Bright red Hennessy bottles lining the bar and wall panels adorned with dragons add more of the auspicious colour to Holts Café, which already features vibrant red and blue chairs. The rest of the space is bathed in elegant cream, white and light wood, with large windows opening up onto Yorkville. On the second floor (and up a small escalator) Holts Café is as rich as the rest of the store, and the perfect place to ring in the Year of the Dragon with their Lunar New Year Afternoon Tea.
Served from January 27 until March 3, the afternoon tea experience includes gourmet tea by Sloane Fine Tea Merchants and a three-tiered cake stand full of Asian-inspired sweet and savoury delights. The Jasmine Mist tea, China green tea leaves scented with an abundance of fresh jasmine blossoms, instantly soothes me as I settle into the plush atmosphere. I can't help but also order the Golden Dragon, one of the Hennessy feature cocktails. With mandarin liqueur, sparkling wine, orange, passionfruit, lemon and a vegan foamer, it's bright, fruity, fresh and bubbly — and the perfect pair with the savoury bites.
Crispy five-spice roasted pork is served on a soft, pillowy bao bun with green onion, hoisin mayonnaise, pickled daikon and carrot. Tasty crystal shrimp dumplings, or har gow, arrive in a perfectly petite bamboo steamer. The cucumber tea sandwiches often found at afternoon tea are made with fluffy matcha shokupan (Japanese milk bread). It's a delightful mixture of afternoon tea treats with a Pan-Asian twist.
The desserts are almost too adorable to eat. The sesame ball is a harmonious blend of sweet and savoury, while the Hong Kong milk tea flavoured Good Fortune Macaron is a scrumptious bite. But the mandarin orange choux, a delicate pastry filled with sweet and citrusy orange cremeux steals the show.
We cap off the day with one more cocktail, the Red Dragon, another Hennessy feature drink made floral, sweet and tart with hibiscus, cranberry, blood orange and ginger soda.
Giggling over delicate, beautiful bites and sumptuous sips feels like a perfect way to celebrate Lunar New Year and usher in the Year of the Dragon. At the end of our experience, we're one of a few lucky tables to be handed a red envelope with a message inside containing the number eight — a sure sign of a fortunate and prosperous year ahead.
Holts Café Lunar New Year Afternoon Tea, $78 per person, January 27 – March 3, holtrenfrew.com