Traditional British customs, culture and fare can be found throughout Philadelphia. (Photo courtesy Four Seasons Hotel)
The British are coming!
While the Britain-themed 2013 Philadelphia Flower Show opens at the Pennsylvania Convention Center this Saturday, March 2, the best of Britain doesn’t have to end with the show’s exquisite themed garden displays — which by the way, are on view for two full weekends for the first time ever.
English culture remains alive and well across the Philadelphia region, with historic sites, top-notch museum collections, pubs, tearooms, theaters and sporting events.
Check out our guide to exploring Philadelphia like an Anglophile, and stay tuned for our guide to the 184th Philadelphia Flower Show.
The following are just a few places to start:
Four O’Clock Spots: Tearooms
• Sofitel’s Liberte Urban Chic Lounge: Afternoon tea awaits you in one of Philadelphia’s loveliest lounges. Liberte’s fireplace welcomes Flower Show guests to warm up to a spot of tea, sandwiches, scones and mimosas.
• The Four Seasons Hotel’s Swann Lounge: For the ultimate in luxury, it’s hard to beat the Four Seasons’ afternoon tea, with its impossibly delicate sandwiches, cakes and exotic brews (pear caramel, karigane, verbena mint chrysanthemum). Also available: signature cocktails and a gluten-free version of the menu.
• The Rittenhouse Hotel’s Mary Cassatt Tea Room: Whether it’s a tisane steeped from local herbs or a superb Earl Gray, a melon, salmon and minted marscapone sandwich or a chocolate madeleine with a creamy raspberry filling, the afternoon refreshments at the Rittenhouse’s tea conservatory make for a posh and memorable day.
• A Taste of Britain Café and Tea Room: English delicacies are the thing at A Taste of Britain Café and Tea Room, with daily afternoon service that includes sandwiches, scones, pastries and a pot of one of the many tea selections available. Other British foods (HobNobs, black currant jam, Branston pickles), plus candy and loose teas are available for purchase as well.
• Talking Teacup: Set in a restored 250-year-old farmhouse, the Talking Teacup’s gift shop offers two morning and six different afternoon spreads, including a high tea, a luncheon tea and even a children’s tea, with seasonal pastries and pairings.
Picks For The Peckish: Restaurants And Pubs
• The Dandelion: Modeled after the contemporary gastropubs in Britain, The Dandelion is a cozy place to imbibe a cask-stored pint and dine on delicious welsh rarebit, rabbit pie and Eton mess. There’s even an afternoon tea available.
• Pub & Kitchen: The hearty menu at Pub & Kitchen nods to the United Kingdom with items like bangers and mash, fish and chips and sticky toffee pudding making regular appearances, not to mention an impressive list of ales, gins and whiskeys.
More British Philadelphia picks, below.
• The Whip Tavern: Expatriates gather at The Whip Tavern for excellent renditions of English grub (Scotch eggs, roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, ploughman’s lunch) and UK beers and ciders to be enjoyed by a roaring fire. It’s also a great place to catch a rugby match.
• Heart of Oak Pub: A true hideaway located in the basement of Baci Restaurant, Heart of Oak serves up hearty plates of bangers and mash and chicken and leek pie with frothy pints of London Pride and Boddingtons. (215)-794-7784
Ace Sights: History And Art
• Independence National Historical Park: Philadelphia’s history has long been intertwined with Britain’s. The Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and the many other historical sites that comprise this park are ground zero for the American struggle for independence from English rule in the
18th century and a fascinating area to tour for anyone interested in this dramatic historical period.
• Cliveden of the National Trust: The official site of the Battle of Germantown, Cliveden sheltered British troops from American revolutionary forces in 1777. Visitors can tour the house and property with its period furniture and decorative arts. Open April through January.
• Valley Forge National Historical Park: No tour of local Revolutionary history would be complete without a trip to Valley Forge National Historic Park, the site of the 1777-78 winter encampment of the Continental Army. Ranger-led tours and programs illuminate the park’s rich history.
• Philadelphia Museum of Art: Among the vast holdings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art are thousands of objects of English origin, including silver, furniture, ceramics and a recreation of an 18th-century drawing room, plus works by notable British artists such as J.M.W. Turner.
• Bartram’s Garden: Philly native John Bartram created a seed and plant exchange with the leading patrons in England and was appointed the Royal Botanist by King George III. Bartram’s Garden thrives today, with an 18th-century English ginkgo bilobo tree (thought to be the oldest in the North America) still on the premises.
• Awbury Arboretum: The former Cope family estate is a 55-acre retreat in Germantown, with trails and gardens landscaped in the Romantic and Victorian English styles. Awbury Arboretum is open year round from dawn to dusk and free to visitors.
• Shakespeare Memorial: Alexander Stirling Calder paid tribute to England’s national poet with his 1926 sculpture depicting Hamlet and the jester Touchstone at Logan Square on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
• Barnes Foundation: While the Barnes Foundation is perhaps best known for its French collections, it also houses a gorgeous sampling of English furniture and decorative objects from the 18th through the 20th centuries.
• Rosenbach Museum & Library: The Rosenbach Museum proudly holds an impressive collection of literature from the British Isles, including two 15th-century manuscripts of Chaucers’ Canterbury Tales, more than 450 books and pamphlets by Daniel Defoe, an extensive Lewis Carroll collection, a Dickens manuscript parodying Shakespeare and more.
The Play’s The Thing: Plays And Playing
• The Wilma Theater: Starting March 6 through April 7, The Wilma Theater will present the North American premiere of Under the Whaleback by celebrated British playwright, Richard Bean. Audiences will experience a thrilling nautical narrative portraying three snapshots in time, which bring us into the lives of English fisherman working in Hull, England during the collapse of the North Sea fishing industry.
• Shakespeare Theatre: In addition to an ongoing festival focused on the works of the great Bard, the Shakespeare Theatre also supports programming in schools, an acting academy and a summer camp.
• Shakespeare in Clark Park: Every summer, this public art-minded West Philadelphia organization mounts a Shakespeare production with multiple outdoor showings in Clark Park.
• Philadelphia International Cricket Festival: Held the first weekend of May, the PICF celebrates the sport of cricket and international sporting with a tournament of 18 teams who compete for charity on the campus of Haverford College, where there is also the C.C. Morris Cricket Library and Museum.
• Polo at Chamounix Equestrian Center: The home of Penn’s polo team and the United States Polo Association National Open Interscholastic Polo Champions of 2011 and 2012, the Chamounix Center offers lessons for adults and children interested in the sport English gentry made famous.
Brilliants Buys: Shops
• Duke & Winston: A Northern Liberties boutique and showroom, Duke & Winston is the brainchild of an English expat who produces his own line of casual clothing with European flair and a bulldog mascot.
• Bus Stop Boutique: The London-born proprietor of Fabric Row’s funky shoe shop, Bus Stop Boutique, carries plenty of fashion-forward Brit labels for both men and women, like GOLA, Fly London, Look, Swear and J Shoes.
• Jack Wills: The new Center City outpost of English retailer, Jack Wills, provides plenty of fodder for Oxbridge fantasies—plaid shirts, striped rugbies, cozy jumpers and brogues for young lads and lasses.
• Metro Men’s Clothing: The smart fashions at Passyunk’s Metro Men’s include street-wear pieces by classic Brit labels Ben Sherman and Fred Perry.
• Dr. Martens: With the renewed popularity of England’s famed worker boot comes Dr. Martens, offering unisex styles from classic oxblood oxfords to knee-high boots covered in pastel pansies.
• Barbour: Founded in 1894, Barbour, a family-owned British outfitter has finally come to Philly’s shopping row, bringing with it its trademark oilcloth jackets, as well as Tattersall shirts, sweaters and other gear for the outdoorsy family.
• Burberry Limited: Few patterns are as iconic and instantly recognizable as Burberry check, which instantly signifies English wealth and taste. The Philly retail store continues that tradition with upmarket clothing, shoes and leather goods.
Like we said, keep an eye out for our upcoming guide to the Philadelphia Flower Show.