Tea Rose Garden offers a charming escape from Christmas pressures
By Erica Wayne 12/17/2013
Here we are, in the throes of the end-of-year holidays, deadlines and responsibilities. Our household has, so far, navigated Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, health care open enrollment and property tax deadlines. But, as I write this, there’s a huge stack of Christmas cards awaiting addresses and stamps, a list of gifts that need to be bought and wrapped and an ever-higher pile of charity requests that, for once, I’d like to handle before New Year’s Eve.
Obviously, the most important task during the past week was taking a break. And break we did.
One of my best gal pals and I played hooky and went for lunch at the charming Tea Rose Garden on South Raymond Avenue before heading over to Laemmle Playhouse 7 theater to see the equally charming film “Philomena,” starring Dame Judi Dench. Having eaten at the restaurant and attended the movie, we recommend both for a well-deserved pre- or post-Christmas escape for fans of all things British.
The interior of Tea Rose Garden is a fantasy terra cotta tiled courtyard with surrounding walls decked out to resemble exterior facades in several styles — white and blue wood siding, brick and stucco, complete with tile, shingled and corniced roofs, fake windows and green awnings with signs such as Begonia’s Boutique, Nasturtium News and Petunia’s Produce. Beneath the windows are shelves lined with flowered China, books and cards and edibles to take away as gifts. Above the courtyard (complete with street lamps) is a trompe l’oeil blue sky with lovely fluffy clouds.
The furniture is all of the wrought-iron garden variety with floral seat cushions and tables set with white and burgundy cloths. Each one has a lovely vase filled with fresh and fragrant flowers from the working florist shop at the rear of the store. Just peeking in to watch the staff at work and to catch a whiff of the odor of freshly cut flowers and greenery is a real tonic.
During the holiday season, Tea Rose Garden’s interior may seem a little claustrophobic, particularly since the fountain which usually plays a central role in the courtyard has been replaced by an enormous magnificently decorated ceiling-high tree, which dwarfs the room. But the tree enhances the festive atmosphere, even while reminding us to get on with those as yet (sigh) undone chores.
Salads and sandwiches can be ordered separately. For example, an Oriental chicken salad costs $10.45 while a turkey club sandwich has a price tag of $7.95. But why would you when Tea Rose Garden has four lovely adult and one child’s set tea packages ($14.95 to $21.95) including a variety of sandwiches (finger or croissant), tea (natch), as well as other goodies (fruit, spring petal salad, cookies, scones and assorted pastries) depending on which tea you select.
We chose the $14.95 English Tea, forgoing lemon cake, cheese cake or chocolate mousse included in the “French” and “Garden” Teas in favor of warm scones with Devonshire cream and raspberry preserves that grace both “English” and “Afternoon” Teas. In our estimation, it was a far better choice.
Not only did we get to select two from a variety of nine scones (lemon blueberry and candied ginger spice, both fabulous) and two from 12 tea sandwiches (alas, smoked salmon and dill wasn’t available that day, but cucumber mint and chicken almond were quite adequate), but we each got our own pot of tea, which we picked from an overwhelming list of more than 50 choices.
Our tea (eschewing the obvious holiday choices of passion fruit peppermint, orange spice or cinnamon plum for Tea Rose black organic and Buckingham Palace) arrived in mismatched bone China pots with equally mismatched cups and saucers. Then we received our beautiful little salads: organic greens tossed with velvet pansy, bright nasturtium and delicious house raspberry vinaigrette.
The rest of our food arrived a few minutes later on a three-tiered tray, containing two fat scones, a couple of sugar cookies, four each of our finger sandwich choices, and a bright array of fruit (kiwi, strawberry and orange slices, and black and purple grapes) garnished with gorgeous black and purple edible pansy blossoms.
Gazing up at the tree and the faux sky, enjoying soothing sips of tea, listening to a quiet piano music backdrop as we polished off the last of our scones and preserves, we were so charmed by our surroundings and comforted by our repast that only the call of Dame Judi’s show (and the view of the obviously impatient folks by the front door waiting for a table) could rouse us from our torpor.
We toasted the many lovely British-inspired things to look forward to: “Philomena,” “Saving Mr. Banks,” the second Hobbit film, the return of “Downton Abbey,” “Sherlock,” the new J.K. Rowling film adventure and the planned BBC mini-series adapted from Rowling’s adult book “A Casual Vacancy.”
Finally, having raised our cups a final time, we hoisted our satisfied selves from our seats and headed off to indulge in the first of these figurative sugarplums.
Tea Rose Garden
28 S. Raymond Ave., Old Pasadena
Major cards/No alcohol