English Rose, Chattanooga TN (CLOSED)

You may have noticed that I am not the most spontaneous fellow around. I plan most of my out-of-town eating way in advance. Everybody should do this. Between the Roadfood.com message board and Urbanspoon and all the other fun blogs and forums out there, nobody should ever, ever have to just pull off the interstate and fuel up at some fast food joint, ever. Plan ahead and you might not be disappointed.

However, there is such a thing as too much planning. Having assembled a wishlist of where to eat around Chattanooga as long as my arm, it struck me that I was being just a little selfish, what with David actually being the one driving up here for our periodic trips to sell unneeded flotsam to McKay. I asked him to pick one of our two stops, and I’m glad that I did, because he came up with someplace quite neat that I never would have thought about. It’s an English tea room across from the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, genteel, with nice furniture, lace tablecloths, and quiet music. Not my sort of place at all, really, but a place to get a very, very good bowl of soup.

This time, our friends Matt and Kelley came with us on the trip, and between the four of us, we had more than a whole trunk full of books and DVDs to sell. The back seat was just a little cramped when we arrived downtown just after noon. There is a $3 pay lot right next door to the restaurant, which occupies a corner space in what was built as a sort of mid-range priced hotel a hundred years ago. Today, the building houses apartments, and the restaurant has access to the apartment lobby’s restrooms for its guests.

English Rose does a pretty good job evoking the spirit of bygone days. Kelley, a PBS-Anglophile, said that it reminded her of 1917, and I’m sure that the polite, unhurried service helped that impression along. Lunches here are not quick. This is a place to get away for a long time.

Kelley ordered the sole, stuffed with scallops and crab, and Matt had a cottage pie, with sirloin. David and I each had a ploughman’s lunch, with a salad, crusty bread, cheeses, onions, Branston pickle relish, and a bowl of delicious potato and leek soup. I was a little disappointed in the steep price – eleven dollars! – but that was, in the end, one fantastic bowl of soup.

The desserts here are pretty amazing. I did not indulge myself, having plans for something else a couple of hours later, but Matt and Kelley each had some lovely-looking things, including a sherry trifle and sticky toffee pudding, and raved about them. I was very, very tempted by the knickerbocker glory, which is probably just a fancy name for an ice cream sundae with additional fruit.

Paying the bill, guests will probably be as charmed as I was looking over the shelves of British foodstuffs. They didn’t have any sodas – you know that those would have me splurging – but I think there are certainly enough curiosities here to keep anybody buzzing. It’s a charming little spot, but after the quite long lunch, I was more than ready to get to the bookstore.