Pamela's Tearoom Has a British Beaut

“I'm so sorry, dear,” the Pamela of Pamela's Tearoom told a young boy who wasn't having her gentle chiding. “I'm English; I like to tease.”

Don't mind that kid: Everyone else loves Pamela. The Yorkshire native has run the tearoom at this Garden Grove spot (formerly known as the Sussex Teapot) for about 15 years; she previously ran one in Orange during the 1990s. It's just her and her husband (whom she calls “luv,” and he calls her “Mama”) running the tiny business here, but no one minds the leisurely pace: It is English tea, after all, and Pamela's food is just dandy.

Most tearooms in OC operate in twee locales, such as Old Towne Orange or San Juan Capistrano; Pamela's Tearoom makes its home in an industrial park just off the 405. But step inside, and the charm takes over. Every table has intricate tablecloths and maps of Sussex. A fuzzy painting of Queen Elizabeth II looms over everyone; flags of England, Wales and Scotland hang outside. It's a great setting for a deceptively simple menu: tea sandwiches, meat pies, quiches, and stuffed pancakes covered in a cheese sauce that seem more like savory crepes than anything sweet, but are filling and wonderful. There's nothing dainty about the food; the sandwiches fill stomachs, the pies big enough for a miner, the ploughman's lunch worthy of any working bloke. Dessert has to be one of Pamela's scones, simultaneously crunchy and fluffy. You can take those home, frozen, from Pamela's small grocery store, where you can also stock up on jams, lemon curd, British chocolates and cookies, as well as all the sauces, teas and chutneys any expat may desire.

It's impossible to leave this place without feeling good about life. Even at the end, the sullen kid warmed up to Pamela. “You do know gentlemen have to pay for ladies, right?” she teased after his mother, grandmother and sister raved about their afternoon meal. “If not, you get to wash dishes in the kitchen.”

And the kid smiled.

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