For an intimate atmosphere with urban flair, hit up Dauphine Bakery and Bistro for a swanky high tea in the heart of the city. Enter off 104th Street and descend into a delightful European bakery with all the goods, minus the line-ups at the Duchess and the prices of the Hotel Macdonald.
After wandering the City Market Downtown for organic wines, pea shoots, zucchini and other treasures of the earth, we – a trio of middle-aged ladies – appreciated getting our reserved table right away, starting off with iced teas and water to cool off. Think Little Britain: we were doing what laayyydies doooo.
Our first course was a little cheesy poof and a tiny pitcher of gazpacho. Icy cold with a deep, rich tomato and red pepper flavour, the gazpacho had us swiveling in our seats to check if the bakery sold this as a take-home item in their refrigerators. (They did)
The next course – sarnies! – arrived on a tiered tray, and oh! Absolutely delightful! Every single mini sandwich was perfectly fresh, moist and above all, creative in the pairings of flavour and appearance. A delightful apple, chutney and cheese; mounded egg salad; whipped goat cheese and fig; and chicken salad with tiny concord grapes. Each one featured a delicious base of different breads made in-house. Dauphine’s breads may be considered second fiddle to all the pretty desserts on display, but shouldn’t be discounted as they are hearty and delicious, and worth picking up a loaf (or three) to take home.
We experienced a rather lengthy pause between the removal of the empty sandwich tray, the bringing of fresh plates and the arrival of the dessert course. Seriously – it must have been at the very least half an hour. When it did arrive, it didn’t necessarily look as though it had to be prepped (ie. Some items were simply from the bakery display cases and sliced neatly into three portions) so I’m not sure as to the massive delay. Of course, we were there to visit as well, so it was no great loss.
Two of the sweets were somewhat traditional – a dense chocolate brownie to balance the lemon tart with blueberries. There was also a coconut snowball and a nutty brittle triangle, along with the scone of the day, which was ginger and dark chocolate. The scone practically melted in the mouth, and could stand alone – no need for the silliness of jams, creams and the like. All were nibbly sizes so that there was no regret or sugar overdose when each and every morsel was consumed.
Last but not least, I should, perhaps, address the tea. I suppose that’s what it’s all about. The tea sets were all lovely silver sets, with different silver sugar pots and spoons on each table. There was a large selection of teas from which to choose. I’m not a tea aficionado, so I can’t really speak to this subject much. As well, being such a warm day, our focus was more on the iced tea and water. Still, I happily downed two cups.
Love the atmosphere at Dauphine with the white walls, chrome and black accents – an ideal backdrop to make the stars of the show (Lemon tarts! Carrot cake tulips! Luscious chocolate bombs!) all pop. Our server, Sophia, was polite, engaged and knowledgeable, and kindly offered to take group photos of us enjoying our tea. (I think she’s done this before…)
Perhaps it had been a rough week, or the staff was exhausted by the heat but there were some little touches – like burnt out overhead lamps and extinguished twinkle lights – that could not go unnoticed. And speaking of heat, the bakery was truly as hot as Hades despite the charmingly useless fans they had in place. If you didn’t make any sudden movements you were fine. Otherwise, it was all about keeping the sweat at bay as you tried to simply glow while sipping and snacking. Spiff up those details, and the atmosphere would be perfect.
Conclusion: hands down prefer the $25 pp high tea at Dauphine to the $39 pp royal tea & tour at the Hotel Macdonald, which, to this point, had been “the” place to go for high tea in my books. And it’s not just about the price. The food quality, freshness and creativity wins at Dauphine, along with this intimate urban atmosphere which lends to exclusivity all on its own.
Side note I: I hear the bistro sandwiches are to die for here – that will have to be the next visit.
Daupine Bakery & Bistro
10129 104 Street, Edmonton