One day at Freighthouse Square while waiting for my Tofu Chowmein from Wendy's Vietnamese, I wandered past some of the shops and stepped into the art gallery. I found a treasure, McGregor's Scottish Tea Room. I peeked inside and found the trappings of a Victorian parlor . . . actually, it felt like Knapp's Restaurant in the Tacoma's Proctor District.
The room featured cranberry wainscotting and a faux fireplace. Scottish subject prints adorn the walls. Each table had a tartan underglass, china cups and saucers and linen table napkins. It feels quite elegant, especially for Freighthouse Square.
I took home a menu, whiche contained history and information about tea rooms (they are not fast-food establishments). Looking over the menu I thought that McGregor's would make a nice place to celebrate Mother's Day. Like my wife's birthday, Mother's Day covers more than one single day and I thought that McGregor's might provide an entertaining oasis for one or two celebrations.
The Wednesday before Mother's Day we stopped in for lunch. I was a little worried, because joining us was our four-year old granddaughter, Daron. I had the feeling from the menu that young children in general, while welcome, are not encouraged. But, well-behaved children of all ages are acceptable. That does sound rather Victorian, doesn't it? (Children should be seen and not heard.)
I was worried about the timing. We arrived shortly after noon. I hate crowds. That was not a concern. There were no other customers there. Welcomed warmly by Mike McGregor, one of the owners (the only other person there), we took a table by the wall and made our selections. Peg chose a meat pie (one of the few offerings which are not made there). I ordered the Savory/Sweet Plate which has crackers, cookies, fresh fruit and cheese. For Daron we chose a chicken salad sandwich with chutney and fresh fruit. I prefered coffee, but Peg and Daron prefered tea to accompany their treats.
Although the tea and coffee were served fairly quickly, tea takes time. It has to steep a while. The tea was brought to the table covered in a tea-cozy (a top-coat for teapots). We chatted quietly and looked at the prints on the wall. There was a very nice print of a thistle with its stem portrayed as a Celtic Knot. The business card of the artist was tucked into the frame. Arranged on the walls around the room were prints containing information on the Scotish clans. This made for interesting reading and sharing.
When the tea was ready, Peg explained to Daron about tea strainers. A tea strainer and bowl for each tea drinker was served with the tea. The tea is poured through the strainer to catch tea leaves, the strainer is shaken slightly to remove any stay droplets of tea and then then strainer is set down on the bowl to catch any other drippings. Amber colored crystalized or raw sugar is spooned into the tea cup according to taste and then milk can be added. Daron handled everything beautifully. She added her own sugar and milk and the second time around operated the strainer with the proper shake.
The food was excellent. Daron dabbed a little chutney on her sandwich and enjoyed it. Peg's meat pie came with a choice of dessert. We tried the bread pudding and a slice of chocolate cake. Daron needed to visit the powder room. I wolfed down the bread pudding while leaving a taste for Peg and for Daron. When they returned, I was told of a little accident. Oh, well, they happen.
The cake was good, but the bread pudding was excellent. Daron was eating her cake and then sampled the piece of pudding and said, "mmmmmmmmmmmMMMMMMMMMMMM. I like that." The owner came over and asked how everything was. Daron spoke up, "My pants are wet." I don't think that was the response he was looking for.
We enjoyed ourselves. Before we left, we made reservations for Saturday evening. We returned with our seven-year old grandtwins Dakota and Demetria. We had tickets for Tacoma Musical Playhouse. The twins dressed up for tea and the theatre.
Again, we were the only ones in the restaurant. This time we were greeted by co-owner Fran McGregor (I'm guessing). Peg and I ordered the afternoon tea (a three-tiered plate of petite and proper sandwiches (no crust), biscuits, muffins, cakes, cookies, and fresh fruit. We ordered the Sweet/Savory Plate for the girls to share.
Peg again offered tea serving instructions. I asked for a soft drink. Tea and coffee were the only selections, although apple juice is offered to children who do not want tea. I was served apple juice from a little tiny apple juice can.
The twins enjoyed the meal. I asked for additional butter and cheese, which was happily furnished. There was only one nibbled on piece of cake left over. Everything else disappeared. We all shared. There is a special high tea served at 4:00 pm, but reservations are required and there is a six-person minimum. High tea features a greater selection of dishes. There is a small, separate room set up for high tea. I would like to sample it some time. What I really found interesting was that all three girls were happy to try everything. "I love cheese," Demetria confided. There was a hard cheese that she didn't want a second piece of, but Peg snatched it before I could reach for it.
When we had lunch the first time, the owner, Mike McGregor refused a tip. His wife was more pragmatic and accepted one. They are such nice people and the tea room is so unusual, I hope they are able to continue in operation.
I encourage anyone with any interest to rush down to McGregor's Scottish Tea Room (430 E. 25th Street, Suite 65, Tacoma, WA 98421 - 253-272-4261). Don't wait for Father's Day. Don't even wait for Memorial Day, and certainly don't wait until the road construction is done alongside Frieghthouse Square. Do it now. This is the kind of establishment which could do well in Victoria, Bellevue, Pike Place or Tacoma one or two years from now. I want it to be successful, immediately.