Would you like your tea served à la mode?

Would you like your tea served à la mode?

By Rosanna Haroutounian

Apple pie à la mode is the beautiful union of everyone’s favourite fall dessert and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It may be deduced then that thé à la mode is the latest creation to join the list of iced-tea drinks typically seen on café menus as summertime approaches. In Quebec City, however, Thé à la mode is the fusion of high fashion and English tea, hosted once a month at the luxury hotel Auberge Saint Antoine.

“It’s a unique combination of fun, style, and luxury,” says Ingrid Lemm, director of sales and marketing at the hotel.

Guests are first served tea, finger sandwiches, and pastries in the hotel’s Café-Bar Artéfact. After about half-an-hour, the music starts and models begin twirling between the tables, showing off the latest styles in clothing and jewellery from local boutiques and international designers.

“It’s not like a regular catwalk,” says Lemm. She says the models must have outgoing personalities and represent a range of body types.

The models walk close to the tables, stop to pose for guests’ photos, and answer their questions, sometimes bumping into servers on the way. They begin in the café before ascending a short set of steps to visit guests at tables overlooking the main floor. Despite the elegant fashions and dainty food presentation, the atmosphere is cozy and convivial.

Jean-Louis Souman, the hotel’s general manager, started Thé à la mode in September of last year after seeing it become a success at his former place of employment, the prestigious Hôtel Le Bristol in Paris.

“It was difficult initially because we don’t have a lot of fashion houses here,” says Lucy Price, Auberge Saint Antoine’s co-owner. “People didn’t understand why this could be a positive thing.”

She says she has witnessed line-ups outside boutiques in Quebec immediately after their fashions are showcased at Thé à la mode.

“It’s getting easier,” says Price. “People see that it has an immediate impact.”

The April edition of Thé à la mode featured clothing styles from the boutiques Maude and Corset Corsaire in Place de la Cité, along with jewellery from designer Anne-Marie Chagnon.

“Seeing the collections of designers is very inspiring,” says Lemm.
Models presented jewellery for guests to try on during the show, which was available for purchase afterwards.

Afternoon tea started with finger sandwiches, including cucumber and smoked salmon, followed by scones with jam and desserts including mini pots of crème brulée and macarons.

“It’s the kind of food you don’t have at home,” says Price.

Lemm adds that along with different designers, each Thé à la mode offers a different menu of afternoon tea pairings created by executive chef Louis Pacquelin and pastry chef Yves-Marie Rolland. The classic English scone, however, remains a constant.

“They’re the best scones in town,” says Price. “Light and buttery and just perfect.”

Lemm says most of the people who attend Thé à la mode are Quebec locals. She adds that while it was initially attended by groups of women or mothers and daughters, she has started to see more men attend in recent months.

“It’s a nice activity in Quebec during these times of the year when there’s still not a lot happening outside,” says Price.

Thé à la mode takes place on every third Saturday of the month at Auberge Saint-Antoine. The classic afternoon tea and show is $39 per person, while the signature package with champagne is $59.

Tables must be reserved ahead of time by calling the hotel or booking online at www.thealamode.ca.

Categories: Arts & Culture, Opinion

About Author

Rosanna Haroutounian

Rosanna Haroutounian was raised in Mississauga, Ontario, and studied journalism and political science at Carleton University. She currently works as an English assistant at a college in Quebec City. She enjoys reading, baking, being outdoors, and travelling the world when time and finances allow.

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