THE OFFICIAL PREMIERE DAY of the “Downton Abbey” movie proved to be the perfect time to visit the Silver Fountain Inn & Tea Parlor in Dover.
As it turned out, a number of those partaking of lunch and tea at the Victorian bed and breakfast were heading off to a matinee of the film version of the hit PBS series.
Our Gourmet and a perfectly coiffed Dining Companion (black hat with net trim) entered the tea parlor on the ground floor of the elegant 1870s mansion and were escorted to a charming antechamber while a window table was prepared for us.
Once seated we took in the golden charger plates gleaming in the light of a period chandelier, the delicate china, the chintz napkins and the lace and brocade-swathed windows.
“Lord Grantham would approve,” the DC said, referring to the patriarch of the “Downton Abbey” clan.
We started with a glass each of Les Costes Nobles Terres Cotes du Rhone ($7), figuring if the rose sparkling wine made us drowsy, a pot of tea would certainly wake us up.
The menu includes a selection of red and white wines as well as beer.
The multi-page menu can be a bit confusing, but our server walked us through the High Tea selections of sandwiches, salads, quiche and soup (the menu gets monthly seasonal tweaks).
OG chose the Tickle Your Fancy with the Pecan Goat Cheese Sandwich on white bread and Roasted Red Pepper and Artichoke salad with Romaine and smoked black pepper Caesar dressing ($10). The Tickle comes with a half-sandwich (choice of four) or quiche (mushroom and spinach that day) with a side salad (choice of three) or Chilled Red Pepper Soup with parsley and Parmesan crisps.
Full-size sandwiches, soup and salads can also be ordered from the High Tea menu.
Some folks don’t care for goat cheese, but OG loved the contrast of its yogurt zing with red pepper jelly and pecans — piquant and satisfying.
DC ordered the Rosemary Chicken Salad Sandwich with kettle chips ($11.95). (Pasta salad is the other side option.) Served on a buttery croissant, it offered just the right ratio of rosemary to the tender chicken, green onions, smoked almonds and celery.
Everyone in the room was enjoying not only tea, but conversation, and there was a polite, happy hum of talk throughout. Our table focused on a past summer of weddings and funerals, as light classical music played in the background.
Our server told us the tea parlor was playing a Pandora station titled, “Downton Abbey.”
OG knows what you’re thinking by now. The tea? Where is the tea?
There are four Afternoon Tea ordering options, with The Duchess ($26 per person) at the top of the list. This is a full meal and dessert — its three tiers filled with four savory High Tea sandwiches; a pear and honey scone with Devonshire cream and lemon curd, and a dessert sampling including French apple cake, peach raspberry champagne thumb prints, mini coconut cupcakes and petit fours. It includes one large pot or two small pots of tea.
The Hummingbird ($18 per person) includes the four savory tea sandwiches, the scone and a small pot of tea.
Since OG and DC had already delicately consumed the High Tea sandwiches, we elected to have The Chandelier — “12 delectable choices” of sample-size sweets, including scones ($16) — and ordered a large pot of tea ($7).
The Devonshire cream and lemon curd with the scones were delectable, and our server promptly provided the recipes when asked.
We are not adventurous tea drinkers, so we were happy with our Earl Grey — its black tea tones offset by the whiff of bergamot.
The tea choices are many — caffeine-free white tea (four varieties); full-caffeine black tea (16); green tea (eight); and herbal and South African Rooibos or red tea (seven).
The dozen home-baked goodies constituting The Chandelier were perched on separate paper doilies; the tiered serving tray was hung with crystals resembling — you guessed it — a chandelier. Each was moist, redolent with just the right amount of sweetness or nuts or cream cheese, in the case of the mini-blueberry cheesecake.
Now it’s possible that some of the gentleman readers of this column might be feeling a bit doubtful about taking tea, but our server assured us plenty of males are among the clientele.
There is also a children’s menu that offers a whimsical take on the tea theme.
Our server invited us to peek into one of the eight B&B rooms — the Duchess Suite featured two faux fireplaces (one with a bronze coal stove that would look at home in an Italian villa), a sitting room (with a flat-screen TV) and period furniture.
The inn and tea room have been in operation five years and feature special events, including dinner theater (Charles’ Dickens “A Christmas Carol” is a seasonal favorite) and Murder Mystery Weekends.
The Dowager Countess of Downton Abby would feel right at home. So did we.