My decision to actually enter the store, as opposed to staring longingly at what I cannot have, came about on a whim one weekday afternoon. The inside was pleasantly cluttered with sale objects. Under separate glass domes are the single-sized cake offerings of the day, grouped together like gallery pieces. Their elaborate decorations caught my eye as soon as I walked in. There was a group of bright red delicacies that each had a golden Chinese dragon twining around it. Absolutely amazing.
I was quickly attended to by a young girl with a charming accent. She led me to a hidden coach house in the back, across a small yard that I suspect is full of more tables in the summer. The coach house looked like my great grandmother's apartment: a mishmash atmosphere of family pictures, and hand-sewn pillows sitting like button-eyed cats on deeply cushioned chairs. I took a seat in the back corner and took in the rest of the room. There was only one other customer when I arrived, and I'd bother her soon enough.
When I asked my waitress to repeat the offer she looked as if she had to do just that many times a day. In fact, when other customers came in I heard her repeat the spiel twice over at each table before pouring them a glass from the jug with pieces of the fruit floating in it.
The water itself was interesting, and smelled more of honeydew than it tasted, but there was a light hint to it. "I have to make this at home," was the opinion I heard repeated at each new customer's discovery.
The lady who had been there when I arrived turned out to be the only regular during my meal. All other customers that arrived had been lured in for the first time, just as I was. When I elected to bother this poor regular for her opinion she said the tea is excellent (especially the green tea), and as a self-proclaimed foodie, she extolled the virtues of the menu.
I made my choice of the daily special, since the Bento Boxes start at 2pm, and it was only slightly after noon. An appetizer was immediately whisked out: fresh whole-grain bread and red pepper hummus, served alongside a salad of greens, shredded carrot and cabbage, with a fresh-tasting dressing, garnished with pomegranate seeds. Not only pretty, it was delicious.
My waitress returned with my ordered pot of earl grey soon after, served with milk and sugar. The details of the set are adorable. The pot was yellow, with Chinese dragons curved around it. I was given a choice of milk and sugar or honey and lemon. I chose the former. The milk was served in a tiny creamer, decorated with Venetian masks. The sugar bowl, as unconcerned with matching as the rest, was topped with a tiny dried rosebud. Little tea cookies were served alongside the milk and sugar. Crumbly, buttery, and delicious.
The lunch special didn't take long to arrive either, and looked good enough that it took me a lot of willpower to pick up my camera instead of my fork.
The salad was tart, and not as warm as I thought it would be, but not cold. The brown rice was a little hard for my tastes. The bitterness of the greens was as advertised, and the quail was delicious.
In all, it was less food than I was expecting, but then again I'm the kind of girl that has to stop herself from getting thirds. The meal was delicious, and well-prepared, and the benefit of its smaller size (aside from the obvious smaller waist that comes of it) would definitely have to be the room left for dessert.
Which, at The Red Tea Box, I'd put first before all (including the tea). It's just that good.
Though the waitress recommended the toblerone cake (for my caramel sweet tooth) I chose the Honey Saffron Caramel Cake for my dessert. It looked like the icing would be stiff, but it was soft and creamy. The cake itself was delicious, including the bits of saffron. The icing was a bit overpowering for the rest of the cake after I ate the first bit. That being said, I would definitely return here for this cake, and to sample the rest of their assortment.
The Red Tea Box was a wonderful experience. I would come back for the cakes, and doubly so for the cozy atmosphere. It's a perfect little gem of a place on Queen West.
Now to go back and try their lunch bento's...Date time?