Walking into Lovejoy’s Tearoom was akin to entering an American’s fetishized version of the quintessential quaint British cottage, its shelves and walls littered with English paraphernalia. Flowery teacups and thin porcelain plates, British flag emblazoned pillows and teapots, miniature red double-decker buses, pastel silk hats, posters of the Queen, and the odd brick-red telephone box sitting in the corner. Plant a rose garden outside and you’ll get a stereotypical Anglophile’s wonderland.
My friend and I arrived for a late lunch at 1pm; so popular was the place that I couldn’t secure the lunchtime seating even when booking a week ahead. The room was dancing with light conversation, lace-covered tables filled to the brim with groups of women tucking into sandwiches and cream smothered scones, and servers weaving through narrow aisles with platters of biscuits and petit fours. Ravenous ourselves, we ordered the Queen’s Tea, a service that came with cabbage salad, spring greens, scones, crumpets, fresh fruit, tea biscuits, and petit fours. For our teas, we chose the White Peach and Blackcurrant, and sandwiches, the cucumber & cream cheese, egg & onion, salmon mousse, and chicken & asparagus.
The white peach tea was light and fragrant, carrying sweet fruity notes that made adding sugar and cream redundant to enhancing its natural flavors. In contrast, the blackcurrant was deep and rich with earthier tones, and just a hint of cream would bring out the fruity flavors beautifully. Either way, it was a joy to savor with our richer scones and biscuits.
The presentation was beautiful, although the spring greens were hard to get to since they hid behind the sandwiches. I tried out the cabbage salad first, which reminded me more of coleslaw than anything else. Unfortunately, its beautiful appearance belied the taste, so bitter that not even the creamy dressing could mask its flavors. The spring greens were no better, flavorless on its own. They would have been much better served with a hint of lemon and olive on another plate, and easier to eat no less. However, I adored the soft bread used for the sandwiches.
The salmon mousse was delightfully airy and soft, tasting much like cream cheese and smoked salmon blended together. Similarly, the egg & onion was much accomplished, salty with a tinge of sweetness from the onions. I was a bit surprised by the chicken & asparagus sandwich however, not expecting creamed asparagus with the the same consistency of the salmon mousse. While acceptable, I thought that having sliced asparagus would lend more texture. Unfortunately the sandwich I most looked forward to also fell flat of my expectations. The cream was a bit bland, and the cucumbers had their skin intact, which well visually pleasing left much to be desired for texture.
The scones were a much better improvement, buttery, flaky, and warm. I split mine in half and slathered Devon cream and lemon curd on one, and berry preserves on the other. Each bite was sweet pastry heaven, and a sip of tea is perfect to cut through the heaviness of the pastry.
Our crumpets were seductively flecked with holes to absorb the butter and preserves, toasted to a orange golden crisp on one side and wonderfully chewy and spongy. It took all but a minute to devour mine.
We rounded off with the fresh fruit, cold, crisp, and bursting with so much sweetness it must have been soaking in syrup. I was getting very full at this point but nevertheless polished all of it (including my friend’s portion).
There was a wide variety of candied goodness to select from, ranging from orange to strawberry to espresso and chocolate. My friend took the mocha one and I chose the chocolate with apricot jam inside. As glazed petit fours usually go, each was ridiculously sweet and tasted heavily of marzipan. The coffee one was quite aromatic, but I would have preferred a macaron or a simple almond cookie (Petit four aux amandes). While Lovejoy’s was a nice place to catch up with friends over tea, the food was not quite as good as that of Dartealing, especially the double cream. I wouldn’t mind coming here again, but I’ll probably just stick to ordering the cream tea with the scones and preserves.
1351 Church Street
San Francisco, CA 94114