My grandmother started the tradition of going to an afternoon tea on our shared birthday, July 17th. When she passed on in January of 2006, I was at a loss. Who would go to tea with me? I don’t recall who went with me that first year without her, but I eventually turned my mom into a tearoom addict. Excellent. We are always on the hunt for the best tearooms with outstanding service and even better afternoon tea. We like the full tea package: a pot of tea, scone with cream and jam, tea sandwiches and the teensiest of sweets. Bonus for salads but we can do without. We have Priorities.
Since my favorite tearoom in Whittier closed (Grandma is rolling in her grave) and the tearoom in Pasadena is managed by a man with a serious attitude, the hunt to find a fabulous tearoom has never been more urgent. OK, not with the same urgency that I would use, say, if I burned my face in a flash oven fire, but you know, the kind of urgency in finding any new genre restaurant to have on call in case of serious cravings. For tea sandwiches and clotted cream. Hey, I get them.
Enter: Tudor House.
Tudor House is the main establishment in a plethora of British-centric downtown Santa Monica that range from Union Jack laden pubs to import shops. Reading the opening paragraph on their website never fails to procure a giggle from me:
“Tudor House is proudly celebrating over forty years of service. Boasting to be possibly the oldest and best known tearoom in America where hospitality abounds in a warm and friendly setting. Offering a a full lunch and afternoon tea menu prepared with fresh and home baked items.”
Is that the British way of basically saying, “We’re way too lazy to do our homework to back this up, but a quick Google search showed us to be pretty fucking old. By American standards anyway.”
However old, my mom was the one who ended up bringing Tudor House to my attention after a day trip to Santa Monica with her friend. Situated on the far more quieter 2nd Street, Tudor House is not just a tearoom but a full on British restaurant, mini market filled with UK imports and bakery. It is operated by a British family and many patrons are indeed British. A good sign.
The first time my mom took me here I was starving and did not think the afternoon tea for two would adequately satiate my hunger. Instead, I opted for the fish chips.
Certainly not the worst fish and chips, but this is definitely not a signature dish at Tudor House. I wouldn’t order it again or even recommend it. Baking and tearoom specialties are definitely their forte and I was a dolt to bypass all of their pasty and savory pie options in favor for something familiar.
Smart as ever, mom went for the Tudor House Afternoon Tea. Proving once again that mothers knows best. I can’t wait to have a smart ass daughter to continually show up with a knowing smile and grace. I mean, just look at this spread she got:
On paper it didn’t seem like much to me but when I did a double-take between her meal and mine I didn’t need to take a bite of my food to know who won here. The picture above doesn’t even include her individual teapot she received with her meal. I was jealous and kept trying to sneak a bite. She let me have half of her heavenly custard.
In a couple of weeks we were back, lesson learned and ready to listen to mom. Time for Afternoon Tea for Two. Included was our own teapot of tea of our choosing, salad, two scones each with cream and jam, a sampling of four tea sandwiches each, and two sweets each for dessert.
You don’t see the salad because I gobbled it up too fast…or just couldn’t get a picture, but it’s the same salad you see pictured from my mother’s order. The salad introduced us to Salad Cream from Heinz and we bought some from the adjacent market. I don’t like a lot of dressing on my salad (defeats the purpose of salad) but a small teaspoon on a large salad can go a long way for me. I dig it.
Speaking of the bakery/store, here is a sampling of what you can find there:
Some interior shots:
In short, from the salad to the scones to that insanely simple but delicious chocolate biscuit-cookie dessert, everything was exactly what had been missing in my life since my Gran died. She would have really enjoyed this place, and that is the highest compliment I can pay to any tearoom. I’ll definitely be back.
Five out of five pies for Tudor House!
1403 2nd Street
Santa Monica, CA