During an early-morning Downton Abbey tea hosted by Clock Tower Bakery, the owner’s husband wore a tuxedo and many guests dressed as favorite characters. Finger sandwiches and roasted vegetable pinwheels, scones and clotted cream, and many other freshly prepared sweets and savories accompanied small china tea pots presented atop linen-dressed tables.
While this was no ordinary Clock Tower event, visitors can request English Afternoon Tea anytime with 24 hours notice (pre-pay required). It’s just one way that owner Teresa Gebbett shares her British heritage with patrons.
After baking for more than two decades, the Hampshire native assumed ownership of Clock Tower Bakery in May 2014. “Once I bought the bakery, [afternoon tea] was something that I decided to do,” Gebbett says. Employee Jill Raymer often assists with the service.
The offerings are voluminous – the menu is only confusing until you realize that it’s not a list of choices. Everything on it is included in the service, with a price determined by the size of the party (typically under $20). The only thing guests need to choose is a tea, with more than a dozen offerings for the table’s shared pot (it’s $3 extra for an individual pot).
As Raymer delivers the delicious sweets and savories, she describes every item in detail. Served on light wheat bread, triangle-cut chicken salad tea sandwiches feature chicken with mayonnaise and a special house-made seasoning, while cucumber tea sandwiches come with cucumber slices so thin they must have been shaved on a mandolin. There are also flaky, tender sausage rolls made with local Scimeca’s Italian sausage and added seasonings, as well as roasted vegetable pinwheels and cheese whirls.
Guests with a sweet tooth will love flaky scones served with creamy clotted cream and whole-fruit strawberry jam made on the premises. In fact, Clock Tower Bakery makes most everything in-house. Tart lemon bars, cranberry and pistachio shortbread, two flavors of French macaron and tiny flaky cream puffs with a light filling and a chocolate topping also filled the dessert plate on one recent visit.
A shortbread cookie crust, soft, gooey caramel, and dark chocolate ganache made the Millionaire’s Shortbread the sweet favorite. Gebbett credits “a secret ingredient that we import from England,” saying, “I defy anyone to duplicate this.”
A visitor of largely British heritage reports that Clock Tower's is a more authentic experience than another tea service offered in Kansas City, and that extends to the question of gratuity. Although there is a tip jar available, “Tips are not mandatory in this bakery at all, as we do in England,” Gebbett says. English Afternoon Tea is a civilized and delightful interlude, with or without the Downtown Abbey costumes.
The Clock Tower Bakery’s next special event is a Buckingham Palace Garden Party in honor of the Queen’s Birthday, at 2pm on Saturday, April 18. The price is $19.95; reservations required.
7911 Santa Fe Drive, Overland Park, Kansas, 913.948.9559, clocktowerbakery.com/
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