What the Rampart Casino’s newest employee lacks in substance, he more than makes up for with style.
That would be Earl Grey, the fictional eccentric character who inspired the Earl Grey Cafe, which opened at the casino last month.
Restaurant room manager Phillip Alcala said the space, formerly the Promenade Cafe, inspired the direction of the restaurant.
“When we looked at the room, it looked like an English salon,” Alcala said. “Somewhere you’d sit and drink your tea.”
The Earl Grey Cafe offers afternoon tea for two, with a trio of finger sandwiches, mini-scones and French macarons, for $19.99 — 24/7, which means you can have afternoon tea even when it’s not the afternoon.
“This is Earl Grey’s version of a proper tea service,” Alcala said. “We don’t do clotted cream.”
And of course the nine tea choices include Earl Grey.
“You get to see grandmothers and granddaughters together,” he said, adding that the very first pair to come in for tea were a mother and her 5-year-old daughter.
“Her jaw dropped when she saw the birdcage” that carries the goodies, he said of the little girl.
The room has been completely revamped to help convey the theme.
“It was a dated room,” Alcala said. The open front has been glassed-in to keep out the smoke and noise of the casino beyond. The room now is a soft gray, with raised-molding detailing on walls and pillars. The standard booths have been replaced by sweeping banquettes, and many of the four-person tables have been replaced by those that seat two. The walls are decorated with art that evokes Victorian England, and some upholstery is covered with what looks like floral chintz.
The penny-farthing, the bicycle that had one huge wheel and one much smaller one, appears on servers’ uniforms and the menu. Crystal chandeliers lend a hint of tea-room style.
But since this is the resort’s coffee shop, it also has the occasional flat-screen TV, and the menu lists the whole gamut of coffee-shop favorites.
“We wanted to blend the two worlds together,” Alcala said.
The most popular items from the Promenade Cafe’s menu have been retained, and a few Asian selections have been added. There’s an extensive breakfast menu, salads, soups, burgers, sandwiches and wraps, desserts, comfort foods such as meatloaf and turkey, and coffee-shop classics such as liver and onions.
There also are vegan and gluten-free choices, and cauliflower rice can be substituted for rice. There’s also a lot of flexibility. For example, the 3’s Company Appetizer Platter enables guests to choose three starters — including the crisp-crusted zucchini sticks and mellow fried cauliflower — for $13.99, and three-course specials offer various combinations at a value.
Earl Grey tea, flavored with bergamot oil, figures in a number of dishes. In the Earl’s Signature English Pancakes, $7.99, it’s infused in the pancake batter for a subtle bit of flavor that’s complemented by cardamom-maple syrup. The same ethereal effect characterizes the tea-infused mushrooms, served atop the 12-ounce Earl Grey Rib Eye, which comes with smashed potatoes and vegetables, for $16.99, and the Earl’s World Tour Cheeseburger, two Angus patties also topped with fried red onions and Swiss and provolone cheeses on a brioche bun, $11.99. And then there’s the Earl’s Bad Habit, $7.99, a dessert of tea-infused milk chocolate mousse with Earl Grey creme brulee.
While the tea is believed to have been named for Charles Grey, the second Earl Grey, who, legend has it, commissioned a tea with enough flavor to offset the flavor of the lime-heavy water at his Northumberland family seat, the Rampart has chosen to make their Earl Grey a fictional English aristocrat who “was known for the slightly eccentric habit of riding around the countryside on his penny-farthing bicycle” and was famous as a great host.
“Based on a drawing from the 1800s,” Alcala said, “we just created this eccentric entertainer as Earl Grey.”