Summary: Great food in a comfortable atmosphere makes Lovejoy's the choice for high tea in the Bay Area.
After our tea at the Ritz Carlton last May, my girlfriends and I have decided to get together once a month for afternoon tea. We are alternating one month at a tea house and one month at one of our homes. Vienna, who is a veritable tea fiend, is our tea-coordinator and she chose Lovejoy's for our second excursion in July 2005. It was wonderful.
Lovejoy's occupies a storefront space on a sunny corner in San Francisco's Noe Valley. Inside it looks like a grandmother's crowded living room, one with more sentimentality than refinement. There are mismatched tables and chairs, sofas and coffee tables, old furniture, pictures, nic-nacs and so forth. Nothing is particularly nice; there is no Victorian stuffiness here, even the tea pots and cups are nice everyday china rather than paper-thin special occasion porcelain. But it all works to make you feel welcomed and comfortable.
What works most of all is the food. Lovejoy's offers a variety of teas as well as scones, crumpets and many different tea sandwiches. Teas start at $5 for a plain pot of tea, and rise to $20 for a "Queen's Tea" with all sort of goodies. There are also heartier things such as pasties, sausage rolls and shepherd's pie but we didn't try them.
I went for the "Cream Tea" ($9.25), a pot of tea with two scones, served with double Devon cream, strawberry preserves and fruit. I also had a chicken-apple-walnut sandwich ($3) and an order of toasted crumpets with lemon curd ($5 for two). Vienna went for the "High Tea" ($16) which included a pot of tea, a scone, a tiny shortbread biscuit, two sandwiches, fruit, coleslaw and greens. Charlotte went for the "Queen's Tea" ($20) which added a crumpet and a petit four to the High Tea.
I tried the Afternoon Darjeeling tea and I wasn't very excited by it. But then again, I wasn't that thrilled with the Taylor's Tea Room Blend which Lotty ordered. I thought the Darjeeling tea was too weak, while the Taylor's too bitter. I'm beginning to wonder whether my tastes in tea are just very limited. Lotty didn't complain.
The food definitely left little room for complaint. The large scones were served warm and were fluffy and delicious. They were heaven with the cream and preserves. We also raved about the sandwiches. My chicken-apple-walnut was just right and the Stilton and pear were so good that I've been trying to recreate it ever since (hint: Safeway's pears haven't been up-to-par). Vienna was also very happy with her ham sandwich. All of these were on regular crust-less sliced bread, cut in four. I had never had crumpets before, and they reminded me of a crispy English muffin. By themselves they were just OK, but the lemon curd was so nice that would have made anything taste like heaven. Lotty who is an avid fan of crumpets wasn't particularly impressed by them. According to her, the crumpets need to be very hot so that they melt a pat of butter placed on them; these ones weren't hot enough for that. We all shared the petit four that came with Lotty's tea - the bite-size cake was so rich and we were so full by then that we were happy to split it. We got the wedding cake petit four (you get to chose the flavor), which was quite delicious and rich.
Service was very good; the waitresses were constantly replenishing our tea and they were quite affable. We stayed there for a couple of hours on a busy Saturday afternoon and never felt rushed. If you do come on the weekend, make sure to make a reservation because people without them were turned out.
In all I really enjoyed Lovejoy's and I look forward to going back there.
Lovejoy's Tea Room
1351 Church Street
San Francisco CA