The ritual of English afternoon tea began in the 19th century as a way to break up the monotony of leisure-class living—and to cope with punitive meal schedules. But the fussy pageantry of multitiered serving trays translates well at the corner of Northeast Killingsworth Street and 33rd Avenue, where owner Brendon Constans has created a giddy tribute to British tradition and pop culture.
It replicates the experience of Lovejoy's Tea Room in San Francisco, an institution dating back to the 1990s that was named after the fictional rogue antiques dealer from the BBC TV series based on the novels of Jonathan Gash. That scrappy ethos makes for a more relaxed visit than you might expect when reservations are encouraged.
Offered in an atmosphere of upcycled frills, served under tea cup chandeliers and Victorian panels that upgrade a formerly dreary drop ceiling, the more sugary, starchy pleasures of standard tea service are offset with pub fare like lentil and veggie shepherd's pie ($14.95), sausage rolls ($12.95 for three) and the Ploughman's Lunch, a cheese plate with chutney, artichoke hummus, fruit, greens, chips and toast ($18.95).
Naturally, there's no shirking on the tea menu, which has more than 40 options. While it can be overwhelming, starting with the Light Tea ($20.95 per person) or Healthy Tea ($19.95) is a no-brainer. Servers are liable to check in with you 20 minutes after putting down your bottomless pot o' tea ($10) to offer a refresher; if you're feeling a bit sacrilegious, I cannot recommend the chocolate truffle enough.
The beauty of traditional tea is the pairing of the decadently savory with the richly sweet, and I approached my three tiers as advised—starting with an oven-fresh scone made in-house and smothered in Devon cream and the best raspberry preserves in recent memory, followed by a deceptively nuanced cucumber sandwich (with mint cream cheese and cheddar for added kick) and a rich, satisfying chicken apple walnut salad sandwich. Midway through, we were served tangy lemon curd and fresh crumpets from Sellwood's Scrumptious Crumpets, an odd but wonderful little pastry that doesn't get its due stateside.
Breaking up the heavy tea regimen was cabbage salad in caraway cream dressing, organic spring greens salad, and fresh fruit—a little roughage offered at every level, like a polite but unobtrusive reminder for balance.
GO: Lovejoy's Tea Room, 3286 NE Killingsworth St., 503-567-7888, lovejoysportland.com. 11 am-6 pm Wednesday-Sunday. Reservations encouraged.