I usually have Christmas tea with my friends S. and N. but December was so crazy busy that we were not able to get together before Christmas. Therefore, we celebrated after Christmas with a combination Christmas and New Year’s tea at Shakespeare’s Corner Shoppe & Afternoon Tea!
I was very impressed by the vegetarian tea menu on my first visit to Shakespeare’s Corner Shoppe. When I found out they also had a vegan menu I knew I had to come back for that, if nothing else! Shakespeare’s also hosts themed teas throughout the year so that’s another good reason to come back. How fun is that?!
For the special Christmas tea, all guests received a Christmas cracker. A gift and firecracker in one, it was perfect for a Christmas and New Year’s celebration! 🙂
The inspiration behind Shakespeare’s Christmas tea menu was a traditional English Christmas dinner. This post focuses on the vegan menu only.
The featured Christmas spice tea was served first. We sampled 4 other teas: Black currant, Guava ginger white, Mr. Darcy, and Earl Grey Creme. We liked all the teas except Mr. Darcy which had a dry, acidic finish. The lemon peel in it was also overpowering.
Our Christmas tea starters were Yorkshire pudding or vegan Pumpkin and parsnip pasty. The Yorkshire pudding looked so good! I loved the idea of the pumpkin and parsnip pasty but I tasted neither pumpkin nor parsnip. The filling in my pasty seemed to have only potato. Parsnip tends to have a strong flavor so I was surprised I didn’t taste it.
From an aesthetic standpoint, I think the food was nicely presented and the concepts were interesting. However, I was a little disappointed in the execution of the vegan offerings in general.
I didn’t care for either of the vegan sandwiches. The cucumber mint sandwich had margarine and I don’t like butter or margarine anyway so this is just my personal preference. Otherwise, it tasted like any other cucumber sandwich. The mango chutney and cream cheese sandwich was too sweet.
Unlike the sandwiches, the savories suffered greatly because they were served cold. 😦 The potato pancake/flapjack was salty and soggy. The chestnut filling in the vol au vent was dry and practically non-existent. The spinach and mushroom saute was OK taste-wise but the portion was measly and it was just so … boring! How about adding a puff pastry covering, pie crust, or toasted bread crumbs to make it more interesting? Or maybe serve it in an edible bowl of some sort, like a mini bread bowl, or fried wonton skin bowl? Anything!
The Bubble and Squeak was a great idea but like all the other savories, it suffered because it was cold and the toast point simply didn’t belong. I would have preferred the Bubble and Squeak as a mash (smooth or chunky) which would have worked better with the toast point. A Bubble and Squeak “cake” covered in panko (like a crab cake) would have been nice too.
I have sampled Shakespeare’s scones twice: once as a takeout and once in the tea room. Both times, I thought the scones were excellent! The vegan scone, unfortunately, was not as good and needed something other than vegan butter and jam. It looked just as good as the regular scone but it was much drier and seemed saltier. I was so disappointed. I don’t mind eating a scone without clotted cream, butter, lemon curd, or jam because a really good scone doesn’t need condiments!
Oh no, saving the worst for last! The desserts were NOT good and two of them were even horrible! The chocolate coconut stack was filled with citron (or candied fruit) and was the vegan stand-in for the Dundee cake (Scottish fruitcake). I liked it better than fruitcake but that’s really not saying much since I hate fruitcake. The strawberry rhubarb cup was dismal: one piece of rhubarb and one piece of strawberry in a thin pool of sauce. It could have been greatly improved simply with more filling and a crumble or streusel topping.
And now for the horrible … the strawberry sponge cake and tea cookie. The sponge cake was flavorless (no strawberry flavor) and not even sweet enough to be called a dessert (the mango chutney sandwich and Branston pickle were sweeter!). The vegan buttercream frosting was more salty than sweet but the worst was the texture of the cake which was dense, wet, chalky, and mealy! The tea cookie also had a weird texture (it didn’t crunch or snap “right”) and tasted like cardboard. It also didn’t seem like it had enough sugar and you know me, I usually think that desserts tend to be “too sweet!” If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought they were made with gluten-free flour. By now, I really wished I had ordered the vegetarian menu instead of the vegan one. 😦
The final dessert for the vegan menu was a chocolate-covered strawberry which I liked “best” of all the desserts.
To (vegan) tea or not to (vegan) tea, that is the question! I know this seems like a harsh review but it’s only because I want to support Shakespeare’s efforts to accommodate vegans. To my knowledge, Shakespeare’s is the only tea house that offers a vegan menu so they get kudos for that alone. As it turns out, the owner herself is vegan and she really wanted feedback to make the menu better. I commend her for trying and hope that her next vegan menu is better! Because of their excellence in all other areas, especially in their service, I have confidence that the vegan menu will improve. That said, N., S., and I had a wonderful time ringing in the new year at Shakespeare’s!
Instead of a tea quotation, I will leave you with this because it made me laugh!
Happy holidays! Happy new year! May the new year bring you much tea and joy!