January 25, 1999
Dean and Sue Hale, along with their family, have worked hard to provide a relaxing, comfortable haven.
Photo by Deborah Stone.
by Deborah Stone
Stepping inside Elizabeth and Alexander's English Tea Room, one immediately senses tranquility and is drawn to the cozy warmth of this idyllic place. Baroque classical music plays softly in the background, and delicious aromas fill the air. The rich tones of the red walls, handsome hunter green accents, and colorful paisley patterns beckon, while the glow of the fire promises welcome relief from the bone-chilling dampness of a winter day.
Appropriately located next to the London double-decker red bus at Country Village, Elizabeth and Alexander's is the brainchild of local area residents Dean and Sue Hale and their daughters Sarah Mould and Amy Whelham.
Five years ago, the family went to have high tea in Seattle for Mother's Day, and the experience was so positive that both daughters encouraged their parents to open a similar business of their own.
"The idea waxed and waned over the next several years, but our daughters kept the vision alive," says Dean.
Neither Sue nor Dean had prior restaurant experience. Dean was in the insurance business at the time with a past history of retail management, and Sue was a homemaker. Last June, the couple made the decision to lease the 1,200-square foot space at Country Village.
"We felt it was the right time," explains Dean, "and things just fell into place."
In creating a tea room, the Hales wanted to provide an opportunity for customers to relax and enjoy themselves in a hospitable environment. "Americans have a pace that is so harried," says Sue, "and it's rare that we take the time to slow down. A tea room is a place where time has settled for awhile. The simple act of drinking tea requires you to slow down because with tea, you have to let it stand before drinking it."
Dean adds, "We wanted to make a place where people could enrich their friendships and eat good food and not worry about being herded in and out."
In six weeks the Hales and a crew of friends worked nonstop to transform the building, using a vision that Sue and her daughters had of the space. The tea room got its name from the middle names of the eldest daughter, Sarah Elizabeth, and her husband, Simon Alexander Mould.
Elizabeth and Alexander's is comprised of three rooms, each with their distinct decor. The Tea Parlor is the main room, where the gas fire stove radiates warmth, and family photos, dating back from 1927, line the walls. The Churchill Room, designed by Simon, is decorated in hunter green tones with memorabilia from the Churchill era on the walls. Bookcases, wingback chairs, and a case of war medals give it a masculine flavor. Behind the Tea Parlor is the Alexander Room, a private space with one large round table, making it suitable for small gatherings.
There are thirteen tables total in the restaurant. Over a dozen kinds of tea are served (coffee is also available), and there is a full breakfast and lunch menu, in addition to the specialized tea service offerings. The menu was created by daughter Amy who, with no formal culinary training, dreamed up original recipes and worked to perfect them.
"We had friends and neighbors come to our house before we opened the place and they tried out all sorts of dishes," says Amy. "We got feedback and then we would incorporate all the suggestions and keep practicing. It was fun!"
Elizabeth and Alexander's English Tea Room is open Tuesday-Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Fridays until 9 p.m. For information or reservations (groups of five or more), call 425-489-9210.