pinkies up, ladies!
Secret Garden is one of the most popular places in Vancouver for high tea, although technically speaking, what they serve here is afternoon tea. I learned this differentiation from the one and only Mijune! xD Whereas traditional high tea is served after a work day at around 5pm, what we recognize as “high tea” is an afternoon social occasion where mostly women would gather to chat. As opposed to the heavier, often meaty dishes in high tea, afternoon tea serves an assortment of lighter finger items including sandwiches, scones, and sweets.
(This was their transitional period between two seatings times.)
Okaaay, enough with the history. 😛 Secret Garden is such a dainty little place, and it sure is popular. Reservation is required for the full high tea set, and they have 3 seating times- 12:00pm, 2:15pm, and 4:30pm, making each round 2 hours long. I tried to make a reservation for noon but when I called in last week, they were already fully booked. We went for the next best option, which was 2:15pm. Be sure to call them much ahead of time to ensure your desired time! Here, they offer breakfast, lunch, and other high tea options including their high tea to go, demi high tea, and mini high tea. Unfortunately, you can only drop in for these, and it may be difficult getting a spot.
Secret Garden offers a seasonal high tea menu, which updates monthly. You can see the list of goodies on their website!
Here comes some terrible over-exposed pictures..
The china are so feminine and pretty!
When you come, all you have to do is order the tea you want, and the food seems to be prepared. They have a very extensive tea menu- ranging from black tea, green tea, rooibos tea, fruit & herbal tea, estate tea and decaffeinated tea too! Not knowing much about tea to begin with, we definitely struggled with our decision. In the end, Tray went for the Pink Grapefruit, and I chose the bestseller, Secret Garden’s Secret.
Sugar cubes if you drink your tea with sugar, in addition to the milk they offer.
I had a sip of Tray’s Pink Grapefruit, and it was very sweet and citrusy. (4/5) On the other hand, my Secret Garden’s Secret was a much richer, stronger tea. The menu describes it having a vanilla and secret sweet, fruity ingredient, but I couldn’t exactly detect that in it. It went well with the food though, acting as almost a palette cleanser that didn’t interfere with any flavour. (3/5)
The high tea sets presented beautifully in three tier trays, with a ribbon bow tied on top. Seeing that many others have done the same, we asked for a candle to be lit for Tray’s birthday.
For $28.95 per person, you are given a selection of savoury items, baked goods, then dessert…
Starting off with the bottom plate, we have here some cute finger sandwiches. There are 3 pieces of the Secret Garden egg pinwheels, which were smooth and creamy, with crunchy bits of celery and parsley rolled in airy multigrain bread. (4/5) The seasonal menu offers mini croissant sandwiches filled with a shrimp salad. Due to my allergies, they substituted mine with chicken pesto salad. Tray says the shrimp salad is really refreshing. For my sandwich, the “pesto” component was totally missing, but there was an abundance of chicken and pieces of purple romaine. The crossaints themselves didn’t seem very fresh. They weren’t crispy or flaky at all, although very buttery. (3.5/5) The last savoury snack were these mini chives and bacon biscuits, layered with slices of smoked bacon and tomatoes. I’m not a fan of bacon but these I didn’t find these overly salty or fatty. I thought the biscuits were rather dense, doughy and dry though, and pretty bland even with the fillings. However, if you’re like Tray and enjoy bready, carby things, you’ll probably like these aha. (3.5/5)
The next tier features a scone and slices of tea cakes. The scones have some dried cranberries and raisins, and are accompanied by some Devonshire cream and raspberry jam. I was expecting a tanginess from the jam, but it was surprisingly very candied. Some sugar was sprinkled on top as well, and as a result, we both found these a bit too sweet. (3/5) The tea cakes tasted just like banana bread, super aromatic with the natural sweetness of the fruit. The inside was nice and moist, and there are also creamy chunks of bananas. (4.5/5)
Lastly, we have the desserts! I guess I was immensely excited for them because I forgot to take a closeup of this plate. ): First off, we tried the chai crème brûlée. This was served on top of a piece of shortbread cookie, and finished off with a dollop of cream, mint leaf, and a delicate little chai biscotti. The creme brulee didn’t even taste like a custard.. instead, the texture resembles more like a mousse. It was far too rich and it was almost like eating a lump of cream with cream already on top. Nonethessless, I liked the deeply infused flavour of chai in the brulee and biscotti. (3/5) The lemon tart is totally hiding but it was our favourite out the three sweets. The pastry was melt-in-your-mouth soft, and was zesty with the essence of citrus. We only wish there was more! (5/5) We finished off with a decadent peanut butter dark chocolate pudding cake. We were glad we ate this last, because the cake was sticky and messy to eat. It sort of reminds me of fudge.. It appears that the addition of peanut butter cream may have been too much.. while I was okay with it, Tray really didn’t like this at all. (2/5) They even took the time to pipe out “Happy Birthday” with chocolate for Tray, how sweet.
One last look at these cuties.
To be quite honest, everything nothing really stands out to me, so I asked Tray for her opinion. On the top of her list are the bacon and chives biscuits, lemon tarts and croissant.
All in all, Secret Garden is a good choice for a special hangout with the ladies. (And guys too.. by all means, join us! Cx ) Tray & I had a lot of fun, and we made sure to stay until they politely kicked us out ahaha. “Here is your bill, no rush at all!”
Anyways, the food is decent, just not extraordinary. In terms of service, it was not bad, especially considering how busy they were. In the end, it is a splurge, but the unique experience and atmosphere is what you’re after here.