When I want a taste of London, but can’t leave Seattle, the Queen Mary Tea Room provides sweet solace. Dressed in flowery curtains, with a wall of tea ware, a pastry case of delicious desserts, and the clink of china, this place is small and cozy. When Prince William married Kate, I was so excited to celebrate. It was like my team had won the Superbowl. Queen Mary was the place to go to be with other smiling Anglophiles like myself. My friend and I got one of the last servings on that wedding weekend.
You can go for a pot of tea, or lunch, but ordering the afternoon tea ensures the full experience. During December, I made a promise that I would treat myself to a high tea after the holidays were over. I knew the wait was worth it the minute our waitress brought out a three-tiered display of goodies and set it in front of us. Sandwiches on the bottom, savory mini-quiches and scones on the top, and on the middle tier, all the sweets and fruit I could manage to taste, before leaning back into my seat, completely full. The tea menu is extensive, and offers traditional black teas, which I love, along with flavored and green, white, tulsi and rooibos options.
You might feel a little intimidated at first by the customers because the room is small and it is hard to go unnoticed. But a closer look reveals a family with a little girl, a group celebrating a baby shower, and small tables of girlfriends, ready to tuck into the trio of sorbets and shortbread cookies that start off the whole experience. Our server was wearing a flowery apron, and could have stepped out of a Jane Austen production, but she was completely down to earth and put us immediately at ease. Of course, you can go as formal as you’d like. After all, princess tiaras are provided.
On my last trip to London, I ordered tea at the airy, unadorned and bright, The Orangery, near Kensington Palace. There wasn’t a floral in sight as I recall. It wasn’t intimate or cozy, but it was great and grand. The characters in my book are more likely to get a sandwich at Pret or some street food at Borough Market then ordering a cream tea at Kew Gardens. Still, the Queen Mary Tea Room is one of those touchstone places, that takes its customers somewhere special, somewhere that celebrates the British experience, all for the price of a meal.