Looking forward. Looking back.

Taking Tea at Montgomery’s Inn

by Peter Kuitenbrouwer, National Post, May 2009

With Victoria Day upon us, it is fitting we pay a visit to Toronto’s least visible and most under-appreciated ethnic group: the British…

Yesterday I joined them for a jolly good tea at Montgomery’s Inn, which Thomas Montgomery of Ulster erected in 1830, to catch the stage-coach traffic on Dundas St. West at Islington Avenue.

Today the Inn at 4709 Dundas St. W. is the perfect spot for tea for a simple reason, summed up by Kingsway local Kathy Reid, who came yesterday packing a Robert Ludlum novel: “It’s quiet”.

The Inn survived in private hands until the 1960s when a developer bought it for demolition. The Etobicoke Historical Society scraped together the cash to take it from him and restore it to the simple comforts of the 1840s. Today clubs meet here, including one for owners of Jaguar motor cars. Tuesday through Sunday, volunteers bake cookies and quickbreads and, wearing period costume, serve them with tea ($5).

“I walked by the Inn every day going to high school”, said Jean Sinclair as she served my tea, wearing a petticoat, long white dress, apron, shawl and cap. “So it’s always been part of my life”.

Each pot of tea comes in a hand-crocheted tea cosy; my “sweet plate” held an Earl Grey cookie, a daisy cookie, a cookie in the shape of a teapot and a tea cake flavoured with rhubarb grown in the Inn’s garden.

(These women can bake: A couple of years ago they raised $30,000 through bake sales to rebuild the Inn’s original wood bake oven)….

You are invited on Monday for a Victoria Day tea, 1-4 p.m. The $10 fee includes a tour of the Inn (now a museum), a talk about herbs and a visit from the old Queen Victoria herself.

God save our Queen.