Henry’s Tea Room

The magic of yesteryear at Henry’s Tearoom

Words: Rhiannon Ross

When I was five years old, I’d skip around the perimeter of my Grandma Nora’s tiny house in southwest Missouri, bellowing:

I’m late, I’m late for A very important date. No time to say hello, good-bye, I’m late, I’m late, I’m late.

Each time I passed the front porch where Grandma sat rocking, I glimpsed her amused grin. I was The White Rabbit in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, clasping my imaginary pocket watch attached to my imaginary, red, plaid waistcoat. I was on my way to tea! Teatime, a half-century later, still holds its fairytale appeal for me. There’s something magical about taking time out to sit and sip sweet, steamy, amber liquid and nosh on little cakes and sandwiches. Time out for polite conversation and contemplation. The tearoom at Henry’s Antiques and Collectibles, in historic downtown Lee’s Summit, offers an enticing opportunity to participate in the ritual of “taking tea.” Housed in a beautifully restored, old red-brick church, the white cross atop the lantern tower may now stand for the “T” in tea. Upon entering the white, double doors, one enters a wonderland of polished wooden staircases and floors, arched windows, and nooks and crannies. Antiques and vintage wares are creatively staged on each floor. One will find small delights such as a tin pail filled with porcelain and red-handled, wooden rolling pins or a window valance featuring dainty, embroidered hankies tied to a clothesline. And, of course, vintage tea sets. Spend time wandering the two floors in search of treasure. Wash your hands with a scented, sea salt scrub in one of the quaint bathrooms. Envision what the church looked like when it was filled with worshippers on Sunday mornings. Imagine angelic voices emanating from the choir balcony. But know that soon, aromas will waft from the basement tearoom to dance in your nostrils and entice you to descend the staircase. Here, swirled, gold-stenciled wallpaper adds a Victorian vibe and old photographs collage the yellow gold painted hallway. Hutches hold china tea cups; a commode boasts a silver tea service. Chandeliers glisten like icicles. Mirrors add an Alice in Wonderland sense of possibility. The tearoom is comprised of five, small rooms, each filled with tables of varying sizes and donning fabric tablecloths and steeplepeaked, folded cloth napkins. Seating consists of slipcovered chairs or oak, pressedback chairs plumped with toile cushions. A sense of formality pervades. No Mad Hatter chaos here. Etiquette is important, with proper silverware placement (hint: the fork situated above your plate is the dessert fork). Tables settings include clear glassware, tiny silver salt and pepper shakers, and sunflower centerpieces. Tea at Henry’s consists of a light-lunch, served with complimentary hot, cinnamon tea and tiny squares of shortbread. A refined gentleman named Will recites the day’s prix fixe menu. A novice may mistake him for Henry, the establishment’s namesake and she would be wrong. For Henry is the last name of owner Charla Henry. The menu features salad, soup, croissant, and choice of four entrées (two kinds of quiche, panini/sandwich, and Henry’s Signature Chicken Salad), and choice of beverages and decadent desserts. Meals, prepared in the onsite kitchen, reflect seasonal changes. Our meal began with a spinach salad drizzled with vinaigrette; warm croissants served with real butter; and creamy pumpkin soup. My tea party companion, photographer Patti Klinge, ordered a fluffy, artichoke parmesan cheese quiche with flaky crust. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to taste an entrée billed as “signature,” so I ordered the chicken salad. Crisp, tart bites of green apple and crunchy, sweet pecans were a tasty surprise. I liked that the recipe was moist, not weepy, with mayonnaise. Will returned to tempt us with a silver tray of six desserts – chocolate cake with mocha icing, bread pudding, pumpkin swirl cheesecake, peanut butter fudge brownie, carrot cake and applesauce cake. Patti selected the cheesecake and I chose the bread pudding drizzled with warm lemon sauce because I’m a sucker for anything lemon. Like the rest of the meal, they were delicious. Our only complaint was that portions were modest; however, the accumulation of each course was surprisingly filling. I think between us, we downed two pots of tea. My five-year-old, White Rabbit self, was very hoppy.

Writer Rhiannon Ross collects vintage teacups and saucers. Her favorite teacup features The White Rabbit.