Tea: ☕️ ☕ ☕ ☕
Food: 🍰 🍰
Ambience: 🌸 🌸 🌸 🌸
Overall rating: 💖 💖 💖
Tags: kitschy, english
Crown and Crumpet is “the Japanese idea of British afternoon tea,” as one of our reviewers put it. (In point of fact, it is owned and operated by a Brit, but it is located in Japantown.) It has a clear æsthetic and it sticks to it: heavy on sugar and frills, light on savor and subtlety. It’s the perfect place for children — or adults — to don their best princess dresses and have a tea party. Our reviewing excursion took place on Mothers’ Day, so there were plenty of dressed-up children there demonstrating appropriate tea party style and manners.
The ambience of Crown and Crumpet is over the top. Tablecloths feature a profusion of flowers and nostalgic postcards. Decorations include a giant clock made of teacups, “Keep Calm and Carry On” signs (and variations), and a tiered wedding cake. (No surprise that this nostalgic, romantic, British teahouse just hosted a special Royal Wedding-themed tea at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel!) The waiters and waitresses dress in neo-Victorian or “cupcake Lolita” style, complete with glittery makeup and brooches. It’s all especially striking because the whole tea shop is a cordoned-off section in the (otherwise boring) ground floor of a modern, boxy building.
H.A.T.S. traditionally starts off by eating sandwiches and savories, but at Crown and Crumpet we made an exception: following our server’s advice, we tried the scones and crumpets first, as they were still warm from the oven. As the venue’s name implies, the crumpets were the biggest winners on the étàgere. They were served warm, pre-buttered, with slightly crisp bottoms and fluffy tops. The blueberry scones were similarly excellent: moist and rich. The toppings for this tier left something to be desired, though: too-sweet strawberry jam and lemon curd, plus a whipped butter that, though preferable to whipped cream, didn’t deserve the name of “clotted cream.” As ever, not enough cream was supplied. Unusually, we had to request additional jam, too.
The sandwiches were neither impressive nor troubling. An open-faced cucumber sandwich sported pleasantly minty cream cheese. The coronation chicken sandwich was flavorful and spicy, but dull egg salad sandwiches and a bland cheddar vegetarian option brought down the average. Mini-quiches and sausage rolls were flavorful but dry.
Clearly, Crown and Crumpet focuses their energies on the top tier of the étàgere, full of treats designed to appeal to a child’s sweet tooth. We all enjoyed the chocolate-dipped strawberries and chocolate mousse cups. However, the cheesecake tarts tasted of bland vanilla custard (no tangy cheese in sight), and the lemon cupcakes were cloying. The meringues were fluffy pure sugar; if you enjoy the “unicorn food” trend of pink, iridescent-dusted, sprinkle-covered sweets, you’ll like the meringues.
Teas at Crown and Crumpet are good examples of exactly what they claim to be on the menu. The Ceylon tea with damask rose essence (“Damask Roses for Mum”) was intensely flowery. The tropical rooibos mélange (“Mum’s the Word”) was spicy, though the core rooibos flavor was weak. Our two favorites were the Earl Grey-Jasmine blend (“Jazzee Mother Grey”), a satisfying mix of high-quality specimens of two of our favorite teas, and Indian tea with Japanese cherries (“Hugs & Mugs”), a fine black cup with refined floral notes. Because we were at a special occasion tea, we also got an extra beverage: an elderflower-Champagne cocktail, or the nonalcoholic variety thereof (made with orange soda and elderflower cordial).
Crown and Crumpet is not for every taste. It has a very particular vision of what a “tea party” should be, and that vision is expertly executed. Undoubtedly, this vision is ideal for a child playing dress-up, and the regular menu features a “nursery tea” special for grandparents on an outing with their grandchildren. Though it was perhaps not a perfect fit for these reviewers, tea drinkers with a sweet tooth, a high-femme æsthetic, or children to entertain, should expect a wonderful time.
Date attended: May 13, 2018
Attendees: Erica, Hannah, Ilana, Marissa & Tom
Price/seat: $38 (special occasion tea; regular price is $32)
Location: 1746 Post Street, San Francisco