Central Avenue doesn’t exactly have that cup-of-tea-in-the-afternoon feel—however, venturing behind a lush garden, the Streeter Tea House is a bit like walking through the looking glass. Driving up to the sunny yellow Victorian house—circa late 1800s—the only thing I could hear was Paul McCartney’s lively invitation: “would you care to sit with me, for a cup of English tea?”
While you won’t find any giant chess pieces and virtually nothing will appear to you as a reflection of itself, Streeter Tea House greets everyone with smiles and melodies issuing from a golden harp, thus transforming this side of Riverside into the other side of Alice’s looking-glass house. The interior is just as bright as the exterior, boasting red, yellow, and blue walls all decorated with various hats and trinkets. Since Streeter started its holiday celebration early, the rooms and halls are also decked in green and red. Small ornamented Christmas trees festively stand in the corners, while gold and red stars heartwarmingly adorn tabletops.
Holiday High Tea starts at noon with a pot of hot tea and the traditional scone. While English teas—along with white and herbal teas—are also on the menu, I opted for the peach ginger black tea which went perfectly together with a little sugar and cream. The scone is served with curd and passion fruit jelly and, although fresh, it has a consistency more like that of a muffin, making it difficult to spread the curd and passion fruit jelly. Tomato basil soup was served next. Creamy and with just the right amount of sour cream, the soup is surprisingly delicious paired with a cup of hot tea and the melody of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer playing in the background.
The main course—a three-tiered platter of finger foods—is an elegant sight to behold. Garnished with fruit, and topped with dessert, the platter ranges from sweet to semi-sweet to salty. Most notable is a slice of toasted ham and cheese-stuffed croissant, with the slice of croissant acting as a buffer. Also worth the trip were two contrasting pieces of toast—one a sweet toast covered with cranberry cream cheese, the other salty and topped with thin slices of ham, lettuce, and dried tomatoes.
For dessert, there’s a fudge ball covered with green and red sprinkles, a rainbow cupcake with white frosting, and a slice of chocolate cake with a whipped topping. Although the fudge and chocolate cake are a smidge too rich for my taste, the cupcake was just right. Perhaps it was the sweet—but not too sweet—frosting, or the memories of first grade birthdays that came rushing back over me, but the cupcake ended up being my favorite.
There’s a European slowness at the Streeter. The courses are served swiftly on the heels of one another, but the staff isn’t over eager to rush food on and off tables, enabling guests to enjoy and indulge in the lost art of conversation. At the end of the meal guests are given treats to take home, further exemplifying the thoughtful, friendly service and giving you something to remember the experience by. Considering McCartney’s invitation again, I know that I’ll definitely return for English tea on “any Sunday morning” . . . or Saturday afternoon.
Streeter Tea House’s Holiday Celebration continues until December 22 by reservation only.
Streeter Tea House, 5211 Central Ave., Riverside, (951) 687-1510; http://thestreeterteahouse.com