The Cardinal Tea Room will make you feel like British royalty
“One lump, or two?”
That was the first thing to enter my mind as my roommate and I reached the top of the narrow staircase and took in the Cardinal Tea Room on St-Laurent for the first time. Plush, jewel-toned Victorian sofas, worthy of a Downton Abbey set, were complemented by antique trunks in place of tables and a large chandelier in the centre of the tea room. It was a real salon, accompanied by easy-listening soft jazz and folky classics playing in the background. It smelled like coming home to my grandmother’s apple crumble, and was warm enough to combat the fall chill outside instantly. It wasn’t too crowded. It wasn’t too loud. I was in love… And then I saw the prices on the menu.
The menu is chock full of some of my favourite traditional British fare: scones, clotted cream, muffins and a variety of teas including English breakfast, Norfolk breakfast, Irish breakfast and lavender Earl Grey. There were also a few green, white, oolong and rooibos options, though naturally none of those lists compared to the more traditional British black teas. The prices ranged from $4.50 for a two-cup teapot to $8.50 for a six-cup teapot.
There were also sandwiches and savoury dishes relatively well-priced at $5, but then again these were really only cream cheese and cucumber on some bread. Despite that, however, my roommate and I bought one of their savoury muffins (bacon, thyme and cheddar) and a blueberry scone, which comes with jam and butter. Clotted cream is an extra dollar, making this tea-time snack $5 in all its glory. At first, I was a little skeptical of paying $9 for a muffin and scone and, once they arrived, slightly warmed on adorable, delicate plates, I couldn’t help thinking how small the muffin looked.
My other critique is that while the scone came with butter, the muffin did not. It was a little dry and some added butter from the scone’s plate improved it. Despite its size, however, it was quite filling and the consistency, apart from its dryness, was really nice. The blueberry scone, it was decided, tasted like something your grandma would bring over for breakfast. It was good, but it wasn’t the best scone we’d ever had.
The tea, however, made all the difference. I think I’d like to take a bath in the Cardinal’s lavender Earl Grey. Often when you infuse teas with other flavours, the blend doesn’t work as nicely, or it overpowers the original tea. The lavender Earl Grey was a perfect blend of the two. It was mild enough that you could drink it with or without milk or sugar. Easily the perfect tea and, despite my original skepticism about the price, definitely worth the money to split a large pot with someone.
At the end of the day, the Cardinal Tea Room is a lovely little spot in Mile End. It’s the sort of place you take a first date you want to impress, or where you go when your snobby friend from Toronto comes to town and you want them to feel terrible about the fact that they don’t live in Montreal. Either way, I’ll definitely be going back again.
Cardinal Tea Room is located at 5326 St Laurent Boul.