Regency Tea RoomPosted: 09/14/2013
During our three-week stay in London, we had the opportunity to visit Bath! Bath is a city in southwest England known for its status as a spa city since Roman times, as well as the home of Jane Austen for several years. My knowledge of Bath was quite limited until we physically arrived in the city, and I could only recall what I’d read of it from Austen’s Northanger Abbey.
Having only spent time in London so far, I found Bath to be quite a small, pretty town, with the requisite beautiful architecture as well as familiar shopping destinations. Our first task was to explore the Roman baths.
It was a hot, sunny day when we visited Bath, which made for beautiful photographs. According to the audio-guide, the water is green due to algae growth. The baths were originally covered by a ceiling of sorts, which prevented such growth. Nowadays, since the baths mostly function as a tourist attraction rather than their original function as a bath, the algae is left to grow. Even if you’re not much of a history buff, just seeing the architecture and the pretty green water reflecting the sun is a nice break from the inevitably cramped sightseeing excursions in London.
Once we were done exploring the baths, we decided to go for a lunch/tea at the Jane Austen Centre. Like the Charles Dickens Museum and the Sherlock Holmes Museum in London, the Jane Austen Centre is simply a very, very narrow house, with rooms recreated to resemble Austen’s own lodgings in Bath. The first floor houses a gift shop, which sells copies of her novels as well as other memorabilia. Our destination, though, was the Regency Tea Room, which is situated on the top floor of the centre. You can access both the gift shop and the tea room without paying the entrance fee for the actual museum portion of the centre.
You generally need reservations to secure a table, but amazingly enough we ended up being able to get a table despite the large size of our group and our lack of a reservation! The servers were all dressed to match the theme of the restaurant, and there was a painting of a very Colin Firth-esque Mr. Darcy on the opposite wall. We all decided on the Ladies Afternoon Tea (£9.50), which included a selection of delicate finger sandwiches, a warm scone, Dorset clotted cream, locally sourced raspberry and strawberry jam, with your choice of tea. The clotted cream was especially delicious, rich, and luxuriant. I think I could eat anything if it were covered in clotted cream.
As for my tea, I decided on the Earl Grey. It’s strange, but before my trip, I’d never enjoyed Earl Grey, but all of a sudden, it became my preferred tea. (And I was having tea at least twice a day). I liked the tea here, and thought it tasted somewhat smokier than other versions of Earl Grey I had during my six-week stay in England. I don’t think I’m qualified enough to really pass a judgment on the quality of the tea, though. All I know is that I liked it quite a bit.
And soon enough, our food arrived, consisting of the aforementioned finger sandwiches and scones, neatly arranged on tiered plates. There appeared to be three types of sandwiches: cucumber and cream cheese, cheese and chutney, and a third that had some sort of deli meat and sauce. To be perfectly honest, I found these sandwiches not up to par. They didn’t exhibit the close attention to detail that I think is so crucial for afternoon tea. For example, many of the sandwiches still had the sandwich crust, which I think should have been cut off, so as to stress the softness of the white bread. While the cucumbers were fresh and had a satisfying crunch, the cream cheese was only slightly sour. Still, I liked the cheese and chutney, which I thought was an interesting combination. As for the scone…I had better scones while I was in England, but this one wasn’t bad. It was thick and doughy, and quite filling. I tackled my huge beast of a scone by spreading indulgent layers of clotted cream first, and then another layer of strawberry jam. This might sound overly indulgent to you, but hey, when I’m on vacation, I definitely go all out on having as many treats as possible. In a strange way, my scone reminded me of KFC buttermilk biscuits, which I’d eaten a shamefully large amount of in my childhood. They were similar in the thick, doughy texture, but of course the scone was much heavier than an airy biscuit.
To be honest, I didn’t think that the tea service here was anything to rave about. (I much preferred the cream tea I was served on one of my last days in Oxford, to tell you the truth). But then again, considering the location, I wasn’t expecting much, as I never find restaurants within tourist hotspots to be too exciting. Still, there’s always the novelty of having food with a portrait of Colin Firth keeping a close eye over you. If you’re an Austen fanatic visiting the museum, you might as well have lunch at the Regency Tea Room.
Regency Tea Room
40 Gay Street
Bath, UK BA1 2NT