Waitstaff in proper long dresses with bustles and lace-up corsets greet visitors to the Tudor Rose English Tea Room in Santa Rosa, where even the quintessential British nanny Mary Poppins makes occasional visits.
A traditional English tearoom with a twist, the Tudor Rose feels every bit the welcoming old-time sitting room envisioned by proprietor Angela Grant.
She’s Americanized the menu a bit, switching clotted cream for a more popular blend of whipping cream, sour cream and powdered sugar, and offering a cottage pie of ground and cut beef instead of shepherd’s pie with lamb.
The ambiance, though, is utterly English, with fine china and table linens, a pair of settees at the grand fireplace, a fountain with water cascading from a teapot on the wall and a framed poster of the late Queen Mother.
“It’s relaxed and not stuffy,” said Grant, 58, a native of Liverpool who grew up with the tradition of high tea. “I am not stuck-up. I couldn’t be if I tried.”
She is the official hostess at the Tudor Rose, where she offers traditional teatime, lunches, holiday dinners, murder-mysteries and other special events, like the recent Mary Poppins Holiday Tea Party for about 60 guests. She warmly calls her customers “dear” and “love.”
Grant welcomes guests of all ages, mostly women, who gather for a $15 endless pot of tea with a side of scones, and for baby and bridal showers, birthday parties, anniversaries and other celebrations. The Tudor Rose has been the venue for a wedding and a wake, as well as book readings and author visits.
Mary Poppins has made six appearances since Grant opened the Tudor Rose in the spring of 2013. Grant includes etiquette lessons when the magical nanny from the 1964 Disney movie visits: Don’t slouch, elbows off the table, linen napkin on lap, small sips (no slurping!) and pinkie out while holding a delicate teacup.
Three generations of the Darlington family of Napa attended December’s sold-out event, where Mary Poppins sang several songs from her movie, including “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”
Laura Darlington, her daughters Emily Darlington and Betsy Fraser, and Fraser’s daughter, Nora Fraser, 3, were charmed by Miss Poppins, portrayed by Kori Parlett of Santa Rosa.
The outing was a surprise for Nora, who came dressed up in a pretty sweater and skirt, complete with fancy party shoes and a purse. She brought along her Mary Poppins doll, too.
“It’s so cute. We’ve been so excited to do this,” Laura Darlington said.
That, Grant said, is precisely why she hosts special events. She loves providing unique opportunities for fun-filled outings that people of all ages can enjoy.
A trio of friends in their 50s and 60s — no child with them — was so enchanted with the event they wore fashionable hats perfect for an English tea.
Maria Hockerson of Windsor, Leslie Mahan of Saratoga and Jim Clark of Sebastopol sipped tea poured from a fine china teapot and enjoyed dainty triangular sandwiches (sans crusts), cream puffs, scones and jam, all elegantly presented on tiered trays lined with doilies.
“It’s nice to do something different,” Grant said, “and this is something different.”
Even stopping by for lunch is an experience at the Tudor Rose, where menu items include $11 salads with names like Duchess Kate and Sherlock Holmes. Sweet and savory a la carte items ($3.75 to $11) feature traditional British favorites like potpies, pasties, sausage rolls, tarts, bread pudding and crumpets with a side of lemon curd.