WARNING: If you have a pair of nuts, you might want to stop reading right now, because unless you're out to pick up chicks who drink tea, you have a thing for tchotchkes, or you already happen to think pink, this place will prove to be uh, challenging, like when your girlfriend asks you to pick up a box of Tampax for her while you're at the store.
As soon as I walked into ~CROWN AND CRUMPET~, my mood increased an uptick. It's a sunny space, with hot pink and white checkered floors, floral tablecloths, white chairs with bright turquoise seats, large drum lights with glass crystals, and a view out of the bay out the corner window. Sure, it's girlie, but it's good girlie--less about lace, more about personality. And there's a witty sense of humor in the place (how many tea houses have the words oi vay in their menu?).
You can come by in the morning for cinnamon toast and tea ($8.50), a boiled egg and tea, and other spendy ways to start your day here (don't fear, coffee drinkers--they also offer French press coffee), and then there's lunch with items like Welsh rarebit with tomato and toasted crumpets or stuffed baked potatoes (both $12), but really now, we're here for tea time.
My partner in pinkie raising and I ordered the tea for two ($42 for two), which came with quite the cavalcade of treats. Leave the corset at home and come hungry, that's all I'm saying. We each got our own pot of tea, which was hard to choose from the extensive list, from oolongs to white teas to Pu-erh to green or black teas (you can also buy them to take home), 38 in all. My pregnant friend opted for the delicate peach crumpet tea, a lovely white tea light in caffeine. Our "trolley dolly"' was quite attentive, and she made sure we always had hot water at hand.
Our three-tiered tower of power included four delicate tea sandwiches for each of us, scrumptious little two-bite numbers that ranged from egg salad to smoked salmon, cucumber, roasted vegetables with goat cheese, and potted shrimp (the kitchen chooses your spread for you). The bread was so tender, and these delectable morsels disappeared quickly. I'd totally buzz that tower again.
We were also served four house-made scones (plain and with currants), which came with clotted cream, butter, jam, and lemon curd (so addictive), but unfortunately the scones were a bit hard and crumbly, so we made a bit of a mess. The toasted crumpets were our favorite (mmm, buttery--now excuse me while I load on some strawberry jam).
Just when we were getting full, eep, let's not forget the third tier of house-made sweets and fresh fruit, like little tartlets, bars, and mini cupcakes. It was quite the bounty of bites. We hit the proverbial chintz-padded wall, so my friend had the sweets packed up to bring home for munching later. If this sounds like too much food, you can just come in for tea and crumpets or cake for $8.50, or tea and tea sandwiches or sweet treats for $12.
Last orders for afternoon tea are taken at 5:15pm, except Fridays and Saturdays, when it's served until 8:15pm (but don't tell any English people that you went for tea service at 7pm, or they will pour some earl grey over your improper head). You can hang out in the evening on Fridays and Saturdays until 9pm or so, sip some champers or sherry, and munch on savory bites like sausage rolls with hot mustard, or warm gougères. I think it would be quite the way to unwind after a crap day.
There are a bunch of tables for two that can be pushed together, plus there's a communal table that can fit 12 (this would be a primo location for a book club). Of course the most popular events here are estrogen fests like baby showers or ladies lunches--there's a cozy living room area, which includes a faux fireplace on the flat screen TV. (You can also buy out the entire space for private events in the evening.) Obviously call and make a reservation--even if you're a party of two, it can get really busy on the weekends.
While little girls would go cuckoo crazy over this place, it's not exactly meant for birthday parties of 20 squawking five-year-olds--but they do offer a nursery tea option for groups of children age 6-12 (a total of 10 princesses is the limit). I could also see this being a perfect place for a grandparent to take a granddaughter, or for auntie to take her niece out. There's also an adjoining shop--be prepared for lots of whining ("But I waaaaaaaaaaant it!").
Since Crown & Crumpet is located in Ghirardelli Square, you can get 1 1/2 hours of your parking validated instead of dealing with lame parking meters. It's a $2.25 flat rate, and the full rate is $2.25 every twenty minutes thereafter, FYI.
Owners Amy and Christopher Dean have insured this place is full of all kinds of thoughtful details, even when you open your sugar bowl or get your check (I'll save the surprises). It's nice to feel a little fussed over.
The weather is turning toward the nasty, and in these upcoming months, people get all holiday crazy and stressy. This is exactly the kind of place where you can pull over and perk up and catch up with a friend. By the time you walk out, it's like someone sprinkled some Prozac on your tea sandwich or something.
Crown & Crumpet
900 North Point St, E207
San Francisco, CA 94109
Tea $21-$28 per person
8.1.2012: Crown and Crumpet is temporarily closed. They hope to move to a downtown location soon.