Sunday, 10 May 2015

Feeling Posh At English & Miller

Being in the food industry means working a lot of holidays and weekends, so I have missed a fair amount of family events over the years. Most Mother's Days I find myself away from home. Usually, my husband and children go and visit my mother for me and I go off to work, which is okay because I understand that this is the nature of the business.

This year, whether oversight or a gift from my supervisor, I found myself not scheduled to work on Mother's Day! One male co-worker did ask if I might like to switch shifts with him and work May 10th for him. Oh no no nooooo no chance would I be giving up my chance at this minor miracle, a day off on Mother's Day!

So what did I do with my big day off? I opened presents - potted annuals, a gift card for Garden Gallery and a nice bottle of Carolans (I like it better than the pricier Baileys) for my coffee. Can't go wrong with flowers and booze, I'd say. Visited with my now 86 year old mum in her Essa Township home. She was scurrying around, as usual, offering the grandkids chips and endless choices of juice flavours. Mum, shouldn't you be sitting down? I think that when I'm 86 I'm going to let other people do the scurrying around.

We left the melee of assorted relatives early and headed back to Barrie because I had a very important date with my daughter, Margaret, and my son, Alex. They had booked a table for three at English & Miller, the lovely gift shop/tea room overlooking Heritage Park in Downtown Barrie. We arrived for our 4 o'clock seating in the middle of a tremendous downpour of rain. Oh how British!

Do you know about this place? Often people do not. I ask them "Do you know where Casa Cappuccino is?" and they usually do. Well, it's behind that. There is a yellowish brick addition at he back of Casa Cappuccino. English & Miller is located there and up a few steps. Upon opening the door, you will be met by the aroma of fresh baking and by a a riot of brightly coloured gifty items. There is everything from aprons, pin cushions and Big Ben tea pots to jewelry, children's books and  linens - most British imports or at least favourites.

Today, the usual union jack couch was missing, likely removed to make way for the extra tables required for the special Mother's Day high tea patrons. High tea was by reservation only which made it all the more special. Weeks ago, Margaret had booked the last seating so that we could visit Grandma first. 

The tables were enchanting - crisp white table cloths, a teal blue runner, mis-matched china cups, plates, sugar bowl and cream jug and tall glasses of cool lemon water. A cheerful little chrysanthemum also sat in a tea cup.

Proprietress, Jean Bevan, could be seen bustling about, overseeing the good sized crew of servers she had smartly scheduled to work today. They were everywhere making sure that everyone was enjoying their experience, but not intrusive at all.

We were not long seated when we were offered our tea. Margaret likes a special house blend called Every Day and Alex and I chose Earl Grey. We each got a large pot of tea, in china just as charmingly unmatched as everything else. No boring stainless steel pots here.

We chatted and laughed a lot, which is pretty normal when you go out anywhere with those two, and awaited the arrival of the main attraction - the tired plates of goodies! We watched as the servers went from table to table setting down these masterpieces of finger food and soon our assortment of treats appeared.

Our server explained what was before us. The bottom plate held the cutest little crustless tea sandwiches in egg salad, tuna, watercress and cream cheese, smoked salmon, cucumber and tomato with possibly stilton cheese. The next plate held 3 large freshly baked raisin scones and adorable little pots of butter, devon cream and jam. The top plate had tiny victoria sponge cakes in flowery cupcake papers, assorted petit fours, wrapped sweets, shortbread, wafers and pink sugar cookies. A feast for the eyes and then the stomach!

I asked my daughter if she had special ordered the sandwich fillings. She had not. Amazing, because these were all types that I would have selected myself.

This tower of delightful yummies, while artful and delicious, didn't look to me like it would be enough for 3 people to share. I was wrong. Surprisingly, there was quite a lot of food there and we did not go away hungry at all. A server went around and offered all the diners a take-out box for their left-overs. It wasn't a styrofoam clam-shell container either, but a cutesy cardboard bakery style box. Little touches make the occasion. In the end, we didn't even need one.

Everything was beautiful to see and to taste. What did I like best? Probably the tea sandwiches. I'm just crazy about little assorted sandwiches and many people who know me are aware of my guilt over my unnatural love for so called funeral sandwiches! Now I know that English & Miller has some lovely little sandwiches for me to enjoy any time, and it isn't necessary for anyone to pass away for me to have some.

I finally opened the big pink striped gift box from my daughter too. Inside was a nice set of silicone bake ware. I am a recent convert to this stuff and Margaret has been finding her inner patissiere lately. I know I won't be baking anything tonight - I'm feeling too spoiled and queenly!

At the very end, all the mummies got a gift. A basket of surprise bags was brought to each table and every mama got to choose one. My bag contained a brown wash cloth and red soap set which looked like a chocolate cupcake. Sweet! I also got a gift card for a free tea. I gave that to my girl because she is a frequent visitor here and deserved a little something for setting up this beautiful event for me. All photo credits go to her too. Thanks a million, Margaret and Alex! xoxo