For a leisurely afternoon when only a sumptuous english afternoon tea will do, seek out Soho’s Secret Tea Room.
My first visit to the establishment began as a confusing solo meander from Soho square to No. 29 Greek Street; finding the very clearly marked no 29 to be infamous pub The Coach and Horses (and not in fact, my hotly anticipated venue of choice..). Confused, I stepped furtively over the threshold anticipating teacups and doilies. However Captain Haddock wouldn’t have looked out of place propped up with a Loch Lomond Whisky, engaged in a heated debate with Dickens’ Bill Sykes (although in reality the establishment’s patrons were far more colourful). I later overheard that the Pub was the legacy of recently retired Norman “You’re Barred” Balon; London’s rudest landlord with a fearsome reputation (having begun his tenure in 1943).
Ashamed by my monumental error, I did several laps of the block before concluding that the holy grail of Tea Rooms I was so avidly seeking could surely exist no more. Curiosity prevailed just long enough to break my silence and I sheepishly enquired therein. With a grunt from the bartender, I was bewilderedly ushered beneath the counter, through piled up crates of Ale and up a flight of stairs not much wider than a human hair, stopping halfway up to observe a china jug and some pot pourri; encouragingly feminine. Little did I know that it was a magical time travelling stairwell and I emerged, flustered, into the most charming, quintessentially british space imaginable. Who could possibly have guessed that the West End’s Best Known Pub hides London’s Least Known Tea Room? A tranquil haven floating above the cacophony of the west end.
Original 1940’s jazz and swing vinyl’s spin perpetually on a vintage gramophone as polite waitresses in perfectly crisp aprons with perfectly rolled hair serve leafy teas in the daintiest mismatched china.
For those days when London life feels like a never ending smoggy treadmill, take sanctuary with a slice of moist cake (or 5) in this delightful secret spot.There is no simpler pleasure than warm, crumbly freshly baked scone slathered in melty butter, sweet strawberry jam and oozy clotted cream.
This compact tea room is the nostalgic stuff of my great granny Olive’s wartime tales which dreamily perpetuated my childhood. Stories of nannying in London during the Blitz, of leaping head first into air raid shelters, and of her favourite navy playsuit covered in little yachts, of Big Alice in the WAFs, and of handsome George asking her to dance despite his leg injury (they were still married 67 years later).
Soho’s Secret Tea Room transports you to a seemingly simpler time when the circumstance of the era forced people to live in the moment and enjoy the small things; the texture of fresh clotted cream, a scandalous snippet of gossip, the simplicity of listening to good music with a steaming cup of tea.
This single visual clue (my great granny Olive’s vintage milk jug) will make your discovery of Soho’s Secret Tea Room all the more jolly, I promise.
~ Tell No-one! Shhh…
~ Luckily I romantically stumbled upon the tea room on a Tuesday afternoon, as at most other times I would recommend you book. (BOOK?! But its a SECRET Tea Room I hear you cry, aghast!..Alas, The Secret’s Out!)
Above the Coach & Horses, 29 Greek St, London, W1D 5DH.