Tapped and Packed - Tottenham Court Road (Warren St End) - I’ve seen two of these now. Nicely unbranded except for the Bicycle hanging up outside. You can’t imagine these guys being the next Costa and I really hope they aren’t. It feels like many who open coffee shops these days dream of one day reaching the the glorious heights of being in motorway service stations.
Anyway presentation is wonderful as you can see. The tea was execellent. Pre-Brewed in fact which I have never come across before. This is an excellent idea. Forgot to ask how they do this without it getting too strong and stewed all the time (or maybe he just pulled the bag out before I saw!)
Also had a Coconut Mcaroon. Home baked (probably wasn’t but tasted like it). Magic.
BROWNS, MAYFAIR - So thought it was time to do this properly. I asked the missus to take me to Claridge’s for a serious Birthday Low Tea. Turns out it’s booked up for the next 6 months so we went to Browns instead. The Tea Room is like an huge posh old Ladies drawing room complete with Floral patterned Armchairs and a live Pianist playing appropriate afternoon Muzak. The choice is Traditional Tea or Healthy Tea (why?). Basically you pay for a tier of Sandwiches, Scones and tiny little Pastries. If you finish any layer they automatically replace it. WOAH It’s a Posh eat all you can! One of these Teas would be plenty for 2 but they won’t let you share (It’s priced £38 per head if you want to know.) Of course there’s a big pot of loose leaf Tea to go with it. I spent a very happy hour working my way up the layers of buttery white bread sandwiches followed by fresh baked mini creams scones. I was half way through the cake layer feeling pretty sickly when they decided to bring out my special Birthday Pistachio slice. The Pianist went straight into Happy Birthday and then everyone clapped politely without turning to look. So British! At this point I was ready to puke but managed to get a couple of mouthfuls in to be polite. On leaving we were presented with a little sample of the tea leaves we had been drinking which was a nice touch. Happy Barfday to me.
Hurwundeki, Cambridge Heath Road - A fantastic chance find this. Literally was walking past and my daughter saw the lovely garden area full of vintage toys, spotted a a rocking horse and dragged me in, no excuse needed! This little oasis right next to the station seems to be an old furniture warehouse and they still sell it inside which makes it feel less like a business desperately trying to make you consume and much more just like a nice place to hang out that just happens to have really nice food and drink. It turns out to be more of a coffee place really with two very serious looking Barsitas on hand to make you a perfect Flat White complete with a leaf design on top no doubt. Sadly the the Tea just came as a mug with a bag in (criminal). Still they did an amazing toasted Brie and Salami sandwich to go with it followed by some pretty special Pear and Almond Tart. Hurwendeki reminds me of the kind of places you find in Switzerland or Germany. I really liked the feel of it there and would have been happy to hang out all day if only my little Princess hadn’t tired of her new Horsey friend.
Gails, Exmouth Market, London - I was in the area after a meeting and the words Artisan Bakery grabbed my eyes. As a cake lover these words have the same affect on me as the words Uncut Bolivian have on an advertising creative. The first sight that meets your eyes is this table of cakes. It’s an obvious ploy which works perfectly on weak minded addicts. Before I can say “global recession” a smiley lady has relieved me of £6 for a cup of tea and a piece of cake. Damn these guys are good! Was totally worth it though. One cafetiere style pot of loose leaf Earl Grey and a slice of flourless chocolate cake later and I’m lying back looking at the ceiling like Euan McGregor in Trainspotting. In the background I can hear Thom Yorke singing to me of lemons and tidying up. After a while of hanging around they came and refilled my pot, now that’s welcoming! Gail’s is a small chain and has branches in all the upmarket areas, they make sexy bread and huge pots of conserves. It’s a proper upper middle class hang out and for once it was nice to slum it. Gail’s Artisan Bakery
Café Liebermann, Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany - The Hamburg Kunsthalle is huge and has an incredible collection of art from all periods. You turn a corner expecting to walk into another room of classic paintings and find this incredible hall. It’s stunning and also happens to be the location of this wonderful cafe. I can’t remember all the details on this as I found it a few months ago but I know it wasn’t average. There were huge trays of cheesecake and other strange German cakes. I think I had a pot of tea and some sort of layered custard thing. Anyway if you are in Hamburg this Cafe (and the gallery) are a must stop.
Bodega 50, Allen Road, N16 - This is my favourite local cafe. It’s been open only a few months but already has a devoted crowd. No surprise there, they just get it right. It’s very simple and relaxed. So simple in fact that the shop front is completely bare apart from a tiny blackboard in the window which I hadn’t even noticed until now, everyone’s just been calling this Jason’s cafe. Jason is the super friendly owner of Bodega 50 that pretty much everyone seems to know after being in there for more than 5 minutes. It’s a no frills but superb taste kind of place with reclaimed office and school furniture which will appeal to the trendy types. However they also cater for kids with books and a few toys plus of course the main attraction, Bruce (Jason’s dog). It’s not just about the decor though, what they serve is good stuff. One of my faves is a homely round of toast and Jam. The bread thickly cut from a fresh loaf, the butter is creamy and the Jam is top quality confiture type stuff. The cake selection is only Muffins, Brownies or Flapjacks but they are all really excellent, and I’m talking baked at home by your granny level (the Flapjacks are seriously the best I have ever tasted). They also do other interesting food options like Muesli/Granola and olive bread sticks (kids love these!). Tea comes from loose leaves in an individual brewing thingy, I’m sure these have a special name. I’m not a coffee expert but I have everyone say it is very fine. One final plus point for me is the lack of free wi-fi, who wants to check emails when you can have a play with Bruce!
Unknown Cafe, Santiago - we stopped here just because we could find no where else! I asked for Tea with Milk and literally got that, some hot milk with a tea bag in it. Gross. Chile is not a great place for tea drinkers it seems many restaurants did not even have tea (philistines!).
This cheesecake wasn’t great but worth noting for the lovely presentation.
Kaffeine, Great Titchfield St., London - this has to be my first post since it was in here that i had the idea for this blog. I walked past Kaffeine on Great Titchfield Street in London and was drawn in by something. Maybe it was the look of the place. Really simple design with crumbling open brickwork (I’m a sucker for that). It was just the right sort of busy too. I ordered my usual Earl Grey and also a Gruyere filled Croissant. It is the kind of place where they have time to bring it your table too which nicely avoids that akward hanging around the till bit. The tea came in a small china pot, inside the tea was Tea Pigs Earl Grey. I like this company but their tea bags are too stingy. Could not get a brew going at all (i’m not so traditional with the Earl Grey preferring it strong with milk). The Croissant was excellent though a really buttery french style one, none of this mass produced stuff. This is clearly more of a coffee lovers place with books dedicated to it lying around and I’d bet that they do a great one too. It reminded me of the places you find on every corner in Australia and turns out it’s owners are from there. Oz has a great independent cafe culture, glad to see they are bringing it over here. For a Low Tea stop it wasn’t bad. The savoury food options looked the best, I didn’t see anything special for cake lovers like me. If i’m in the area again i’ll go back for a sandwich and a Flat White for sure. www.kaffeine.co.uk
So this is all about my adventures finding new places to stop and have a bit of Tea and Cake. I was trying to find a good title for this blog and was thinking about where this obsession comes from. I remember when staying at my Grandmothers houses they would always, without fail, around 4.30 serve Tea and I mean the meal not just the drink. Margaret’s (my fathers mother) was the most traditional. There was cucumber sandwiches, drop scones (aka scotch pancakes), a huge cake and of course a pot of tea. The tea pouring had it’s own very special ritual. It was my favourite meal of the day. Now i had always assumed that this was just called Afternoon Tea or maybe High Tea but when looking it up I discovered this was actually called Low Tea due to it being served on a low table for the children. High Tea was then served for the adults a bit later on the dining room table. This tea and cake obsession has stayed with me, I love nothing more in life than discovering a new place to sit down with a cup of tea (earl grey if I can get it) and something baked. Andy