The season's change makes it high time to take high tea in downtown Medford.
Roundtable Tea Co. opened last spring but simmered on the back burner of my restaurant choices over the summer, despite a cool, subterranean location that was formerly Deli Down. Descending a floor below East Main Street in a recent weekday's drizzle, I entered a chic dining room decorated in black and white and devoid of other customers.
Dining out with
the Mail Tribune
Roundtable Tea Co.
406 E. Main St., Suite F
Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; and Saturdays by reservation. See www.roundtabletea.com.
I had been crossing my fingers that the tea room would last long enough to try. Similarly themed restaurants locally have been short-lived, strong on the kitsch and appealing to customers' sense of nostalgia and desire for special-occasion fare, instead of serving tea any time, for any reason — or no particular reason at all.
A friend who studied for a short time in Britain was the obvious choice of companion for this foray. And she knows her scones, a staple of any credible tea service.
Although Roundtable Tea had been offering high teas each month throughout the summer, it recently added the option of a "chef's choice" service for two or more people with at least a day's notice. The price of $15 per person includes all the elegance of china teacups and saucers filled from a silver teapot. A typical, three-tiered tray conveys the spread as soon as customers take their seats.
We couldn't have chosen more delicious vittles if presented with a full menu. Triangular, crustless tea sandwiches were filled with rosemary-spiced chicken salad studded with smoked almonds.
Roundtable's riff on the classic cucumber sandwich wrapped zucchini slices around a mixture of feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives and dill. Both distinctively flavored and texturally pleasing, the savory items paired beautifully with Roundtable's refreshing, iced, white tea infused with raspberry and Champagne.
With the heartier, caramel-scented pu-erh, we moved on to the more substantial scones: almond and Earl Gray with lavender. Proper clotted cream and lemon curd accompanied the morsels of dough, moist and fluffy under a just-crisped exterior. The cream's slight tang also invited dipping the platter's fresh strawberries.
An inclination of most high teas toward sweet rather than savory is my only criticism. Indeed, Roundtable's dessert course included enough apple-pie squares and chocolate tartlets for four people. I appreciated the toothsome slices of fresh apple and the bite-sized tartlets' rich cocoa, both well-matched to the intense tea, which is fermented during its manufacture.
Any of Roundtable's 120-some tea varieties — black, green, white and rooibos — can be sampled at the restaurant with the purchase of a $3 to-go cup. A "little more civilized" pot of tea costs $5. Daily food selections include several scones and meat-filled turnovers, also known as pasties, from $2.50 to $5.
Roundtable's loose-leaf teas and herbal infusions also can be purchased at www.roundtabletea.com. See the website for the endearing story behind the business model, a dream of co-owner Sandra Wiuff's sister, Bev, who died of cancer in 2011.
Hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; Saturdays by reservation. Call 541-778-0866.
— Sarah Lemon