Friday, April 29, 2011

High Tea at The Dandelion

With the royal wedding coming up fast and furious, I thought it'd be a good idea to prep for it by doing high tea at The Dandelion. And while I'd loved the pork belly I had for dinner a few months back, what I was really looking forward to when the restaurant opened was English tea and sweets.

I finally had the opportunity when a good foodie friend was visiting from out of town. What would be more quintessential Philadelphia than high tea, right? (Cough cough.) I invited two other tea-drinking girlfriends along, and we arrived on a gray and rainy afternoon reminiscent of London.

We were seated on the second floor, in what I've nicknamed "The Dog Room," as we were literally surrounded by all forms of dog paraphernalia and prints. There was simply nothing in the room that did not have a picture of a dog on it. It was quite bizarre, yet utterly calming at the same time.

What was unsettling, however, was the random collection of tattooed, pierced, punk rock types that walked into the room and proceeded to camp out at the bar while we were sipping tea from flower spray tea cups. It was as if they just fell from the sky into the room. We didn't know what to make of them, except that they were a bit loud for high tea. The staff may have done better to seat us in a smaller space if a big party had been expected.

Of course, that was pretty much the only thing that was worth complaining about, because the experience was amazing and delicious, and authentic to the point that it made us feel as if we should've been sitting up tall, crossing our ankles, and drinking tea with our pinkie fingers in the air.

While we were waiting for the entire party, we asked for the roasted spiced bar nuts, which were sprinkled with rosemary and served warm. Great smoky flavor without too much salt (like other bar nuts).

For our savory dishes, we went with the deviled eggs, the butter lettuce salad, the chicken and duck liver parfait, and the crab and cheese toasties. The deviled eggs were well-seasoned and creamy without tasting too much like mustard or mayonnaise. The butter lettuce salad brought together a nice blend of tastes and textures, including apples, grapes, walnuts, and stilton.

Although the crab and cheese toasties were both novel and delicious, our favorite savory dish was probably the liver parfait. Not only was the liver simultaneously super light and super creamy, but it was complemented extremely well by the buttery brioche toast. In addition, the waitress was gracious enough to bring us more bread when we asked for it, even though it was more decadent than your average dinner roll.

In the meantime, our 6-cup tea pigs of chamomille and breakfast teas served us well, coming steeped with loose leaves, which we had to carefully strain out in our flower spray teacups. On the one hand, I think that we could've been provided with more tea options. However, at the end of the day, good short menus generally trump confusing long ones.

For our sweet dishes, we ordered everything except the banoffee trifle (which shall be tried next time, of course). As a citrus lover, I immediately picked the steamed lemon pudding and the lemon ice cream. While some found the ice cream a bit salty, I loved the contrast of tangy and salty. In addition, I loved the faint sweetness and mushy cake consistency of the steamed lemon pudding, which melted in the mouth along with the golden lemon syrup.

On the sweeter side, the sticky toffee pudding was one of the best examples of sticky toffee pudding I've ever tasted. Sitting on, drizzled in, and soaking up the toffee-rum sauce, the cake-like pudding became moist yet managed not to fall apart. The denser pudding worked well with the lighter and creamier date ice cream, with neither being overly sweet. And most importantly, I could definitely taste (and smell) the rum.

I viewed the mousse crunch and cherry sorbet as a modern version of PB&J minus the bread. Another great combination of flavors and textures. But because we were at high tea, we absolutely had to order the traditional tea cookie plate, which came with shortbread, scones, Devon cream, lemon curd, and berry jam. The plate came perfectly composed, with two triangular pieces of shortbread (with just enough crispness and chew), two raisin scones (buttery and moist), and three pots of cream, curd, and jam. Given the substantial nature of the various components, that plate alone might've been sufficient had we not ordered any other food.

At the end of it all, each of us paid less than $20 for a quintessential high tea experience. In my opinion, it was well worth the shillings.

The Dandelion
18th and Sansom Streets
Philadelphia, PA

P.S. For those of you looking to experience a bit of the royal wedding, check out the viewing parties at the Rittenhouse Hotel and the Four Seasons Hotel. In addition, you can make Prince William's Chocolate Biscuit Cake or order ice cream inspired by William and Kate!


  1. Just got back from Dandelion dinner - yummy! Had the Sunday roast, which was pretty good but came with absolutely awesome caramelized parsnips that were buttery, soft, and sweet.

  2. . . . and on the note of scones, had the best scone ever at Resurrection Ale House brunch this morning -- it was 5 bucks but actually worth it!

  3. I went here for dinner the other night with my family and it was good but nothing impressive enough to make me want to go back. If the prices were lower I wouldn't have minded the fact that the food was just ok. The sourdough bread they gave us was much too salty. I really liked the butter lettuce salad though. The servers were also very good.

  4. Alex: I'm glad Resurrection had something yummy to offer, b/c I was really disappointed the last time I was there for dinner. (My friend & I were told the food had gone downhill since previous times!) I'm about ready to give it a second chance though. Zoey: I agree that Dandelion is most definitely pricey. Another reason I chose the pork belly (which is the most reasonably priced item on the dinner menu) and high tea.



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