Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Banff Springs
When I stumbled into my room at the majestic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel after a spectacular day of ripping up at Lake Louise and a few beverages at the Waldhaus Pub downstairs, I found my wife lounging on the bed in a fluffy white bathrobe. She was watching Downton Abbey on her laptop after a long, hard day of pampering at the hotel’s ultra-luxurious Willow Stream Spa (she’s more spa queen than ski queen). Quickly surmising that I probably had way too much “fun” down at the bar, my wife scowled at my sorry state. Pointing
at her laptop, where Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, was having a very civilized, and very English, afternoon tea with her daughter-in-law Cora Crawley, the Countess of Grantham, she chirped, “Maybe tomorrow you should try a little après-tea instead of your primitive, beer infused après-ski ritual, dear.”
“Fortunately,” she added in a stern, admonitory tone channeling the Dowager Countess herself, “this hotel serves a very traditional British afternoon high tea.”
She continued in an eerily accurate English upper-class accent: “And if you know what’s good for you, you’ll meet me at the Rundle Lounge at 3:30 sharpish tomorrow after you get back from skiing – showered, shaved, and preferably in a proper shirt and jacket.”
Flash forward to the next day, when
at precisely 3:29 p.m. I walked into the spectacular lounge. I found my wife sitting in front of a postcard window with a breathtaking view of the Bow Valley and a tea party fit for a queen laid out on the table.
“Nice of you to show up early, darling,” she said in a playful tone, with a twinkle
in her eye. “We’re going to have tea here this afternoon, and I’ve made reservations at The Chateau Lake Louise tomorrow for after you pull yourself away from the mountain. I thought a little tea safari would class up your ski safari.”
Well, if you’ve heard the old saying “happy wife, happy life,” I’m sure you know exactly where this story is going. So, without further ado, let me tell you how amazing après-tea actually can be – and I say that with complete and utter sincerity. Here, then, are the culinary highlights of our two-day après-tea experience at The Fairmont Banff Springs and Chateau Lake Louise hotels.
For starters, I found out that the consumption of alcoholic beverages, if you are so inclined, can be an excellent starting point for an afternoon spent sipping exotic teas and nibbling scones, pastries and gourmet sarnies (a colloquial term for sandwiches my wife picked up from her Nanny Gilbert, who worked as a head housekeeper in Bournemouth, England, during the 1920s and 30s).
Jayne started with a glass of Moët et Chandon Ice Impérial, which is probably
the only champagne in the world made specifically to enjoy on the rocks. Simply put – spectacular! Light and uber-refreshing with hints of tropical fruit, I got a whiff of grapefruit in my sip when I begged for a taste.
My boozy starter was a Matcha Martini, a magical blend of white cranberry juice, simple syrup, Absolut vodka, and lemon juice infused with pulverized White Kenya Lesla Matcha tea leaves. It was delicious – and good for you, given matcha’s high antioxidant content.
Next up was the après-tea moment every hungry skier dreams of – the arrival of the tiered dish of savoury finger sandwiches, buttermilk scones, and tea fancies (cakes, tarts and assorted baked goods).
The finger sandwiches did not disappoint. My favourites, two in number, were the heirloom tomato sandwich with bocconcini, pesto and butternut squash (a must for fans of Caprese salad) and the Waldorf chicken, chock full of walnuts, apples and grapes. Jayne’s favourite, the grilled vegetable sandwich, was a delicious concoction of portobello mushrooms, artichokes, and parmesan cheese.
Scones, the anchor of every high tea, are of the buttermilk variety at the Chateau and Banff Springs. They were served warm from the oven and included a savoury parmesan thyme creation and a sweet white chocolate cranberry scone. Both were amazing slathered with mogul-sized dollops of fresh cream and cherry preserves.