When Nick’s sister Sam visited us in London last month one of her requests was that we have traditional afternoon tea at an English teahouse. This was her first trip to London, and her first trip outside the US, so it was important that we get this right. No modern hotel tea for us!

So when I found a place described as being “like a step back in time – you could almost imagine Miss Marple taking tea there,” I knew I had the right spot.

English Tea Set

Situated above the Coach & Horses pub near Leicester Square, Soho’s Secret Tea Room is a total trip. Each chair and table is unique, and all look like they were found in the depths of a Portobello Road antique shop. Each table has a different tablecloth and tea set, ranging from grandmotherly flowers to simple shades of blue. There are artsy photos and mirrors scattered on the wall and a phonograph playing records in the back.

I knew we were at the right place when we walked in and saw a woman dressed in a black Victorian skirt and top hat enjoying tea by the window. Even though it’s a bit shabby, this place has character spilling out of every corner.

Soho's Secret Tea Room

Sadly, this is the only photo I have of the woman.

We hadn’t made a reservation, but at 2:30pm in the middle of the week it wasn’t busy. We ordered the traditional afternoon tea – sandwiches, cakes, cupcakes, scones, jam and clotted cream all came with the most delicious Earl Grey I’ve had in recent memory. Sam couldn’t stop going on about the jam, and I may have eaten the clotted cream with a spoon. Needless to say, the food was good.

Scones and clotted cream

The still-warm scones with the aforementioned delicious clotted cream & jam.

We lingered for over two hours and not once were we rushed or prodded to move it along. The waitress even filled our tea pot with more boiling water so we could have seconds. But I couldn’t have finished all this food even if I’d had four hours!

Afternoon Tea

The full spread. More filling than it looks.

The tea room isn’t actually a secret, but it is strange to enter. You have to go in to the pub below and ask the bartender to let you behind the actual bar, then you head up up a small set of stairs. The full tea costs £17.50, though they have smaller teas available for under £10. It’s pricey, but after my search of tea places in London it seemed £15-20 was the going rate, with fancy hotels costing more. And you could always order a simple pot of tea for a few pounds.

If you’re in the area and need calm your brain down after battling through the crowds of Covent Garden or Oxford Street, I highly recommend popping in to this charming little shop and taking it easy for a while. That’s what tea is for after all!

  • Jarmo

    Now there is a great idea, been living in London for years, but really never got around to a proper afternoon tea. And that place seems like a comfy little place to have afternoon tea :)

    • Kit

      This was my fourth trip to London & I’d never done one either! Sometimes it takes someone visiting to make you do this sort of thing :) It was really fun!

  • http://no-onions-extra-pickles.com Ashley at No Onions Extra Pickles

    Fun! I’ve only had afternoon tea here in San Francisco…though I do have a friend who wants to grow up to be an old British lady, so tea at her place is pretty great.

    • Kit

      Afternoon tea is best with friends and your friend sounds awesome :)

  • katieb55

    What a lovely way to de-stress our hectic life.I enjoyed just checking out the food and unique teapots.

    • Kit

      Yes, we should definitely to it more often in the States! It’s a relaxing tradition :)

  • Dianne

    If you’re ever in Albuquerque, check out the wonderful St. James Tea Room, a local treasure. About $35 for the full tea and worth every penny (and I’m a budget traveler and diner, not prone to expensive dining).

    • Kit

      I’ve been through Albuquerque once on a Route 66 road trip and I’m sad I missed this! Guess I’ll just have to go back. :)