Whether it is for an exciting new experience with the girls, or a special treat for mom, teatime is a great way to experience a taste of the Victorian era refinement in today’s chaotic world.
Nestled in an inconspicuous location in the shopping center behind the Carrollwood World of Beer, the Empress Tea Room strives to bring a touch of sophistication and decadence to the Bay area.
Sounds of classical music permeating through the air and paintings reminiscent of works by Renaissance artists treat guests to a flavor of grace as they enter the restaurant.
Former caterer Kim Nauman purchased the tea room five years ago after she accidentally stumbled upon a broker ad online. Nauman then moved the business from Temple Terrace to the North Dale Mabry location.
Taking many of the items from the previous owner’s menu with her, Nauman offers a variety of treats commonly found on many tea room menus.
The high tea platter I ordered featured an assortment of amuse-bouches consisting of sandwiches and desserts. The types of sandwiches included a chicken salad, turkey with Brie and cranberries, pear and Gorgonzola and finally, cucumber with dill. There were also four types of desserts including the traditional scone offered with Devonshire cream and rose jam.
“We commonly switch out the little sandwiches for high tea,” Nauman said. “The sandwiches are inspired by trends that are out there in the food world.”
The establishment also offers additions to high tea, such as salads, soups and sparkling wine. Patrons can also opt out of the high tea spread and order whole sandwiches or daily special entrees.
The tea I chose was a black tea with mango. Service was a bit spotty as a guest at my table had to wait for a burner for her pot of tea. She did not receive the burner until a second reminder to the waitress.
The sandwiches were also smaller and less impressive than I remember from previous visits. The pear Gorgonzola sandwich was missing the caramelized onions I fell in love with on my last visit.
A few months ago, the tea room turned its gift shop into a chocolate haven.
“It was a better fit for us to focus on food, stay in that realm and create our own line,” Nauman said.
Not only do they make their own chocolate, but they also carry chocolates from many local chocolatiers from around the area, including William Dean.
“William Dean’s chocolates made a cameo in the ‘Hunger Games,’” Nauman said. “I didn’t realize that the chocolates were so recognizable, but we have customers ask if those are the chocolates from the ‘Hunger Games.’”
I tried the “Ooh la la” champagne chocolate from local chocolatier, Viktoria Richards. The taste was as decadent as it sounds.
The service was touch and go this visit, however I will return again, wearing a floppy hat and speaking in a British accent.
Though high tea is stereotypically a pastime women enjoy, they do offer a gentleman’s tea with bigger sandwiches.
The tea room also offers a comedy show every other Friday and a murder mystery dinner every Saturday.