The Garden Gate Tea Room was featured in the July/August 2009 issue of Tea Time Magazine, and more recently [April 2014] on the beautiful Aiken House & Gardens blog. A friend who spends the winter months in Florida also told me this was her favorite tea room, so when we planned our trip to Florida I knew I wanted to visit it.
On Tuesday, June 24th, Jerry and I traveled 42 miles north of where we were staying, to have lunch at the Garden Gate Tea Room in Mount Dora. The city's large lake was named for a homesteader named Dora, and the community took the name Mount Dora in 1883. The historic city [incorporated in 1910], with its picturesque oak trees 'dripping' with moss, is absolutely charming.
An advanced phone call revealed Saturday, June 28th was going to be their last day of business. The chef had ceased preparing afternoon teas, and we could only be assured of lunch if there was available seating. Needless to say we arrived a few minutes after 11:00 when the tea room opened. Ladies had already begun filling two of the large dining rooms for private parties, but happily there was a table for us.
~ Curbside Tea Room Sign ~
The "Garden Gate" for which the tea room was named. Tables were set up in the courtyard for Al fresco dining, but because it was a hot day we opted to eat in air-conditioned comfort.
I asked for permission to take photos before the tea room became filled with guests, and was graciously granted permission. The entrance to the tea room is pictured below on the left. As you can see the décor is romantic, shabby chic.
Ladies were gathering in the dining room seen below for a party, but I was able to get three photos of it.
Below is the other dining room where ladies were gathering. It was a step-down room off the main floor. I regret that I didn't take the time to actually go into the room, but there are lovely photos of it on Carolyn Aiken's blog. A door in this room leads outside for back yard terrace dining.
This table was next to where we sat.
~ Jerry and Me ~
~ Vintage dresses hung throughout the tea room. ~
~ Alcove by the restroom. ~
~ Chandelier near our table. ~
~ Vintage Hats ~
~ Fresh flowers were on our table. ~
~ Menu ~
I ordered their Southern Belle Peach iced tea, and Jerry got Cranberry iced tea. I'm sure if we would have inquired about hot tea our server would have told us about their selections, but since we were in the south on a hot summer day, it was just assumed that we wanted iced tea, and it was very refreshing. The rims of the glasses were dipped in coarse brown sugar.
Jerry ordered their "World Famous" Herb crusted Rosemary Baked Chicken Pie served with fresh seasonal vegetables, and their signature cranberry sauce. Their menu declared, "Like a hug from your mother!" He said it was very good.
I ordered the 'Quiche of the Day' served with a baby green salad and their orange ginger vinaigrette. It was delicious too.
One of the servers said the owner was there that day, but since they were so busy I didn't ask to meet her. The Garden Gate tea room had been in business for 16 years when they made the decision to close - at least at that location. A statement on their website reads in part: "We invite you to embrace with us the wonder and excitement of a new season in life's journey as we continue to seek God's perfect will and the unfolding vision, expansion, and future of the Garden Gate." It will be interesting to see what the 'new season' brings, but I'm glad I had the pleasure of dining at the 142 East 4th Avenue location.
Before leaving Mt. Dora, we went to The Secret Garden ladies' apparel shop on N. Donnelly Street, in the downtown shopping area, also recommended by my friend.
I could have spent a bundle of money in there, but I only purchased a cream shell with a light blue top. The owner said they were setting up provisions for on-line shopping.