Small town's royal crownDriving down the quiet streets of Dunlap, IL you’d never guess that a rich slice of England sits like a jewel in the crown of this little town. Then you notice Her Majesty’s English Tea Room where a sign in the window says, “Royalty is a state of mind.”
After living a few years in England, I was thrilled to discover this quintessential English tea room which absolutely oozes with Victorian elegance and charm! Eager to share the whimsy of a real English tea with my sister Chris, I made reservations on a Saturday afternoon. It proved to be a welcome respite from the today’s hectic pace as we traveled back to a more peaceful era when “taking tea” meant lingering over conversation with a special friend. Royalty may indeed be a state of mind, but it’s also the way owners Jerry and Jackie Gillam treat their guests. All they ask in return is, “Put calories on hold for the day and let yourselves be totally pampered,” said Jackie.
When Chris and I arrived, Jerry greeted us warmly and ushered us to a cozy table covered in a colorful antique quilt. Chris snuggled into a comfy love seat, surrounded by a garden of flowery pillows, and I sat in one of those fussy "corner chairs" that were popular in the 1800s. Within minutes, Jerry brought us a pot of fruity tea brewed to perfection and said two more pots would follow, including Yorkshire tea, the Queen’s favorite.
Our hostess soon arrived carrying a basket of jewel-sparkling tiaras, all famous replicas of those worn by the royal family. We each got to choose one to wear during our tea. What girl, no matter the age, hasn’t dreamed of wearing a tiara? It’s probably the closest we’ll ever get to being a fairy tale princess. Sensing that we hadn't had much tiara-wearing experience, she was quick to offer a mirror for proper adjustments. I must admit, it was fun to pretend! (King Arthur crowns are available for men who love tea time, but it doesn’t take them long to abdicate, according to Jackie.)Feeling quite civilized, we were magically transported to England for a lovely afternoon tea, complete with Queen Mum’s scones smeared in clotted cream and raspberry jam. Sipping our tea, Chris and I reveled in the lost art of relaxation and delighted in the tea room’s ambiance which is accented with happy reds, girly pinks and a yummy lemon curd yellows. The eclectic mix of chairs, pillows, China and silverware enhanced the incredible sense of fun.
Every nook and cranny of Her Majesty's is jam-packed with fascinating memorabilia of the royal family, Alice in Wonderland and Beatrix Potter as well as tea-related items and antique toys. “We’re huge anglophiles with a passion for anything English,” Jackie said.
The menu features nine entrees, including three that cater to children five and older. Chris and I ordered Her Majesty’s Tea which was fit for a queen. Imagine our wide-eyed surprise when the hostess set before us two three-tiered servers filled with dainty tea sandwiches and a delicate assortment of mouth-watering sweets. For the next few hours, we sipped and nibbled and basked in this unique experience. As the menu states, “My dear, tea time is what civilization is all about!”
An afternoon at Her Majesty’s is the closest some guests will ever get to England without crossing the ocean, according to Jackie. So if you’re in the mood for an adventurous, girly get-away with a special friend, and don’t mind a bit of pampering, visit this English tea room which is open Tuesday thru Saturday with 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. servings each day. Seating is limited, so reservations are highly recommended.
For more information, or to make reservations, call 309-243-8322.
Her Majesty's also caters to Grandmas, like me, who want to treat their granddaughters to a special afternoon. So when my little Natalie visited one summer, we took time for a spot of tea. Natalie was quite taken with the "Stove Tea" entree which comes with elfin treats presented on a vintage toy stove. In the end, she chose the "Faerie Tea" option which includes a candy frog/wax lips duo tucked among the sweets. Best of all, she got to wear faerie wings and a tiara! Although she doned the lips and kissed the frog, she didn't leave the tea garden with prince charming. However, she seemed quite content to be leaving with me ... for now anyway!
This feature first appeared in The Daily Journal, Kankakee, IL, June 2004