Sally Lunn's tearoom, Chester, NJ
My husband and I and our two boys (4 years old and 18 months) had lunch at Sally Lunn's today. Sally Lunn's is probably my favorite restaurant in New Jersey but we only get there once or twice a year because it's about an hour from our house. Anyhow, lunch was excellent as always but the service was absolutely dreadful.
We arrived around 11:20 and there was only one other party already seated. We asked for a table for four with a high chair and were seated at a round table. One very surprising thing about Sally Lunn's, in a positive way, is that it's very child-friendly. Plenty of highchairs, hostess didn't even bat an eye when we walked in with two little ones. You'd think, with all the lace and china around, that they'd be a little nervous. But we've never had a problem, so kudos to them. While we were there, I noticed at least six other children come in, mainly toddlers, so I guess it really is child-friendly.
I was also very surprised, not in a positive way, that it took a good ten minutes for someone to come take our order. Really, there was only one other party (of 2) there, so I don't know what the delay was. Once we ordered, our tea came out right away and our food didn't take too long. I had Prince of Wales tea which was good but weaker than I expected. My husband had jasmine and was happy with it.
Normally at Sally Lunn's I order the Ploughman's lunch (basically a Stilton, cheddar, some salad and a hunk of bread) but we've been eating Stilton at home recently, so I went with the tomato, pesto and mozzarella sandwich. Not too English but really tasty. My husband had a turkey sandwich. It looked good, but he had to wolf it down and hustle my younger son out of the restaurant when he started to fuss.
Once my husband and son left, it only took a few minutes for my other son and I to finish our lunches. We waited at least 15 minutes before anyone came by to clear the dishes and ask if we wanted dessert. We didn't, since I wanted to rescue my husband from exile outside with the baby. We waited another 10 minutes for the check, including asking 2 servers in addition to our original server for it. By then, the restaurant was fairly busy but really not packed. I don't know what the problem was. Hopefully it was just a fluke. Even if it wasn't, the food is so good that we'll definitely be back.
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We went to Sally Lunn's twice in 2008 and the experience was basically the same each time. It was very quiet, the service was very good and the teas and accompanying pastries were fine, though nothing special. What disturbed me most was that the whole place looked as if it needed a good cleaning. Now I understand that the place is full of dust collecting items but I'm not referring to that. On each visit, we noticed bits of food under some tables and the floor needed a good vacuuming.
Sally Lunn's seems to be living on its reputation, which is a shame because it could be so much better than it is now. I doubt that we'll be going back.
I completely agree with the comment about Teaberry's. It is wonderful! I would suggest, however, that you make a reservation regardless of when you go. The only time we got in without a reservation was late on a weekday.