Queen Mary Tea Room and Restaurant
2912 NE 55th St, 527-2770
Wed-Sun, 9 am-4 pm

In the middle of a rather spectacularly bad day, I grabbed a friend and we had afternoon tea for lunch. This is not a regrettable strategy, as we found out, at Queen Mary. First of all, there's the pastry case near the door stocked with teacakes, trifle, and Devon double cream. Then, inside the deeply draped and pillowed tearoom populated almost exclusively with ladies, there are piles of stuffed animals, both well loved and new. And if you really want to have a tea party, the staff will, without a trace of condescension, loan you a tiara.

A tiara instantly makes a bad day better. You should try it. So does eating beautiful little bits and pieces of things off a three-tiered stand: finger sandwiches, scones, crumpets, cookies, tiny lemon-curd tartlets, beautifully cut fruit, and chocolate teacake. The bite-sized food suggests doting care from above. For some people, abundance is comforting; I take my solace in crustless finger sandwiches, in this case cucumber, cream cheese infused with smoked salmon, and chicken salad with almond, each made with one slice of white bread and one slice of wheat. I can't remember what purpose this serves--perhaps to keep the sandwiches fresh--but it has a wonderful specificity and nice slight chewiness.

This is afternoon tea ($21.95 per person), which starts with sorbet (not too sweet, and tasting wholly of fruit) and is accompanied by oceans of your choice of tea served out of rosebudded teapots in mismatched fine-china teacups. Queen Mary offers lunch as well, with a selection of foods--sandwiches, salads, savory pies--that is pleasingly British, but not coyly so. I don't know if a tiara goes with steak and kidney pie, but I am willing to give it a shot.

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