Secret Garden


Bay Area Reviews

Tea Rooms


A Caveat

Summary: Nice food and sullen service in a porcelain room

The Secret Garden is the type of place that I really should have liked more than I did. The food is good, the atmosphere lovely - if a little too Victorian for my taste - and it proved to be a comfortable place to linger over a pot of tea. And yet, something was missing. Perhaps it was warmth; everything was too delicate, or a genuine feeling of welcomeness, but I caught myself thinking more than once "this is not Lovejoys."" Which is really too bad, as nothing would I love more (teawise) than to find another Lovejoys somewhere.

The Secret Garden is not a garden, but a small tearoom somewhere in San Francisco (I didn't drive). It's white and pink with an inordinate number of flower motifs - my little girls would love it - and the whole place seems filled with porcelain; it is cute but frightfully breakable. Doilies - and for that matter blue hair and hats - would not be out of place here. Whether this is your cup of tea, pun intended, only you can know.

As is the fad for English-style tea rooms, it offers a variety of tea options: a pot of tea and a number of goodies for a fixed price. We all went for whatever the most comprehensive and expensive option was ($19) which included a scone, six mini-sandwiches, one vegetarian bite, and your choice of three mini-pastries or the more substantial dessert of the day. They offer six types of sandwiches, and you can order one of each.

The food, in general, was quite good. The fruited scone was a little crumbly, and didn't quite hold up to creaming, but it was quite good. I'd have liked another one (but a la carte items are quite expensive). The sandwiches ranged from good to excellent. I particularly enjoyed the "Sweet Curry Chicken with Grapes & Almonds" sandwich, and so much so that if I went again I can see ordering just this kind. You definitely should not miss it. The "Ham & Swiss Cheese with Dijon Mustard & Black Olives" sandwich was more pedestrian, but I quite enjoyed the "Herbed Cream Cheese with Greens" one. My friends and monthly tea companions (Lotty, Regina and Vienna) also raved about the "Cucumber & Baby Dill" sandwich and were pleased by the other ones as well. I think the tuna was the lowest rated one.

The savory bite was either a mini quiche or a pastry made with phillo dough and filled with spinach. I didn't try either, but I didn't hear Regina, who had both, cry in ecstasy after tasting them (but then again, she wouldn't). I think they were OK. I can say the same thing about the three mini-pastries (and they really are small, each one no more than a bite). I remember liking them, but for the life of me, I can't remember - one week later - what they were. I think one might have been a bite of cheesecake and I want to remember chocolate in another. The dessert of the day - some sort of pumpkin this or other - was pretty good and a more substantial offering than the pastries, but perhaps a little too heavy for tea.

As for the tea, three of us ordered the English Breakfast and quite enjoyed it - I, in particular, after still carrying terrible memories of Leland's awful brew. Lotty had the decaf, and I can't say I remember she commenting about it. It can't have been that bad... or good.

Service was adequate, competent but somewhat amateurish and unfriendly. Still, the waitress did not hover around, which was much appreciated.

In all, I liked the Secret Garden and it's well worth trying as an alternative to Lovejoy's, if you can't get a reservation at the latter or just want to try something new.

Secret Garden
721 Lincoln Way
San Francisco, CA
T-F 12PM - 6 PM
Sa-Su 11:30 AM - 5:30 PM