The Steeping Room in the Domain
Had a completely enjoyable and relaxing late-afternoon lunch at The Steeping Room http://www.thesteepingroom.com/Home_Page.html in the Domain http://www.thedomainaustin.com/ in Northwest Austin. All the stars aligned - a very good meal, my wonderful sister whom I hadn't seen in a while, good weather, and (tangent:) a very cool mirrored side-table find at the Z Gallerie place down the street.
We arrived famished. Was slightly worried a tea-based cafe wouldn't be the right place given we had not having eaten since an early breakfast. I was having visions of those British Airways lounge white-bread-no-crusts triangular cucumber and cream cheese tea sandwiches. Those sandwiches were perfect for travel days after flying in translantic business class or first class (if bumped up, which happens a lot because when they oversell business class, those with the most miles gets bumped to first, first) or first class where the airlines over-feed everyone anyway, but definitely not when you're famished.
Much to my relief, the menu had "classic" sandwiches on ciabatta bread as well as the tea sandwiches.
At the last second I decided to order the Cheese Plate as an appetizer. Am so glad I did!
It was delicious and fun to explore the combinations of what was offered:
Cheese Plate ($11.50
)Humboldt Fog blue cheese, an cheddar unlike others I've tasted, and a cheese from Spain (can't remember the name; not manchega)
Red Seedless Grapes
Center bowl of honey with rosemary sprigs swimming in the honey
side of bread
Absolute fave was the Humboldt Fog blue cheese on the bread with some honey. And when the plate was almost done, sucking on the rosemary sprigs from the almost empty bowl of honey sent the endorphins humming (as if successful shopping and good conversation weren't enough.)
We had a Turkey BLT and a Roast Beef sandwich.
TBLT > $8.50
turkey, bacon, lettuce, and tomato with basil mayo
Roast Beef > $9
port marinated roast beef with caramelized onions and roasted red peppers and basil mayo, served warm
I thought the Turkey BLT was the better sandwich of the too. I think I felt like I wanted real roast beef chunks in the sandwich like Mom used to make, more than thinner-slice cut roast beef.
The Lychee black tea my sister picked out was so delicious that I took a packet home from the jar and have been enjoying 1 cup / day since. It reminded me of my all time favorite black tea I enjoyed at a Chinese restaurant many years ago.
The Steeping Room is locally owned. I recall reading in the local paper that the Domain by contract must support a locally owned store; the article cited The Steeping Room as the one.
Other reviews of The Steeping Room can be found here:
But I thought this nifty little place deserved its own topic.
Today could have been a very disappointing, however, The Steeping Room saved the day. Two weeks ago I booked a "high tea" at Bawdsey Manor in San Antonio to celebrate our wedding anniversary. This morning a very nice woman from Bawdsey Manor called and asked us to reschedule for another day due to flooding.
We decided to go to The Steeping Room instead. Though it wasn't exactly the kind of tea that we were looking for, the service and the food was excellent. We had the Century Oaks Tea Service which included two sandwiches, a scone, a small tea cookie, a piece of cake and a choice of tea for $19. Though we would have liked a British style tea. The steeping room was a nice quasi Asian inspired alternative.
I went to Bawdsey Manor on Friday afternoon. My british friend was craving fish & chips. We ordered "regular' tea / low tea?, fish & chips and shepherds pie. The shepherds pie was wonderful. She gave Bawdsey a high 9 on the 1-10 authenticity scale. Our service was very good. Our appetizer salads had "salad cream" which my companion was very excited about. She didn't feel the chips were all that spectacular. But, on the whole, it was a lovely afternoon. The restaurant is located in a little shopping center with 5 or 6 little stores. We had a wonderful time filling our bellies, satisfying her british longings and shopping. I highly recommend this place. The high tea is pricey ($25 pp) but includes sandwiches, desserts and endless tea. Next time I go, I'll try it.
My wife and I have visited The Steeping Room four times since it opened, and while I find it a diferent sort of Austin dining experience, I'm not sure that its concept and somewhat limited menu has the legs to last, especially considering what their overhead must be at the pricey Domain. And, while this is certainly not a complaint, but merely an observation, it has an overly heavy "chick" factor. Almost without exception, each time that we've been there I was the sole male diner.
Also, I do have to echo that the service is lacking - it seems that if you're seated outside, you'll not see your server nearly as often as you'd like. The best service we had was when one of the owners ("Emily") was our server, and she was, naturally, very gregarious and enthusiastic about her establishment.
However, I do wish the owners the best of luck - my wife loves this place, but it's just not my "cup of tea", shall we say?
I've been going to The Steeping Room since it opened and I have to say that I still just love it. The tea is always amazing. I especially love the Kemun Mao Feng Organic and their new green - Morning Dew. They have an especially wonderful selection of Japanese greens and oolongs too. The owners are super knowledgeable and approachable.
True, sometimes you have to wait a bit but they make everything to order and are such a small business in comparison to all the big corporate shops that they are surrounded by – I guess I cut them some slack. Last time I went in, they had just started to have some prepared rolls and salads in the case ready to go, but honestly, I have never had to wait more than about five minutes, and I just browse the teas and wares while I wait, or better yet, I eat in the dining room and enjoy my tea while I wait.
Lastly, the food - I love that they use natural meats and have vegetarian options, even gluten-free too. I tried a grilled veggie sandwich on a rice bun just to see what it was like and it was awesome. And the wonderful deserts - my favorite right now - autumn pear cake, and I always love the chocolate chip pecan cookie and the devil's food, vanilla butter cream cupcake –the real deal.
We went there for lunch today and thought it was one of the best meals we have had in a while. The only real downside was our waiter was slow. He was such a slacker, the greeter actually came over and eventually apologized for it taking him so long to pick up our credit card. This was long after the manager came by to clear our plates and take our dessert order because it took him so long to come back to check on us between courses (think 20 minutes).
However, the food was phenomenal. We started with the appetizer that was a crumpet with cream cheese and salmon on top. It was a bit small for 2 people (the menu was unclear about its size), but the flavors were spot on. The crumpet was tasty and the all the flavors were fresh and wonderful.
I had the Pork Tenderloin tea sandwich. It was one of the best sandwiches I've had in a long time. The pork was nice, but it has a spicy mayo on it that simultaneously was hot and subtle. The salad on the side had a great dressing on it and it was all just perfect for a light lunch.
The husband had the TBLT and we thought the ciabatta was too thick for the sandwich. The flavors were all great, but it would have perhaps been nicer on a thinner bread.
I had the autumn pear cake for dessert and it was sweet. The flavor was nice, but I thought it needed something... perhaps some acidic like lemon...
All in all, we'll definitely be back. We'll try to sit in a different section with another waiter, but the food was great worth going to the Domain.
I like The Steeping Room a lot. I've never stayed for the food, but I do enjoy the wide selection of tea. There's an older gentleman that works there that is extremely knowledgeable. I came in once looking for a tea they did not carry and he was able to direct me to some very worthy alternatives.
Unfortunately, some of the younger staff have problems with juggling orders & attending to customers. I've found myself waiting several minutes before to place an order for hot tea to go while the cashier was in the kitchen attending to a table's drinks. Isn't that what the kitchen staff is for?