At a stately red-brick house at Somerset and Bay, the frosted-glass window now sports the subtle teapot logo of The Vanitea Room, a 28-seat tea ‘salon’ and restaurant set to open its doors in early March.
It’s the first restaurant for business partners Hind Mubarak (whose background is in public affairs and policy management) and Chanel Nadeau (a Montreal-based fashion stylist). As they put the finishing touches on the menu and decor, the owners toured City Bites Insider around the opulent salon — and talked about their tea and cocktail lineup, as well as their lunch, afternoon tea, and evening menus.
How did you two meet?
Chanel: We met through a mutual friend a couple of years ago and felt an instant connection. When we later traveled through Europe together, we really discovered that we share the same deep appreciation for food and beauty.
Hind: In Europe, we really appreciated the high standards for quality and presentation.
Why focus on tea?
Hind: The coffee scene is already saturated, but those cafés feel very urban. We will serve coffee, but don’t want to be primarily a coffee shop. The Vanitea Room is a tea salon so our menu is set up so that all the menu items are paired with the teas, which are all from Sloane Fine Tea Merchants. There’s a light menu for lunch — soups, sandwiches, salads — and in the evenings, cheeses, charcuterie, and desserts. We have a liquor license, so tea-infused cocktails are on the menu.
Who’s your chef?
Chanel: Jean-Claude Terrettaz. He is so great — he has the right energy and chemistry.
Hind: Tea sommelier Linda Gaylard also helped us to develop the menu and find the direction we wanted to go in.
How did you find this beautiful red-brick building?
Hind: We had been looking for five months and I had literally given up hope of finding the perfect place. Every place I visited was either too expensive, or too small, or lacked character. About a year ago, my boyfriend and I happened to be driving down Somerset and passed by this house and saw the sign. Chanel and I knew right away that this was it. This was the space.
The decor feels very old-world, but also modern. Tell me about the look.
Hind: We worked with Shannon [Smithers-Gay] at One80 Design. I love the design she did for Salt. Chanel and I have very different tastes, but she has managed to combine our styles. We wanted The Vanitea Room to be cozy and moody, with elements of the Victorian. We also wanted it to be gender neutral — we want men to be comfortable here, too.
And that stunning artwork on one wall?
Hind: It’s by local artist Allan André, who created the tribute mural to Sandra Bland [at the tech wall, off Slater. Sandra was an African-American who was arrested for a traffic violation and who allegedly committed suicide in her jail cell in 2015].
Chanel: We love it! We gave him the inspiration for the artwork but also a green light to take the idea and do what he wanted.
I hear you have side plans for a boutique?
Chanel: We’ll get the restaurant up and running first, but our plan is to have a small boutique in the restaurant and online that sells curated brands that we love. Our teas and jams, of course, but also soaps and lotions. Things like that.
Chanel: I can’t wait for people to come here and enjoy The Vanitea Room. I want them to have the same sparkle in their eye as I have when I look around!
The Vanitea Room is at 551 Somerset St. W.