Today’s featured Blog is:
“I do like a nice tearoom” says Lorna, who first got in touch last year. Since then she has clearly been busy, not only bumbling round the tearooms of Scotland (and further afield), but even publishing a book about the same, while selling a delightful little range of handmade cards to finance her baking addiction.
We adore her frequent posts, beautiful high-definition illustrations and quirky sence of humour. Keep up the good work!
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.
September 15, 2012
311 Byres Road
0141 357 2525
The stream of Lily’s eulogy was halted – but only briefly – by the tinkling of our electronic egg timer, which informed us that our Ceylon Ruhunu was good to go; if you’re in business of eulogising (or afternoon tea for that matter) you’ll find plenty to occupy you here.
‘Cup’ was a chance discovery and, like finding a twenty pound note in the pocket of a pair of trousers you haven’t worn for a while, a very welcome one indeed as we battled against the rain down in Glasgow’s “posh” West End. Once inside a ceiling-high glass frontage affords this quirky modernist tea room a light and airy demeanour, in despite of its compact size, and instantly banished our fears and demons of the wet and threatening Lothian streets. Seated efficiently yet with warmth we stared agog at the burgeoning tiered cake stands of our fellow diners, the weighty menu of teas and tisanes in front of us and the bar to our rear, constructed from an edible wall of fairy cakes.
We placed our order and waited with a strange mixture of excitement should the food live up to our seventeen storey high expectations and apprehension in case it should not. When it arrived what little professional veneer we had continued to affect was replaced by undiluted, childlike glee: each cake was a work of art, each sandwich a celebration and the scones tasted like they’d been plucked from the oven only milliseconds beforehand. Needless to say in all the excitement our eyes and the size of our tummies lost track of one another and when the euphoria subsided we ended up gazing (Amos: wistfully, Lily: tearfully) at the remnants of our repast but we needn’t have worried as doggy bags – although nothing as vulgar as a bag, of course – were on hand and we clutched them tightly under our coats on the subway journey home lest we be mugged.
Justifying 4 and a half pots was the easiest decision we’ve ever had to make; justifying why it doesn’t earn the coveted 5 pots was probably the most difficult. Certainly if there’s a better tearoom in Scotland we should like to know about it.
October 31, 2011
01628 891 010 http://www.danesfieldhouse.co.uk/afternoon_tea
I feel sorry for anywhere that isn’t Danesfield House. Set in Buckinghamshire, amid the beautiful Chiltern Hills, and overlooking the river Thames – this once prehistoric hill fort, now luxury hotel and spa has it all. We had spent a chilly Autumnal day perusing the quaint riverside towns of Henley and Marlow. Lily flitted from shop to show, amassing an impressive collection of bags until by five o’clock she could no longer fit through doorways sidewards. With one last wistful look back at the shoes that might have been, even she was forced to admit defeat and together we set off to find tea.
During this time Amos had not been idle, and – in between paying for things – had solicited the advice of some friendly locals. Our options were twofold: retrace our steps to Henley or stop off outside Marlow at “the posh hotel on the hill”. Pulling up on the gravel drive of this stately home-cum-hotel, our excitement was twinged with a note of foreboding. We’ve had mixed experiences of country house conversions; the price is unanimously high, but the quality of the tea very variable, and many is the time Amos has got into furious rows with the management concerning the mark-up on a Twinings teabag. This white-faced mock Tudor castle doesn’t look beautiful, and it doesn’t look cheap either…
…And it wasn’t. But we’re pleased to report that the service and quality are up there with the very best. The orangery (funky old-fashioned flagstones meet modern metal and glass) houses a dozen or so tables, resplendent in white linen and silverware, creating a fresh, minimal setting whilst maintaining a convivial atmosphere. There is not a harpist in sight – instead faultless oven-fresh scones are accompanied by fine loose-leaf tea, the chinks of glasses and the crackle of an open fire.
The service is oily-slick and whisper quiet and the bill when it came was like receiving a massage. We lingered slightly longer than we deemed polite, and made a point of strolling leisurely though the formal gardens before retracing our way back to the car (which was easy to spot amongst the fleet of German executive saloon outside).
Reflecting back perhaps four and a half pots is mean, as it’s hard to know what could be improved upon. Maybe we’ll have to go back for a second opinion…
October 24, 2011
Henley is lovely, although it’s not – I must say – particularly lovable. Famed for being one of the most expensive, most snooty, most disingenuous of all the Thames villages, Henley is a place to for the weekend but we wouldn’t necessarily move there.
Although spoilt for good shops (and of course the ubiquitous farmer’s market on Saturdays…), tea-wise it’s a bit disappointing. You could opt for one of the riverside hotels, or there’s a perfectly nice-looking Maison Blanc near the bridge but we’d back the local’s choice: Hot Gossip on Friday Street.
We felt immediately at home amid the kitch clutter of this cosy ground-floor tearoom. The half-dozen or so tables are staffed (I would hesitate to say perhaps slightly over-staffed?) by 4 wonderfully ditsy, pinny-wearing waitresses who, after much to-ing and fro-ing and whoopsie-daisying, managed to take our order. The home-made cakes looked delicious but since we couldn’t decide which to go for, we opted for one slice of each and (for the sake of balance) a scone-a-piece.
The scones came with a generous scoop of clotted cream and blob of Wilkinson’s Jam. In their prime they must have been superb but I’d take some persuading that they were fresh today. The cakes, though, were faultless. Even we began to struggle a bit after our 4th slice, but we soldiered on regardless. The tea was ok, but the star of the show was undoubtedly the hot chocolate, which – although they seemed to have been prepared such that most of the liquid was on the outside – did much to lift our spirits on the cold journey home.
We would usually direct readers towards a website or some other source of information, but so far as we can see none exists… and to be honest perhaps this is the true source of Hot Gossip’s charm. For all the topsy-turvy service and the spilt hot chocolate, the homely lack of commercialism makes for a thoroughly enjoyable, wholly British afternoon out.
The Tea Cosy,
3 George Street,
Wednesday-Friday: 12-5pm, Saturday: 12-6pm, Sunday: 12-5pm
There is a sense of intense purpose about the Tea Cosy which hits you immediately upon entering. We liked the imposingly kitch window display, made steamy against the cold January backdrop from which we sought shelter. We liked manner in which we were asked to wipe our feet and shut the door behind us without so much as a by your leave. And we loved the bric-a-brac higgledy-piggledy decor.
With the excitement of naughty school children, and not a little apprehension, we were lead to our seats amongst half a dozen or so other diners whose expressions ranged from uncomfortable to bemused by the eccentricity of their surroundings. They have hoarded an elephantine collection of Royal Family memorabilia bordering on obsession, from an imposing portrait of Queen Victoria to (suspended from the ceiling) a toilet seat once graced by the Bottom of Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall. The overall effect is, shall we say, not a little camp.
Then there are the menus, which specify the house rules on a range of afternoon etiquette, from the sensible (please turn off your mobile phone) to the daft (please avoid the unnecessary clatter of spoon-on-cup) to the downright ridiculous (much to Amos’ chagrin it is expressly requested that milk be added first, and Lily – who’s vitriolic mezzo soprano can be heard from one end of the lacrosse field to the other – had to suppress her exultations of glee to “2 beats lighter than chink of a teacup”).
Our minds turned to the teas they serve, which are called things like “The Charles & Camilla Elevenses” or “Lady Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales, Queen of Hearts, 10 year Anniversary, Your Death Has Torn Our Lives Apart, Fairwell Dear Princess Queen Of Hearts, Forever In Our Thoughts, Memorial Afternoon Tea”. Our order was taken with a carefully metered dose of effete distain and our tea and crumpets were deposited at the table so curtly it made us squirm with pleasure.
It’s fair to say that the atmosphere they create is a little overbearing to say the least. It probably won’t be the most relaxed experience but it may be one of the more amusing or bizarre depending on your outlook. The scones and what we were charged for them placated both our pockets and our palates and we look forward to returning.
There’s a lot to like and we wavered between three and a half to four pots, but they couldn’t quite scoop up the high scores because we felt they lacked vigour in their pursuit of a dream. If anything we expected it to be even more queer, even more camp, even more OTT. Next time we go, and when Amos sends the sugar bowl flying and Lily guffaws so loudly it upsets the plastic fountain on table three, we expected to be smacked firmly on the knuckles and asked politely to leave.
April 13, 2011
01353 661 100
Natives of sleepy Ely, had they been casing the waterfront at 4 o’clock that late autumn afternoon, might have permitted a raised eyebrow or two at the sight of a pair of flustered tea-goers haring through the village in search of their last repast of the day. We rounded the final corner at a brisk trot, Amos in the lead and Lily – a few heads behind – bringing up a dignified rear. Arriving, slightly out of breath (Amos with just a hint of perspiration on his brow) it was clear that we were to be rewarded for our efforts in heavy coin.
The fame of Peacocks has gone before it. From the apple-pie cottage exterior to the homely plum-pudding welcome we received within, it was every bit the tea-time oasis we had been led to expect, and after our little canter earlier, felt vindicated in doing full justice to all they had to offer.
Amos fell about devouring a couple of hearty fresh scones with his usual gusto while Lily opted for perfectly toasted crumpets – the butter from which is smeared in greasy fingermarks all over the original notes – and a pot of ‘Good Luck’ blended tea, which we can cheerfully recommend. We found it to be busy without being crowded, warm, softly lit and tastefully decorated. The selection of Tea is comprehensive to the point of bewilderment although not unreasonably priced. Yes, the service was ever-so slightly 4 o’clock and we wouldn’t choose lace tablecloths for our front rooms but it’s hard to find fault with hosts who have catered so perfectly to your needs and we left, refreshed, in fine fetter, another couple of satisfied punters.
March 30, 2011
The Randolf Hotel
Such is the reputation of the Randolf for ‘the best tea in Oxford’ we arrived with reservations made, and expectations high. To up the ante we’d agreed to wear Edwardian morning attire in keeping with the splendid Gothic facade and luxurious interior but Anna – who was dubious from the outset – “forgot” at the last minute so I couldn’t help feeling the effect was somewhat lost. I arrived first (uncomfortable and not a little self-consciously in starched wing collar and spats) and the most curious thing happened. I was informed that there had been a double booking. Someone with exactly the same name – although I flatter myself not as well dressed – had reserved the same table at the same time and the hotel, assuming there had been some mixup, had given him the spot. Sure enough when I entered the lounge there the blighter was eating my scones and drinking my tea.
I mention this incident for two reasons. Not only was it an amazing coincidence (I’ve never met another Amos Harris in my life) but as far as our enjoyment of the day went, it was by far and away more agreeable than anything which happened subsequently.
Impressive as this Ruskin-acclaimed five star mock gothic monster is from the outside and exorbitant as the prices are, these are no real reflection of what receive. Once they had somewhat ungraciously sorted out their own error, the scones didn’t taste particularly fresh, and the Twinnings tea bags dangled pathetically on string like a tampon, with not a loose leaf in site. Considering I’d gone to the effort of getting dressed up for the occasion [I do appreciate I must have looked a right prick – thanks for those kind words, Lily] one might have expected somewhat less perfunctory service. We left after thirty minutes shortly after a party of American tourists descended upon us and started taking photos of the sandwiches.
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.
February 11, 2011
Good afternoon tea-lovers, and happy Friday! Nearly time to put the kettle on, your feet up and kick back till Monday.
We don’t know about you but this week has just seemed to draaag, so we’ve come up with a little poll to ponder over the weekend.
Everyone knows that a cup of tea can be the most welcome, uplifting, joyous luxury in the world. So why is it some people just can’t see to get it right?
We’re interested to know what your pet hates are relating to tea. It could be something really naff about your local tearoom, like paper doilies, squirty cream or Victorian maid uniforms (that really bugs Lily). It could be the tea-making facilities in your office, like flakes of limescale, UHT milk, or having to fish out tea-bags with a chewed up biro. Maybe it’s when your friends give you cracked mugs, stale biscuits, or someone puts a wet teaspoon back in the sugar…
Whatever it is we’d love to hear all about it, so place your votes, or leave a comment below.