If you enjoy a nice, traditional holiday tea experience, look no further than Verzenay Chicago in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Indulge yourself and your loved ones with a traditional high tea that includes a wide selection of Palais des Thés French Tea, coffee or hot chocolate, delicately filled sandwiches and savory canapes, buttery scones with clotted cream and jam, a selection of petit fours, and of course, BYOB.
Verzenay is run by owner and chef mastermind, Arshiya Farheen and her talented team. Completely female run, according to the website, Versenay’s mission is about sharing their devotion to make nourishing, delicious culinary creations that are savory, and sweet baked goods/desserts, with no artificial ingredients. Verzenay aims every day to provide its customers with pleasing-to-the-eye products that are the best in taste and quality, filled with local, clean ingredients, as well as supporting economic development for women.
The Holiday High Tea is offered on multiple dates between Nov 17, 2023 and Jan 21, 2024. For a great value, you get a wide variety of decadent treats and a delicious selection of Parisienne loose leaf teas to choose from. The cafe itself is casual elegance – you feel right at home when you go inside. When you enter through the front entrance, you are greeted by amazing smells and trays of mouthwatering looking pastries and other delicious patisserie delights.
The Holiday High Tea is a winner, thanks to Chef Fahreen. She originally came to Chicago from Chennai, Tamil Nadu, in southwest India in 2004. When she arrived in the US, she did not know a lot about French pastry (in India it was only at hotels). In Chicago, Fahreen noticed that there were not many French pastry shops or cafes in existence, mostly donut shops. Fahreen wanted to further study French pastry, so she traveled and studied in Paris at the local Ferrandi Paris Culinary School. Her goal was to learn how and why to make French pastry and cooking; what was the reasoning behind it and the culture involved? In France, she learned that you can master technique, but it is the flavor that stays with you wherever you go.
In India, everyone uses their hands to cook and bake from scratch on a daily basis. It comes naturally for Fahreen, which is what she strives to implement each day at Verzenay. After studying in Paris, Gahreen returned to Chicago to find the perfect spot to open her first French pastry location. (She had already had 8 years experience with tea service for the finest Chicago hotels such as the Drake, as well as Green City Market and wholesale). She was looking for a street that offered a French feeling, just like in Paris with wider streets, and found it on Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln Park. Fahreen finally opened her shop in July 2021 during the height of the Covid19 Pandemic, which was no easy feat.
Fast forward to 2023 and Verzenay is thriving. During Mother’s Day, the cafe provided a lovely Mother’s Day Tea Service and loyal customers kept requesting more. Thus, the Holiday High Tea Service was born. As already mentioned, the tea service offers a lovely selection of Paris imported loose leaf teas (you can also order coffee or hot chocolate), petite sandwiches, canapes, scones with clotted cream and jam and petit fours, all beautifully decorated on a 3-tiered standing platter.
The loose leaf tea bags are gorgeous, clearly visible in clear paper bags. It is a nice experience watching boiling water be poured on the tea bags, resulting in colorful hues appearing as the tea brews. The selection of teas on the menu include delicious concoctions such as the Blue of London (earl grey black tea, bergamot, cornflower), the Chai Imperial (black tea, cardamon, pink pepper – comforting with a slight peppery taste), the Gout Rouse 7 Agrumes (black tea, lemon, lime, sweet orange, bitter orange, grapefruit, bergamot, mandarin – a nice blend of spiced fruit with a subtle sweetness), Long Jing (green tea, aromatic bouquet of vegetal notes, minerals, roasted chestnut) and the Scandinavian Detox (herbal, birch, sea buckthorn, cranberry, elderflower, blueberry – quite the herbal mixture!).
The finger bites on the 3-tiered stand are beautifully presented at Holiday Tea at Verzenay. Based on the menu you choose when you order your tickets at checkout on Tock, you can order vegetarian, pesecatarian/meat. My friend and I enjoyed many delights during our Holiday Tea Service experience. Everything is perfectly proportioned as tiny finger bites that were too beautiful to eat. The bottom tier consisted of Chicken Salad Sliders (all natural chicken, celery, onion, mayo, mustard, greens, lemon, grapes, brioche bun), Smoked Salmon Tartine (smoke salmon, lemon-dill mayo, red onions, cornichon) and Cucumber Sandwiches (cucumber, herbed cream cheese, mayo).
The next tier up offered perfectly creamy Butternut Squash Soup with pepitas and chives, mini scones/toast and Camembert Cheese Balls (the best cheese balls we have ever had – we could have easily eaten five of them – with camembert cheese, cream cheese, herbs, pecans, cranberries). The clotted cream and raspberry jam for the scones and toast were also a perfect accompaniment.
The top tier was worth the wait, which consisted of four delightful sample of petit fours: “Hot Cocoa” Mousse Cup (luscious dark chocolate mousse, chocolate tea cup, marshmallows), Chocolate Choux with Hazelnut (a sinful hazelnut cream with pecan-almond and butter tart), Petit Four a la Passion (ricotta cake with citrus popping passion fruit puree, and passion fruit mousse) and Raspberry Cream Tart (raspberry cream, pecan-almond, butter tart).
Even if you are not able to purchase a plane ticket to Paris at this moment, you do not need to leave the United States to experience a Holiday High Tea Service. Verzenay will take care of this for you right in Chicago. Do not wait though – you only have through January 21 for this one of a kind experience!
Photos: Jennifer Lunz
More information: Please let Verzenay know of any food allergies or request for vegetarian option at the time of reservation. We will get in touch to confirm any changes that we can accommodate.
Kids Menu is for ages 4 to 9 for the Afternoon Tea
2507 N Lincoln Ave
Chicago, IL 60614