There are few places in Edmonton that get decked out for the holidays like the Hotel Macdonald. You only need to walk into their lobby to get whisked away in the Christmas spirit – between the bedazzled fifteen foot tree and the twinkly gingerbread rendition of the building, the Hotel Mac does it right.
Gingerbread Hotel Macdonald
Their holiday season offerings range from special dinners on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, to themed meals like the Dickens buffet (a nineteenth century, English-style lunch) and Nutcracker Tea and Tour. The latter is a festive take on their respected Royal Tea and Tour, featuring a holiday-inspired menu and some other surprises. Mack and I took his Grandma Male for tea on Saturday. We had been meaning to take her for some time – Grandma Male actually worked at the hotel switchboard in the 1950s, and she hadn’t been back to the building since.
Reservations were accepted for 2:30pm in the Harvest Room. Although it wasn’t quite a full house, the families, friends and couples who gathered had all dressed up for the occasion.
Grandma Male and Mack
We started off with a glass of sparkling wine, a nice touch for the holidays, and shortly after, were presented with the tea selection. I was anticipating that all of the teas would have been loose, as is traditional, but there was a mix of tea bags and loose teas. Grandma Male and I both chose a nice Buckingham Palace orange pekoe.
Our first treats arrived warm from the oven – classic scones and candied pecan-eggnog scones. They were absolutely delicious, though to be honest, I think I used the scones as a vessel to consume as much Devonshire cream and port cranberry compote as possible.
The tiered trays contained both savoury and sweet bites. No cucumber sandwiches to be seen, the selection included oven roasted turkey with citrus sage aioli on a mini navette. Our favourite on the savoury side was the applewood smoked cheddar, ham and grainy dijon aioli on an adorable mini bagel.
The kitchen did a great job accommodating Mack’s nut allergy, making substitutions when necessary, such as ensuring the white chocolate and pistachio mousse was nowhere to be seen on his tray. While we enjoyed all of the dainty confections, the ginger orange madeleine was the pronounced favourite.
Photobombing tea service
The only misstep that afternoon was the fact that we were only told about the timing of the tour about ten minutes prior to its start. Although we weren’t rushed through tea service, it would have been nice to know the flow in advance. Otherwise, the service was impeccable, as is standard at the Hotel Macdonald.
We assembled in the Wedgewood Room for a special performance by some of the dancers from Clara’s Dream. Shumka’s Ukrainian version of The Nutcracker, the preview showcased the music and the energy you would expect from a fusion of dance styles. Clara’s Dream runs December 29-30, 2015 at the Jubilee Auditorium.
Dancers from Clara’s Dream
Afterwards, Carlos, a staff of the Hotel Macdonald, led us on a brief tour of the building. This wasn’t my first tour of the Hotel Macdonald, but what I always appreciate is how personal each tour is, coloured by the individual experience of each staff member. In this case, Carlos shared that he had worked as Queen Elizabeth’s butler when she stayed at the Hotel Macdonald back in 2005, commenting on her strong appetite and desire to know how her food was prepared. On this tour, we weren’t able to visit the Queen Elizabeth Suite, as the top two floors of the hotel are currently undergoing renovations, and aren’t set to reopen until April.
The Empire Ballroom
Carlos also informed us about the Hotel Macdonald’s reputation among the Fairmont properties – although being the second smallest, it hosts the most weddings of all. With as many as six weddings per day in the summer, he jokes to the grooms to ensure they go home with the right bride at the end of the night, and to the brides that in order to have their dream wedding at the castle on the river, that they should book their wedding date and then go out and find the right groom.
With Grandma Male
The Nutcracker Tea and Tour is a great way to celebrate the holidays. It runs every Saturday and Sunday until December 27, with the only other preview of Clara’s Dream to take place at the December 19 tea. The cost is $49 per person, with reservations recommended. Happy holidays!