Published in the Collinsville Journal Newspaper
Last modified: Tuesday, February 17, 2009 3:14 AM CST
More than just good food
By Alene Hill
In four years, the Historic Oatman House Restaurant and Tea Room has carved its niche and earned a loyal following by serving homemade entrees and confections in a Victorian atmosphere.
But lately, weekend chefs and afternoon tea enthusiasts are enjoying more than the Oatman House’s signature menu for brunch or lunch.
English chef Jane Muscroft, who has formed her own company, Queen’s Cuisine, has begun demonstrating monthly cooking classes, serving afternoon tea and high tea and preparing special-order pastries and cakes.
Oatman House owner Sandy Rose met Muscroft at a meeting of People in Business Networking Group that meets for continental breakfast at the Oatman House on the third Tuesday of every month at 8:15 a.m.
“She serves an elegant tea in the traditional English custom with clotted cream and scones,” Rose said. “Her cooking classes are wonderful, too – she just did one on chocolate.”
It was the kind of event that fits so well in the Collinsville historic landmark home built in 1875 by Dr. Charles Oatman, a drummer boy in the Civil War who later became Collinsville’s third mayor and a physician in the community.
In addition to a class on chocolate, Muscroft’s cooking classes, usually scheduled on the last Thursday of the month, have also included Indian barbecue, which she said has become one of the most popular cuisines in England. Valentine’s Day festivities included a sold out candlelight dinner prepared by Muscroft that included prime rib and Yorkshire pudding.
The next cooking class, scheduled for Feb. 26, will feature soups.
“I plan on doing seasonal classes and classes with an English angle, where my expertise is,” said Muscroft, who has also taught cooking classes at local Dierbergs for three years. “I would like to feature my home town, Melton Mowbray, where we have pork pie that can be bought everywhere (in England), but no one has heard of here.”
Tea parties, with their customary tea sandwiches, pastries and scones, have a growing following here, she said, because they are relaxing.
“A tea is about quality rather than quantity,” she said. “I keep a comment book and people tell me they enjoy stepping back in time and taking it easy.”
The atmosphere of the Victorian Oatman House serves as the perfect backdrop for the teas and cooking classes and a variety of other regular events such as meetings, private parties and showers, fund raisers and even wine tastings.
“I really enjoy seeing this place used as much as possible,” said Rose.
Rose, a Collinsville resident, originally operated a cafe in St. Charles and was looking to bring the business home, when she stumbled across the Oatman House.
“It screamed tea room and up to then, I was thinking along the lines of another cafe. I knew I didn’t want a bar and grill, but I didn’t think of a tea room until I found this,” she said.
Since opening, the Oatman House was named among the top 10 tearooms in the country in the August edition of Victorian Homes Magazine.
“The next closest (tearoom) on the list is in Pennsylvania,” she said.
The Oatman House also includes a gift shop that features the work of local artists as well as tea, tea pots and other gifts.
The Oatman House
501 East Main, Collinsville
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday or other hours available for special events
For reservations or more information on classes, call 346-2326 or visit http://www.oatmanhousetearoom.com