I discovered another Tea Room in the San Diego area and had Afternoon Tea there today. The Aubrey Rose Tea Room is located in the old town area of La Mesa, CA. I recognized the area as one where we (my sister, her husband and my son) had attended an Oktoberfest celebration when my son was little – many, many years ago. It is a large venue with retail products, like tea pots, tea cups, strainers and tea, bordering the old fashioned dining areas. It was a charming touch to have a personalized reservation card at my fully prepped table.
I will say that each of the tea rooms I visited sat me in a chair I least preferred when dining alone. Understandably, most people will tea with a friend or several friends, but I was on this mission to peak my creative side by focusing on the mixed media books I was reading while enjoying warm and iced tea with finger foods. Almost every location had the table set for me to face a wall, while one of the four had me with my back directly to the door. I sat where I preferred and the service was easily moved, but in retrospect I wonder if there was any thought given to the best of two options for seating. For example, at Aubrey Rose I was to sit facing an L-shaped tea display with my back to everyone else in the shop. I chose instead the seat in front of the display so that I could look at the other people and see my server approaching. Is it just me or do people simply not think through (or better yet try out) the best seat options at a table usually set for 2 or 4?
I opted for the Queen Victoria Tea which started with a broccoli cream soup with mini croissant. The soup was delicious, which was good because the croissant lacked any flavor, making me presume they were store bought not handmade. The savory bites included a baked artichoke and cheese crostini, a sundried tomato swirl bite and a mini biscuit like scone. None of these items were terribly exciting, but I do love me a tea sandwich and the cucumber cream cheese and egg salad were both creamy and flavorful. My favorite part was the sweet lavender and lemon scone served with the best cream I’ve tasted and lemon curd. I tasted the scone first alone, then the scone with cream, then the scone with cream and lemon curd and, surprisingly, thought the lemon curd overpowered and was too sweet for the scone. My Cheeky Peach hot tea was delicious, but for my second pot I needed to switch to decaf, so I tried the Decaf Apricot Peach.
The service was excellent and the owner’s husband, he jokingly talked to a table nearby about being referred to as her husband, handles reservations and ensuring that service is satisfactory. It is definitely a welcoming spot and they give every effort to having you as a return patron. I did find a bit of humor on their website, as the “Now taking reservations for Mother’s Day” in July is either very ambitious or simply outdated. And the photos on their menu page look marvelous, but maybe that is a special tea like for Mother’s Day?
I’d love to return with a group of friends and spend a couple of hours chatting and drinking tea. The parking is limited and metered, so the longest a meter will take is 2 hours. Which means making that your time limit or running out to feed the meter. Possibly why their customers refer to the Aubrey Rose as a “two-hour mini-vacation.” Regardless of the parking situation, my preference, both here and the at the other tea houses I visited, would be to stick with just the tea sandwiches – like cucumber dill or watercress, and salmon spread – and sweet scones with cream and jam or lemon curd. These, with the tea, of course, are my favorites. Adding soup and savory bites didn’t seem to be worth the extra cost to me. The mini desserts don’t do much for me either; most are often too sweet, at least after enjoying scones with cream!
So, overall, the best venues were outdoors on the patio under the canopy with the nice cool breeze surrounding us at Shakespeare Corner Shoppe and Tea Room and the Aubrey Rose Tea Room. While I liked the Coral Tree Tea House being given a lovely window view, again with a nice breeze, being a historical house, it was not as accessible as other locations. The best tea? I think each of the locales served great tea, with many options. I actually bought the Apricot Black Tea at Tea Upon Chatsworth. And the best food overall? Hands down, my favorite would be Shakespeare because of the sauces, spreads and flavors in all of their food. Which really shouldn’t surprise me since I like Shakespeare Pub’s food, like bbq pork shanks and french fries with curry sauce for dunking… to quote Rachel Ray: “Yum-o!”