In fact, when I saw this horse head peering out of the doorway, I seriously thought about turning around and going back to my car.
But, alas, I couldn't leave because I had invited Harriet here to celebrate her birthday with Tal-y-Tara's Queen's Tea.
Once inside, we settled in to what turned out to be the best afternoon tea that I've ever had in San Francisco, and maybe anywhere.
The shoppe is small and cluttered in a very comfortable way. The front part of the shoppe features equestrian wear and gear. The tea room is at the back but there is seating throughout the shoppe, even in the front area.
The furniture is mismatched and no two tables are alike. I felt like I was going to tea at the home of an English person whose family had lived in the place for many generations.
The menu offers several fixed price, multi-course tea services. All courses can be ordered a la carte, as well. While we were there, some people just stopped by for a cup of tea and a scone and others came for an entire tea meal. The customers on a weekday afternoon were of all ages. All the food is prepared here.
We started by ordering our tea. While we were deciding on salads and scone flavors, we were served a plate of biscotti, made from their scones.
Since we were having the Queen's Tea, our tea sandwich selections included one of each of six different sandwiches of each of us. The sandwich bread is called a Motorloaf. Its recipe dates back at least four generations in England. The Motorloaf was traditionally used as a picnic item that could easily be wrapped up and carried when one motored off into the country. It's a semi-sweet dark bread that contains raisins and walnuts. The sandwiches are made from bread cut out of the center of the loaf and are served inside the loaf. Our sandwich fillings were cream cheese and cucumber, egg salad with capers, cheese and chutney, smoked turkey with watercress, black forest ham with mustard, and smoked salmon with cream cheese and capers.
The serving plate was garnished with fresh fruits and cream cheese and butter to put on the part of the loaf that was not made into sandwiches. I noted that several customers had the loaf wrapped up to take home for later enjoyment.
For our side salads, Harriet had the Mixed Greens and I had the Wedge with Blue Cheese and Peppered Bacon.
There were three flavors of scone available on this day. Harriet had the Lemon Vanilla and I chose the one with Currants. The scones are served with Devonshire Cream and Jam.
Our final course was English Trifle, a traditional sweet dessert made with cubes of pound cake, fruit jam, and a rich custard that is poured over it.
We lingered at Tal-y-Tara for more than two hours, enjoying every mouthful of our very tasty and satisfying tea.
Not only did I enjoy the freshly-prepared food, I enjoyed the personal service as well. Also, in contrast to most Bay Area complete tea services, Tal-y-Tara's is not overwhelmed by overly sweet/rich cakes and cookies. It was just right for my tastes.
The Queen's Tea costs $39 per person. It is substantial enough to be your main meal for the day.
The Prince Harry ($25 per person) includes tea, shortbread cookies, motorloaf sandwiches, and scones. The Prince William and Lady Katherine ($35 per person) adds salads to the Price Harry. And, the Queen's Tea adds the English trifle to all of this.
Parking is free on the street and, in this part of San Francisco, it is not too hard to find a place to park.
As I walked to my car, I looked back and bid the horse farewell, with a promise to return again soon.