November 2, 2012
12 Kings Road,
0117 329 2029
As the city of Bristol boomed in the 19th and early 20th centuries, largely thanks to industrialisation and the trade people and commodities, so the doomsday-book village of Clifton swelled in size and in opulence. Today it’s home to some of the smartest shops and addresses in the city and is a likely place as any to find the finest tearooms. Of all of these, Lahloo Pantry, named after a Chinese tea clipper, is perhaps the very finest of all.
Given its unpropitious position (by the bins around the back of WH Smith) and demure frontage you could be forgiven for missing it entirely but in the year since it started trading in 2011 it has established an enviable reputation among the good folks of Bristol. Hopes raised, and bellies rumbling we were the first customers in on Saturday morning.
The décor is minimal but inviting: bare wood, warehouse lighting and casually stacked tea chests and paraphernalia, amongst which you perch on high stools. The menu is funky and economical. The service is sharp without being pushy. The anticipation is unbearable.
Many tearooms face the problem of how to enforce appropriate brewing times upon their impatient clientele. Some provide little egg timers and a strainer; others (like the Attic Tearoom) opt for ingenious mechanical gizmos which drain the liquor off the leaves at the appropriate juncture. At Lahloo they take the attitude ‘why risk it?’. After all when the tea is that damn good why not let the pros decide how and when to serve it? So tea comes served in a small cast iron pot, pre-infused and ready to roll – the coffee in rather scientific-looking conical flasks. Both were astoundingly good, in fact we’d put our necks on the line here and say possibly even The Best.
After that they could do no wrong. For Lily: delicious savoury scones with homemade chili jam. For Amos: a selection of cakes and patisseries that, days later, still send him into little reminiscent spasms of pleasure. It is very seldom we enjoy tea as much as we did in Lahloo, and unprecedented that we should order second helpings to go.
April 27, 2011
The Attic Tearoom,
0117 909 0357
Monday – Friday 8:30 am – 5 pm
Saturday – 10 am – 5 pm
Sandwiched – such as it is – amid a terrace of shops and cafes in an otherwise unremarkable residential region of Bristol, Coldharbour Road is an unlikely place as ever to find a tea house, and especially one of such high calibre. A couple of previous visits to the Attic were foiled by indiscretions of timekeeping but such is its repute we were determined not to miss out a third time. This – as it turns out – would have been a grievous error for its reputation is well-founded.
At odds with its name, the Attic has adopted a high energy, modern take on an ancient ritual – one which is brilliantly conceived, and rigorously executed by a small cohort of passionate staff. Sitting in moulded plastic armchairs at a faux marble table we scanned an impressive selection of loose leaf tea: a fair few old friends and some exotic newcomers. On a tray bearing an unusual assortment of saucers and glass mugs we were provided with an egg timer to ensure perfect infusion (only the second tea house we’ve come across to provide such an aid) and some striking mechanized tea filters as well as a heart-melting array of cakes and brownies.
The Attic is an eye-opener, which raises the bar on our already high teatime standards. What’s more they offer a mail order service on their whole range, and if you visit you’ll very likely find us back there, too.
February 23, 2011
4 North Parade Passage, Bath, BA1 1NX
Meeting celebrities is nearly always disappointing, as Lily discovered when she was chatted up by Hugh Jackman in a lift the other day.
Sally Lunn’s has become had become a bit an institution in Bath and has claim – apparently not undisputed – to being one of the oldest houses in the city. It seems to have built a reputation in the States too as a purveyor of “authenticity” and “olde worlde English charm” and so remains full, from the moment it opens to the moment it closes, with camera-wielding Americans couples in matching Regatta hiking boots and fleeces. In deference to the proprietors, they certainly know their market and give the masses what they want but the seemingly endless popularity says more about the low expectations of the clientele than the excellence of either the service of the food.
The tea – served in metal pots and drunk from generic china – arrived as Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ started on its second repeat. They rather cruelly dress up their waitresses in Victorian maid costumes (why, please?) so it was harldy surprising that ours couldn’t even muster a smile. Two buns, thick cream and Tiptree on a large plate, and knock us down with a feather if they don’t pull out all the presentation stops and land a slice of dry orange on the side of your paper doily!
The (in)famous bun-like scones are pretty heavy going; if you don’t like them (and we can’t see why you would when you’ve paid £3 for something that looks and tastes like it comes from Gregs the Bakers) then they can be put to better use clubbing to death anyone who describes the surroundings as “quaint” or “genuine”. In actual fact it’s neither and it killed us to hear people talking in foreign accents about being English when devouring perfectly ordinary fare at inflated prices.
February 16, 2011
After surviving what is said to be the most depressing day of the year (the last Monday in January, apparently, for a whole host of reasons) we felt that further protection from the perishing cold was needed in the form of a day out and of course a cream tea… or three.
We tentatively ventured to Chipping Sodbury and were pleased to find a charming yellow-brick market town with a wide, attractive main boulevard seeping afternoon tea potential from every crevice.
After tearing Lilly away from the last of the New Years sales, we came across Poppys – boasting a range of freshly made cakes, hot food and a selection of fine teas. Poppys is well placed, in the middle of Broad Street, at the pounding heart of the Chipping Sodbury, and as such is clearly a popular haunt of a diverse array of her natives. We surveyed the menu and peered through glass bell jars at an extensive array of rather sturdy looking homemade cakes. We started the ball rolling with one pot of Earl Grey and one of Assam, which arrived promptly. The mismatching crockery lent a quirky air, for certain, but we were less convinced by the teabags, and further disappointed to find they both tasted identical anyway.
We both are possessed of that quintessential British hatred of sending anything back to the kitchen in a restaurant (indeed when travelling abroad Lily has been known to heat her own meal with a magnifying glass rather than risk causing offence by sending it back) but we broke the mould on this occasion as the crumpets she ordered were nothing short of inedible. Our stammering request was met politely and the second attempt arrived hot on the heels of the first, and much improved.
Amos then attempted to tackle a dense and sizable wedge of Victoria sponge – the eating of which Lily unkindly compared to the town’s infamous annual uphill half marathon, the ‘Sodbury Slog’ – but even his most noble efforts were eventually in vain. Strictly in the name of research, and not to be outdone, Lilly ordered the cream tea to finish with. The humble scone, so often a gold standard benchmark of an establishment’s merit did not taste (we have to say) overly fresh but it didn’t detract from the fact that Poppys is a reliable place as any to find a no frills afternoon tea.
May 2, 2010
Lily and Amos have been furiously busy in the run-up to the weekend, boiling kettles, hanging bunting, packing hampers, popping up marquees, and decorating fairy cakes to our heart’s contents. The reason? Well on Saturday we hosted our first ever Noveltea Tea Party in Clifton, Bristol. We had a terrific turn-out, and raised hundreds of pounds in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Care.
We’d like to thank everyone who showed out to support and look forward to an even bigger, better (slightly less rainy!) time of it next year.
Here are a few of our favourite photos – if you have any more do send them in…