We went to Miss Spenser’s last weekend for the Black Beauty tea. It is a destination tea room. I say that because there really isn’t anything else to do around the place – just the tea room – though they do have a B&B attached to it. That said, the tea room decor was very shabby chic and very much what most people think of when you say “tea room.” Lots of flowers, lace and somewhat Victorian decor. It is attached to the hostess’ house in a very nicely converted garage. The family who runs the place seems super nice. When the hostess found out that one of our group was unable to attend, she gave us a package of the tea they were serving to take to her. And since she doesn’t give any refunds for cancellations, although we would have asked for take home boxes eventually, she immediately offered them so that we could take our absent friend’s portion to her.
The tea that was served was a spice and fruit black tea blend. Normally I only taste spice in those things but in this one I had no trouble picking out the peach as well. It was really very pleasant. However, my mother is allergic to ginger and that featured prominently in the blend. When Mom asked, the hostess very graciously brought out a pot of plain black tea just for Mom and told her to just let her know if it got about half empty so she could brew more.
The food was excellent. One of the best high tea type offerings I’ve had. The sandwiches were all very tasty and terribly cute. The desserts were all good, though perhaps a bit on the sweet-but-not-really-tasty side of the spectrum. The scones were plain but an excellent vehicle for their fresh cream mixed with jam.
In short, the service, the atmosphere and the food all combined to make this a trip that is well worth the time if you are within a few hours’ drive. You do have to watch the website for tea dates, though, as it is appointment only not a drop in and have tea type of place.
This is a cute little (and by little I mean tiny. They probably can’t seat more than 20 people) cafe. The tea is a little expensive per pot but it was good. I got the Assam and it came in probably a 24-32 ounce pot. They brought milk to the table with it. I figured I might need it by the end of the pot since the leaves were left in, but even after 30 minutes, it was only just getting to be bitter. Far from undrinkable and I didn’t need to use the milk. :) The food was… well… British. If you like British food, you’ll love this place. If not, you’ll likely find it bland and expensive. They do have a $12.50 minimum purchase though the cream tea costs $12.50 so you could go get tea and scone (don’t remember what else was with it) and not have to get anything else. I did not have a scone. I was pushing it already to make my husband eat at yet another tea place on this trip! :) I will be back someday with another foodie/tea person and we’ll do it up right. For now, it was enough to have tried this place out, know where it is and how things work. The shop next door does sell Brit products. I remember seeing PG Tips and maybe Typhoo, but not sure I saw any loose tea. They have adorable teapots but very expensive.
I should preface by saying that since I have about 5 years experience doing English style teas for groups of 2-20 I have become very picky about my high/cream/English teas. So know that my review may be much more judgmental than others. :)
Overall, this place was okay. The tea I had was very good, well steeped and the leaves were not left in the pot (yay!). And they do have an extensive tea menu. The teas they sell loose (quite a lot of them) are reasonably priced, though the menus are outdated – they do not offer 1 ounce sizes, only 2.
The room itself (the downstairs room) was sticky and close. It was a very humid day, raining off and on. It was a moist lunch.
The meal (Mad Hatter) was okay. The sandwiches I chose were egg salad (very, very bland) and lapsang chicken (pretty good). There were 3 fingers of each which was a whole lot of food for just me, but I wanted to try more than one sandwich and more than one dessert. :) The lemon tart I chose for dessert in addition to cookies (guessing store bought cookies) was really, really tasty with a great crust. The scones were just okay. The blackberry lemon sounded like it would be great but it was actually fairly tasteless. The cream is not clotted or devonshire but the sweetened whipped cream served on top of the jam. An interesting way to serve both and only use one dish. :) The service was passable until the end where we had to eventually ask for our check as our waiter had not checked in with our table for about 20 minutes. They missed sending my husband’s order to the kitchen and as a result of the delay they did give us 10% off, which was very nice of them.
Apologies here to those who are fans, but I’m going to be a picky Wonderland fan about the decor. It seems like they went halfway to Alice and then quit. The mismatched cups, saucers and pots with chips (some very substantial chips) were mostly a good choice. Carrying it further to included the plates for the tiers would be better. The tables need cloths that don’t match or something else to make them jumbled. Different styles of chairs would be a cute addition. There were little girls waiting for a tea when we left and they sprinkled fairy dust on them, much to their delight. It was a cute thing to do for kids.
When I left I waited for probably 5-7 minutes for the front of house staff to even notice I was there so I could buy tea. They were just chatting amongst themselves and one of them looked directly at me a few times but didn’t bother to tell the girl he was chatting with that I was waiting. It was a little frustrating but it may just be part of that New York thing that I don’t get since I don’t live here and this is my first ever visit.
It’s worth going, but get the small tier Nibble service and just add a dessert other than the cookies, especially if you are on your own. They aren’t kidding when they say “if you are hungry!” And do make reservations. If we hadn’t had them, we would not have waited the 45 minutes it was taking for others to get in.
And you are right around the corner from Kusmi and I understand there is a David’s close by as well. :)
Prices for afternoon tea is on the high side but they bring a LOT of food and all of it pretty good. The tea is good as well. If you are traveling with a man (or are one yourself) and can stand the very flouffy decor, they do offer a regular menu. We went for breakfast. I had the full tea and he had bangers & mash with bacon on the side. The staff is very nice. Our waitress told me that they blend some of their teas and sone they buy blended. They do bring a large teapot with a large infuser basket full of loose tea. There is a timer on the table and while she made a suggestion for time on my choice of Nilgiri, the steep time is ultimately up to you. Which can help prevent bitter tea or give you no one to blame but yourself if you get it bitter. :)
I got some Ambootia Darjeeling here. It was served in a glass mug with an in cup strainer packed with probably a tablespoon of tea. A lot for an 8-10 ounce cup. The water was about boiling at least and I think I let it steep a bit long looking for some more color in my cup. It was a bit bitter.
But that I chalk up to my error as they give you the cup with water and the infuser with tea and control over steeping time is up to you! The tea was good quality I believe, despite the bitterness. I wish I had had time to stay longer. I’m sure this would have been more than up to a second steeping.
Would love to come back and try a crumpet as well. They make them fresh there in the store.
The food was very good. If you are accustomed to actual Thai heat, you need to go on the high side to get heat here. This is a very Americanized heat level. The service was slow but courteous.
The jasmine tea was excellent! It was a bagged tea, and I have no idea what brand it was. It had Chinese characters on it and it said TEA across the top of the tag in orange letters. The flavor was full and well rounded. Not bitter and not overpoweringly floral. Almost a buttery character. I would happily have had another pot of it had we not been so tired and ready for bed.
Very meh. It’s a restaurant that also does tea. We had a table in the middle of all the other dining tables, not a very tea room feel.
We were told when making reservations that various teas were available and included with the basic tea service but when we arrived we weren’t given a choice other than the house blend black. It was brewed far too strong, more like coffee than tea with bitter coffee undertones to the liquid. When we asked if there was another option the server told us about 3 other blacks but no greens or whites at all. We were also told that a flavor other than the house blend would be an additional $5. We didn’t ask for clarification, but it sounded like that additional money was per person!
At $18, you get what you pay for to a certain extent. There were the standard foods in the standard amounts. Three sandwiches, three sweets, three scones/breads. The banana bread with cream cheese was very good. The mini chocolate eclairs were tasty and very much dark chocolate. The clotted cream wasn’t – it was basically sweet cream instead. The scones were interesting – small dropped scones with not much sweetness to them. Not bad. The sandwiches were on a large crumb artisanal type of bread and were okay.
The service was unimpressive, bordering on lackluster. After we finally got the host’s attention to get new or different tea, it improved somewhat, but it felt like our group of 5 was an imposition on the staff. They were not full when we went and they were just finishing a large tea party in the backroom and some girls were putting up decorations for another tea of about 15 in the front room. Maybe 5 people were just beneath their notice.
You have to try different places – maybe some will be good. We won’t be back to this one. I’m glad it wasn’t more expensive than it was.
Very traditional savory menu, scones were good, and the pastry selections were excellent. The house blend tea is very, very good – an Indian black tea with babaco fruit (kiwi, pineapple and one other kind of fruit taste). The staff is marvelous and the server I had was knowledgeable about teas. The live harp music was wonderful. The tea room itself is small and in a side lobby but despite being open to the larger lobby it still seemed quiet and set apart.
The price seemed reasonable for DC. The price of 3 ounces of their house blend tea, however is definitely high. I bought some because I want to share it with friends, but I will have to think about buying any more, despite the fact that I really, really like it.
Reservations are required, though when I arrived early, Julie, the hostess, sat me immediately.
Picture of their tea: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25072757@N04/6899774279/
I have more, but am only linking this one. You can find the others in this same photostream.
A lot of inventory, more spices than teas. But their teas are all displayed on the wall in clear prepackaged plastic bags and the teas are pretty pricey for 1 ounce bags. They are very nice, and seem to have a wide experience with their products but maybe not a wide knowledge of teas.