Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier High Tea (and Martinis)

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“May I take your coat?” The young woman in front of me asks. I nod a thank you, noticing how impeccable she looks as I pass my coat over. Her charcoal grey pant suit fits her body like a glove and her dark, curly hair is pinned expertly behind her ears. For the second time since I arrived I thank god I made an effort today; ditching my usual yoga pants and t-shirt for dress pants and a pretty top. And although my hair isn’t quite as neat as hers is, at least it’s not in its usual messy pile on top of my head. The website said casual dress, but when you’re in Ottawa’s equivalent of a castle, the Chateau Laurier for High Tea, casual dress tends to mean something a little different.
DSC_0334 After taking our coats she leads us up a couple of stairs towards the front of the room. We pass a few older couples; men in suits and women in pearls. A family is having what looks to be a birthday celebration at a table in the corner where three little girls in glittery dresses of turquoise, purple, and pink chase each other around a chair before their father interferes. There isn’t much sun today after last night’s snow, but the little bit of natural light that there is manages to hit the crystal chandeliers perfectly, dancing on the high ceiling as classical music playing in the background.
“Here you are” the woman tells us as she stops at a table set for three. It’s right in front of the window overlooking busy Wellington street, which is currently full of pedestrians on their way to the different sights of Winterlude. “Your server will be right with you, enjoy your high tea.”
DSC_0331 My grandma told me since I was a little girl that she wanted to take me to the Chateau Laurier’s high tea. Twenty-four years later we were finally here, celebrating my mom’s birthday. The table is set; linen napkins folded just so and little teacups on matching saucers to our right. Tiny dishes of clotted cream and strawberry jam, presumably for scones, are already set out, as are tall glasses of ice water. A glance at our menus show a choice between the Canadian Afternoon Tea and the Traditional Afternoon Tea, two pages of tea flavours ranging from fruity apricot peach to spicy chai, and a final page of alcoholic treats including martinis, wine, and champagne.
After some consideration we decide on the Traditional Afternoon Tea, but choose to leave our actual tea for later and instead have Red Velvet Martinis to start since we are celebrating.
Bad idea. Especially since I hadn’t eaten since 7:30am (a croissant) not wanting to ruin my appetite for tea. However now it was three o’clock in the afternoon, and my red velvet martini was going down easy. Really easy. And it wasn’t too long before the fuzzy feeling in my head and urge to laugh at everything informed me that I was slightly tipsy, with my mom and grandmother at 3pm in the afternoon at what is probably the fanciest place in Ottawa. Lovely.
I reach for my water glass, nearly knocking the remains of my bright red martini all over the fresh white table cloth. Mom looks at me from across the table and I mouth to her “I’m tipsy”. She bursts out laughing causing my grandma to inquire what is so funny. “Oh Hannah just made a face” she lies as she continues to laugh, which makes me laugh and since I’m the semi-drunk one I can’t stop and soon am wiping the tears from my eyes. So not classy.

Thankfully the waiter soon brings our trays and I am quick to shove a tiny sandwich in my mouth, hoping it will soak up some of the vodka. If I had it my way, I would shove all four of my sandwiches in my mouth at once but it just so happens that I’m at a table with two of the world’s slowest eaters. I’ve already shown anyone that’s paying attention that I’m loud and clumsy, so I don’t need to them think I’m a total pig too.
Over the next hour or so my fuzzy head finally clears, not that it makes it any better. Like the complete Neanderthal I am I nearly forget to put the little sieve over my cup and end up with a small mess of tea leaves and splash back (in fairness, I’m not a tea drinker). Then, not five minutes later, I spray the table with crumbs by trying to cut into a little fruit tart with my fork. As I watch a lone blueberry wobble across the tablecloth I wonder why I even bother trying.

Thankfully, as entertaining as I’ve been to my mom, my grandma doesn’t seem to have noticed a thing and soon proclaims that we should do this again. If we do, I’ll be sure to remember to eat a proper breakfast first. That, or skip the martini.

*I’m pleased to share that I have been back for the Chateau Laurier high tea several times since originally sharing this story, and have not been nearly as much of a hot mess. Probably because I made sure not to arrive starving, because I really don’t want to skip the cocktails- they are too good to pass up! 


  1. fujixman on February 18, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    Very nice indeed 🙂 I have stayed at many hotels in Ottawa, but not the Laurier. It will most definitely be next!

    • Hannah on February 18, 2014 at 1:48 pm

      It’s beautiful! Even if you don’t stay it’s always open to walk around the main floor 🙂

  2. Serena on February 18, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    Looks so beautiful!
    I would love to try it next time I’ll happen to be in Ottawa.
    Maybe avoiding Martini with an empty stomach, tho’ 😀

    • Hannah on February 18, 2014 at 4:07 pm

      Yes I would recommend only drinking with a full stomach. However that martini was amazing!

  3. IntrovertlyBubbly on February 28, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    HIgh tea is always amazing…the natural light catches my eye, nice and bright

    • Hannah on February 28, 2014 at 9:50 pm

      only in the top part by the windows! Darker further by the bar. Definitely something to keep in mind when booking somewhere for sure!

  4. Dave Cole on August 17, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    What a beautiful spot! I think this may have happened to me before once or twice: fancy meal ahead…saving space by not eating…cocktail…whoops. It looks like the perfect place for a special occasion like a parent’s birthday and a fancy drink. I also really like the stacked presentation of the tea sandwiches and treats – everything looks delicious.

    • on August 17, 2014 at 10:24 pm

      Definitely a nice spot! And I learned my lesson for next time I do something fancy 😉

  5. Alli on August 17, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    How lovely and scrumptious this looks to be!! You look like you’re in England enjoying a nice spot of tea, dear 🙂 (I just watched Mrs. Doubtfire and totally said that with her accent in my head) That last photo is gorgeous, with the snow, clouds, and sunset 🙂

    • on August 17, 2014 at 10:22 pm

      Thanks Alli! It was pretty delish 🙂 Also…I read the last bit of that line with an accent too!

  6. Lauren on August 17, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    It looks so fancy! So much fun! 🙂 Your story is also pretty hilarious!

  7. antonette - we12travel on August 17, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    Hilarious! Makes me ache for food right now but since it’s about bed time here it’s probably better to just take a bath without any more food 😀

    • on August 17, 2014 at 10:21 pm

      Haha probably not! Hope you don’t wake up in the middle of the night hungry though 😉

  8. Meg @ Mapping Megan on August 18, 2014 at 12:29 am

    You know what, I’ve never had a traditional afternoon tea! I have to rectify this situation because this sounds like an AWESOME experience!!

    • on August 18, 2014 at 10:03 pm

      Ah you should definitely do it one day! The best I had was in London, but this was pretty fun too 🙂

  9. Charli on August 18, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    Wow this looks positively divine! Right out of a fairytale! I’m a sucker for ridiculously small sandwiches so I’m going to have to check this out!

    • on August 18, 2014 at 10:03 pm

      Haha I’m a fan of the teeny sandwiches too! I’m just glad I got to eat them and didn’t have to make them!

  10. Chris Boothman on August 19, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    I honestly thought you were in England when I started reading this, with the castle type accommodation and the English style tea on offer. But that’s Canada for you, always following the Brits at heart and producing high quality places that are excellent options if in the area. I would really love to sample tea here and definitely would consider this Chateau if and when we venture to Ottawa (It’s one of the main cities in Canada we have yet to visit!).

    • Hannah Logan on August 19, 2014 at 11:47 pm

      Confession: no one does it like England. The Chateau Laurier was great, and would absolutely recommend it but the one I had in London was just amazing! You and Heather need to get your butts to Ottawa asap! You should come for Winterlude if your up for some real Canadian weather and winter magic 😉

  11. […] favourite Ottawa holiday traditions include having holiday tea at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, visiting Taffy lane; a residential street that goes crazy with lights and decorations, and of […]

  12. […] for me, though funnily enough I ended up taking my mom and my Nana rather than the other way around. High Tea at the Chateau Laurier is probably the most elegant of the afternoon teas in the city. The historic castle-like hotel, the […]

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