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.
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.
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.
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!
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!