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Fancy a Proper British Tea or Luncheon? Then Head to Connecticut's Quiet Corner and Mrs. Bridges' Pantry

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I've known for awhile now that Connecticut could claim "a little slice of Britain" in the Quiet Corner of the state but until very recently hadn't had a chance to get up to Mrs. Bridges' Pantry in Woodstock to check it out for myself.

Though I was born and raised here in the US of A, my maternal grandmother came to Connecticut on-board the RMS Baltic leaving behind her hometown of Oldham, a large town in Greater Manchester, England, when she was about nine years old so I figure that's pretty close to being British myself which has given me a greater appreciation for things from "across the pond" like the humour of Monty Python, the music of The Beatles, the brilliant deductions of Sherlock, the space and time-traveling adventures of Doctor Who, the literature of Jane Austen, anything and everything Colin Firth, and - of course - a good cuppa tea!

When a good friend and I were debating what to do on my birthday, the thought occurred to me that would be a fantastic time to finally make the drive north and pop into Mrs. Bridges' Pantry for tea and luncheon - which is exactly what we did!
Located in a small, unassuming wood-frame building partially hidden by large hedges on scenic Route 169 in Woodstock just up from the fairgrounds, Mrs. Bridges' touts itself as "a British Tea Shop, providing both an authentic British experience for lunch, Tea, or just dessert in our Tearoom and a unique shopping experience in our food, teas and giftware department."

Now owned and operated by two friends - Pamela Spaeth, originally from New York, and Susan Swenson, originally from Staffordshire, England - the original Mrs. Bridges' Pantry was located in Putnam and run by someone else. When the business went up for sale, Pam and Sue decided that rather than just hope that new owners would continue the shop as it was, they'd simply buy it themselves and ensure that it would continue as "a resource for all things British as well as a comfortable and relaxing place to go for tea or a meal."

Open daily from 11 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (except on Tuesdays when the Tea Room is closed and the gift shop is open from 11:00 to 5:00), visitors to Mrs. Bridges' Pantry can check out the daily specials written on a chalkboard outside before heading into the warm and relaxed atmosphere of the Tea Room itself where you can pick out a comfy spot to sit and enjoy your repast. It's not a large room by any stretch of the imagination and I suspect that it does get quite crowded but when my friend Paula and I arrived on a Sunday afternoon just before noon, there were only two other customers who were quietly enjoying a pot of tea in the corner while they discussed - of all things! - the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts! Yep, it's a small word after all!

Paula and I chose a little table tucked into a corner between the fireplace and the glass display case that was stocked with some rather delectable looking goodies though there were definitely a few things in there that I had NO clue as to what they were!

Shortly after seating ourselves, we were presented with menus and a rather lengthy tea list with an assortment of Herbal Teas, Specialty and Flavored Black Teas, and Green Teas ... Fruit and Spice, Chamomile Lemon, Apricot Supreme, Angel's Dream, Lady Londonderry, Earl Grey, Chinese Flower, Pink Rose, Imperial Gunpowder, and more ... what to choose? what to choose?

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Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug
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As my first choice of Butterscotch wasn't available, I finally decided on Buckingham Palace by the Metropolitan Tea Company while Paula chose Blackcurrant Ginseng and Vanilla by Twinning.  While waiting for our tea and food to arrive, I took a few photos of the lovely flowers and other things on our table including a very cool sugar bowl that provided quite the reflection when closed!

Our tea soon arrived along with a very pretty china cup and saucer to sip it from. Oh, and the answer to "one lump or two?" was two! I'm quite British when it comes to liking my tea light and sweet!

For lunch, Paula chose a turkey-cranberry quiche with a garden salad; she told me that the quiche was quite delicious and that the cranberries were fantastic addition.  It almost sounded like Thanksgiving in a quiche!

Even though I had been half-tempted to order Baked Beans on Toast, instead I ordered a proper English Tea Sandwich which is served on a combination of wheat and white bread with the crusts removed. Rather than be bold and order Cheese & Chutney or Salmon Salad & Cucumber or even Tomato & Cheese, I chose Chicken Salad (the non-curried version) which was quite tasty! 

For dessert I had a lemon-poppy scone with lemon curd and Devonshire cream - neither of which I've ever had but would happily eat again!  The lemon curd reminded me of the filling in a lemon meringue pie while the Devonshire cream just totally rocked!  If I hadn't been trying to behave myself I might have picked up the small crock and licked it clean it was so good!  Paula was originally going to have a crumpet for dessert but unfortunately they were out (much to the dismay of several other younger diners who had come in while were there also) so instead she had an apple-walnut scone with strawberry jam and Devonshire cream which she said was very good and made up for the disappointment of there being no crumpets available.

Following luncheon, we walked around the gift shop a little bit and took a look at the "thorough selection of authentic British import products as well as quality goods not seen everywhere else" that Mrs. Bridges' Pantry has to offer to its customers.

In addition to a large assortment of teas and British candies, you can stock up on some British Frozen Goods
if you're of a mind .. 

... Or perhaps pick a can of Vegetable Haggis or a jar of Vegemite or Marmite ... 

... or maybe you're in the market for a new teapot or cosy?

My favorite of all the shop's teapots was a clock tower replica but I just couldn't justify spending $57.00 on it even if it was my birthday! In retrospect though, maybe if it's still there the next time I visit I might reconsider as I do have a rather large collection of teapots and we do drink a lot of tea at home so it would totally get used! 

All in all, I would rate our luncheon experience at Mrs. Bridges' Pantry as spot-on for providing the Tea Room experience that I'd always hoped for and probably about as good as I'm going to get here in the Colonies! Of course, when my friend Claire is visiting from England this fall I'll have to take her for a visit just to see how it rates to a true Brit as well as have a really good excuse to sample another scone with Devonshire cream!

For further information, please check out Mrs. Bridges' Pantry on the web or call them at 860-963-7040.  Also, should you be planning a visit to Mrs. Bridge's Pantry yourself in the future and using a GPS to help you get there, enter the address as 292 Somers Turnpike in South Woodstock, Connecticut otherwise, just take a drive on Scenic Route 169 north of Putnam and you'll eventually get there! 

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