Cambridge Tea House's dainty delights ideal for outdoor dining
The Marble Cliff business will continue to offer curbside service even as dine-in operations resume
Should you extend a pinkie when sipping high-quality tea from a plastic flask? What is the prescribed etiquette for grazing on dainty delights, such as scones and clotted cream, while seated in the grass?
These were some, umm, pressing thoughts I had while awaiting curbside delivery of the carefully prepared and very pleasurable fare offered at Cambridge Tea House, a beloved Marble Cliff eatery that’s been in the tea-and-more business since 2009.
Those aforementioned questions arose because, during my visits in late March, Cambridge Tea House only offered takeout. So its suitably quaint interior wasn’t available to the many car-bound patrons in the establishment’s parking lot eagerly anticipating the conveyance of goodies. (At the time of this writing, Cambridge is preparing for the immediate resumption of dining room and patio seating.)
This means that customers can again properly enjoy Cambridge’s renowned English-style afternoon tea ($18.50), which entails decorative plates, pots of just-brewed tea, plus treats and finger sandwiches presented on three-tiered trays. There’s a distinct charm to dining like that, but as I recently discovered, Cambridge’s menu items are also great for alfresco dining, which is ideal as the restaurant will continue to offer curbside service.
Cambridge’s impressive, picnic-perfect sandwiches arrive on excellent rustic-yet-refined house-made bread with a sourdough tang. Also included: a side, such as a good fruit cup or a fine julienne-carrot salad that offsets refreshing vinegary accents with celery seed and raisins.
I particularly enjoyed the Grilled Roast Beef & Aged Cheddar ($12.00), elevated by a little horseradish and pickled onions, plus the fantastic crowning touch of audibly crunchy bread draped in cheese fried into cracker-like frico.
Although less flamboyant, the Bacon & Avocado ($11.50), which effectively played crisp-and-smoky pig meat off of cream cheese wed to pristinely green avocado, was super-satisfying. Ditto for the Herbed Chicken and Goat Cheese ($11.50), which showcased flavorful chunks of breast meat with tangy dairy, arugula and precisely sliced cucumber slivers. The Egg and Cheese Breakfast Sandwich ($8.95) with bacon ($2.75 extra) was uncharacteristically greasy, but tasted great.
Not craving a sandwich? Other good options abound, such as the Salad Trio ($11.50), which features large scoops of well-made and admirably mayo-restrained salads, plus a side, such as soup ($3.50 a la carte), which in my case was stellar tomato bisque.
My repeat-worthy salad selections included curried egg, lemony tuna and orange chicken (poached meat enhanced with grapes, pecans, plus hints of orange juice and horseradish).
Quiche fans will be pleased with Cambridge's custardy “du jour” renditions ($8.95, with a fruit cup and bread). The Spinach & Goat Cheese Omelet ($11.00, with fruit and toast) would’ve been nice even without its side of vibrant, lemon-kissed pesto.
I correctly assumed such egg-based meals would be winners, but was surprised by the unexpectedly substantial and lovable Breakfast Bowl ($8.95): a fluffy-yet-hearty, souffle-like amalgam with chosen add-ons such as sausage, snipped asparagus, melted Swiss and spinach.
I haven’t mentioned tea yet. You should definitely get some. Whether opting for a classic like hot Earl Grey ($3 per cup; $5.25 per small pot) or more springtime-appropriate flavored ice teas ($2.50) — try the floral blood orange or pleasantly tart raspberry — pair your selection with some of Cambridge’s exemplary baked goods.
I loved the cake-like lemon and banana “tea breads” ($2.50 each), but the scones — which arrived with a little bit of vanilla-scented house clotted cream I’d consume by the gallon — are a must.
Personal note: Because I do have manners, while finishing a scone and sipping house-bottled iced tea from a plastic pint flask ($3.25) during a recent picnic, I extended my pinkie to politely extract the last of the clotted cream from a way-too-small plastic container.
Cambridge Tea House
1885 W. Fifth Ave., Marble Cliff