A welcome message neatly written in chalk on a blackboard, Queen Elizabeth II surveys the rooms from a portrait at the front of the room, and a map of Canada hangs on side wall. These sights bring to mind a clear picture. The smell of a warm cake, the clink of cups on saucers, and a tiered plate tower filled with miniature goodies are also nostaligic images. The Old Schoolhouse Tea Room brings together a former one-room schoolhouse and high tea
for a perfectly charming experience. While many tea rooms attempt to imitate a quaint country atmosphere, the Old Schoolhouse has that authentic old-time village feel that only an off-the-beaten path, rural Ontario find can accomplish.
You’re not likely to come across the Old Schoolhouse Tea Room
on your own. Visitors to nearby Bancroft
take Highways 28 and 60, missing minor Highway 620 which passes through the tiny community of Ormsby. However, if you find yourself in the Ontario's Highlands
area, a visit to the schoolhouse is in order.
As you approach the entrance to the school, you’ll notice a sign in the window: No carrot cake or other valuables found on the premises at night. That’s actually a ruse as there certainly is carrot cake – along with other tasty goods baked fresh in the kitchen here. Chocolate banana cake, a chocolate pie from an old family recipe, and cream puffs all make an appearance.
There is, of course, a full tea option, with tiny treats served on a tiered tower along with your own tea pot. The scones – called Rathbuns in honour of Ormsby’s original town name – are served with traditional cream and jam.
For those looking for something a little more substantial, there is Colly-Flour or Better-Not squash soup, spinach salad, or shepherd’s pie served at lunch. Weekend dinners include classic family favourites of roast beef or roast turkey with all the fixings.
In a fun touch, you write your order on a small, student chalkboard to be picked up by owner Ernie as he makes the rounds. The service is friendly and prompt, but you’ll still have time to take in your surroundings. Old desks and tables have been repurposed for table seating and covered in delicate place settings of lace, china, and silver.
Don’t be too rowdy, though, as you may be called to the teacher’s desk at the front of the room next to the wood-burning heater. You’ll want to take a look at the vintage class and teacher photos on the wall. Unlike kids today, the students were clearly not familiar with smiling for photos as there are all sorts of humorous faces of squinting, glowering, and crying children. As you examine the photos, Ernie will happily point out himself in one photo and his father in an earlier photo from the 1920s.
The Old Schoolhouse Tea Room is perfect for mother’s day (in fact, they hold a special luncheon for the occasion), an afternoon tea, or a Christmas dinner (they hold a Dickens by Candlelight dinner which is followed by a 1938 radio broadcast of The Christmas Carol).
The team room is open Friday to Sunday during the fall, on the weekend during the winter, and seven days a week during the summer. Dinner is available only on weekends.