T-Buds Tea Lounge and Creperie, Gourmet and Halal
** UPDATE: the lower area is no longer owned by T-Buds, they now operate the upper level only **
As I gaze up at the T-Buds Tea Lounge and Creperie sign and peek through the window I’m asking myself — Is this true, are my eyes deceiving me? My husband and I walk into the cool yet cozy spot on Yonge Street just south of York Mills and grab a table for two in front of a sun drenched window by the tea bar/tasting area. Taking our seats we’re excited at what we might be about to experience if this place is in fact halal.
T-buds Tea Lounge and Creperie, just one year new, is urban chic and not what I was expecting at all. Places like Kara Mia, Pak Centre and the long closed Shashlik have (or had) good ambiance but majority of other places are simply not at T-Buds level. Not to say that the space is over the top, plush and extravagant, but you can tell that T-Buds was professionally designed and is harmonious with the concept of a tea lounge and the food they serve.
The menus arrive and still not fully convinced that I’ve been tipped off correctly about T-Buds, I ask our Tea Sommelier (tea expert) and waitress. Yes — she confirms that everything is halal. Not completely convinced, I politely ask if the owner is available to chat. I’m asking myself, is this another place where the menu is partially halal and they use machine slaughtered meat? The owner comes out and confirms what my heart wants to hear, “everything’s halal” he states.
Ifthikar Hassen is Muslim and very passionate about tea and food. He walks us through a brief history of T-Buds Tea Lounge and Creperie and adds that he purchases all of his meat from close by Iqbal Halal Food.
T-buds is three things: a tea shop with over 100 different varieties, a creperie with brunch and sandwich options and a cozy venue for events (top floor) such as bridal and baby showers, book clubs, meetings and family functions. “We had a bridal shower for a Muslim girl here recently and we provided them with privacy and female only staff” Hassen explains.
“We had a bridal shower for a Muslim girl here recently and we provided them with privacy and female only staff”
Now fully confident in what we’re about to eat we turn our attention back to the menu. Hubby orders a Meatball Sandwich consisting of seasoned meatballs and provolone cheese on a ciabatta bun along with a fruit smoothie. I go for the American Brunch consisting of an omelet with caramalized onions and other veggies, roasted potatoes and chicken bacon. Brunch comes with a full pot of tea so I select English breakfast after I describe what I like in my tea to our tea sommelier.
Our order arrives within an expected wait time and we are ready to dig in. Here’s where I need to stress that taste is subjective. We’re used to establishments owned and operated by people who are not trained chefs, basically home cooked meals on a larger scale. T-buds concept was developed by Celebrity Chef Lynn Crawford (Restaurant Makeover, Pitching In) and the menu was fine-tuned by Chef Mark Wilson. All the cooks and food handlers are professionally trained as well.
You may like their food, you may not. I loved it. Ingredients were simple and most things were made from scratch on premises. The Meatball Sandwich was, in my opinion, a light and simple version of its complex, indigestion-giving brother at any other place. As heavy as it sounds, T-Buds interpretation goes down gently without the weight and swollen ankles.
The American Brunch platter was cleanly presented. The omelet, light and fluffy, roasted potatoes baked to a golden crisp and lightly seasoned and chicken bacon crispy and savoury.
Everything is eaten, not a bite left on our plates, nothing is wasted yet we are content. Stuffed no. Happy yes.
The owner comes midway to see how we are doing and speaks more about his menu and inspiration. Seems we’ve overlooked some interesting things on the gourmet food and dessert menu — fusion crepes! There are many varieties such as Arabian Bazaar, The Oriental and Spice Bazaar. However, I’m drawn to the South Asian inspired crepe appropriately titled The Moghul which is chicken in a spicy and aromatic vindaloo curry wrapped in a light as air yet moist crepe.
The Moghul is recommended for people who can handle more spice and will still satisfy your craving for desi food. A great mix of flavors wrapped up in a crepe, I would classify this as a sophisticated version of dosa, a southern Indian classic.
I’m stuffed at this point and we’re both yawning but we have to try dessert. There’s so much on the menu and everything sounds amazing that I just ask for whatever they recommend. I don’t think there is anything here I won’t like!
They bring out an Alaskan Iceberg, a new T-Buds item that is their take on the classic Baked Alaska. Premium ice cream wrapped in a warm crepe and drizzled with caramel. My favourite part is the way the caramel gets chewy when it hits the cold ice cream center and the part on the crepe is still warm and soft. Heavenly.
T-Buds Tea Lounge and Creperie is a quaint spot for afternoon tea with friends, some quality time with your mom or daughter, or a long and lazy afternoon lunch with your significant other. While staff are very child friendly, the space isn’t as much. Strollers are welcome but since the dining area is narrow too many in the space will make it difficult to maneuver. I do not believe they offer high chairs so take that into consideration as well before visiting. I loved their tasting area where you can experience a selection of hot and cold tea samples, spreads and the like. You will also get a walk through of their various teas as the Tea Sommelier gives you a brief yet fascinating 101.
Even if you’re not into the whole tea house thing, visit here once at least for the experience. Just being able to not be on vegetarian mode and knowing you can eat everything off the menu surrounded by serene ambiance is worth your time! I myself can not wait for the warmer weather to start so I can go back to enjoy their patio!
T-Buds Tea Lounge and Creperie
3343 Yonge St.
Toronto, Ontario CANADA
Tel: 647 352-3622
Tel: 647 352-3624