Author Archives: Julia Thacker

About Julia Thacker

Comedic novelist, committed bibliophile, afternoon tea blogger, walking personality disorder. Spoiling a good view since 1987 and other mental meanderings.

Scones in Another City: A Glorious Glutton’s Guide to Café Culture in Prague (part 3)

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Welcome back, dear reader. Proving that you can never have too much of a good thing (they say less is more but I say imagine how much more MORE would be. If anyone knows where that line comes from I will send you either an imaginary goldfish or a chimerical coconut, unless the latter is a new-wave band from the 1980’s, then I retract the offer as they are probably busy with a revival tour on the Butlins circuit. Where were we? Oh, yes…) we are back with more delights from the cafés, bars and tearooms that grace this fabulous city. We have so much time and so little to see (Strike that. Reverse it. Thank you) so let me take you on a culinary tour that promises to be a feast for all the senses, though mainly for the eyes. The scratch and sniff lickable wallpaper version of SITC won’t be ready till at least 2025 ☕

*****

Y Bistro Cafe (Vyšehrad)

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Grog 120 czk / Local Pie 65 czk – Hot tea with rum to warm the cockles and a rather lovely slice of raspberry fruit flan. Fortifying myself for a trek to the top of Prague’s historic fort on a particularly bracing autumnal morning (a.k.a. the icy wind is making my ears ache.)

Café Melvin (Pohořelec 147/8)

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A charming place to shelter from the rain on the doorstep of Prague castle. There are vintage typewriters, an old well carved into the ground (I’m choosing the romantic option here. It could easily be ye olde septic tank) and stone walls suggestive of an ancient crypt or medieval torture chamber. I hope it was the latter

Žižkovská televizní věž (Mahlerovy Sady 1)

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Pistachio dessert 145 czk / China Gunpower tea 75ckz / Winter-Fresh Mocktail 115 ckz – The television tower is one of my favourite landmarks in Prague. Adorned with frightening faceless babies that are the worst fallopian-based nightmare you have ever woke up screaming from, the structure is home to a viewing platform (roughly £10 without tea. Seriously, why would you do this?), a café/bar/restaurant with virtually the same view that is completely free to visit (why isn’t everyone doing this?) and a one-room hotel that seems to be vacant for the next…well, forever. As my purpose is to eat everywhere at every altitude I opt to invest what fools my fellow travellers would spend on the observation deck into food and beverages of vastly conflicting temperatures. The dessert is a buttercream concoction that ultimately looks much better than it tastes, and the rhubarb mocktail would benefit from not having half an ice field tipped into it, but it is still a pretty special place to visit and the views are glorious. Rumour has it that on a clear day you can just about see the ground. I have yet to verify this

GastroBar 1402 (Michalská 29)

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Tea with citrus 90 czk – Did the artist responsible for the mural never stop to wonder how the cyclist could peddle his Penny-farthing through the Vltava? Also, is that cucumber strapped to the flying walnut symbolic of something?

Kavárna Obecní dům

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Hazelnut cake 120 czk / Algeria coffee with Eggnog: 100 czk / Loose leaf teas: 66 czk – A paradise for those with an appreciation of Art Nouveau, the stunning Municipal House is home to a number of beautiful cafés and restaurants including this opulent dining room complete with marble relief fountains, gilded chandeliers and a dessert trolley circling like the Childcatcher’s wagon to trap the weak-willed and piggish. If you time your visit right you can cuddle up with your coffee and listen to the pianist play tunes from the Cole Porter songbook or the Amélie soundtrack. Or you can ignore him and your surroundings completely by plugging yourself into a Smartphone and playing a game involving the chopping of digital carrots like the man did on the table next to mine. Actually, they might have been parsnips. Or courgettes. Or human fingers. Oh well, whatever lights your candle

Francouzská Restaurace Art Nouveau

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Cake of the day with tea or coffee 180 czk – Another stunning restaurant located within Municipal House, I would advise grabbing a table, taking a lot of books and settling in for a long wait to get the staff to notice you. Then after you are half-way through ‘The Book Thief’ they might deign to take your order. Then after you’ve finished that and started on Orwell they might lower themselves to bring you your dessert. Then if you’ve humbled yourself long enough they might condescend to bring you the bill, and just before closing time they might demean themselves to accept your money in lieu of payment, though they will not stoop so low as to deliver any of your change. That is a level of degradation they definitely will not sink to. Still, the teapot was nice

Kavárna – Cukrárna Elvíra (Zelena 744)

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A pretty café featuring a host of lovely cakes and possibly the world’s cutest and best behaved dog (he sat still the entire time we were there. Actually, come to think of it, he moved so little I’m beginning to think he might have been stuffed, in which case it’s all gone a bit Bates Motel-ish). I also like how the bathrooms are distinguished with a man’s brogue/women’s Stiletto nailed to the appropriate door, the only practical use I have ever found for a shoe with a Stiletto heel

Cafe Slavia (Smetanovo nábř)

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Tequila Sunrise & Bloody Mary 125 czk each / Coffee with Absinthe 99 czk – Host to lots of famous Czech people I hadn’t heard of even after I’d been told who they were, this is possibly the most famous and illustrious café in the city. I can’t say it is the most charming place I have visited as it is quite large and rather impersonal, but the cocktails are good and the concept of Absinthe in coffee if one I’m happy to get on board with

Grand Café Orient (Ovocný trh 19)

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Not to be confused with the cafe on the ground floor (more for people not interested in grappling with stairs) The Grand Cafe Orient is said to be the only Cubist cafe to exist anywhere in the world. For those not sure what that means imagine being on the set of Agatha Christie’s ‘Poirot’ during David Suchet’s tenure as the eponymous detective (Technically Cubism and Art Deco have nothing to do with each another but they retain similar patterns and designs and I’m not advanced enough to tell the difference. I only came in for tea and to use the toilet). Despite my architectural ignorance I do love the symmetry and style and the way the upholstery matches the Absinthe. That to me shows a level of planning I will never be capable of

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Kubisticky venecek 58 czk – A custard-filled donut given a Cubist make-over. Lovely stuff

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Algerian coffee with egg liquer 85 czk – Bliss

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Traditonal little Czech cake 45 czk – shortbeard with whipped cream and cocoa powder. I’ve tasted worse, but I have also tasted far better

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Absinthe 95 czk – “The drink that makes you want to kill yourself instantly” – Bernard L Black

The Grand Mark – Le Grill (Hybernska 12)

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Afternoon tea 590 czk – I’ve failed, people! With the mention of afternoon tea it seemed so likely that scones would be putting in a long-awaited appearance, justifying the name of this blog which is getting less and less niche with every post. Sadly it was not to be. Instead of scones I can only offer little squares of cake, Chlebicky and rather unspired sandwiches that taste like they have been sitting on a stand in warm weather for too long. There was also meant to be a picture of the resident peacock that wanders around the garden but he ducked under a table before I could capture him for posterity. I tried to tease him out with salami but he was having none of it. A crushing blow

And so this leg of our Czech tea trail comes to an end. We will be venturing back to Prague one last time before heading on to pastries new in the next few weeks, so till next time, folks xx

All prices/information correct as of October 2019

Feel free to share stories, views and tips in the comments section below. Always fun to hear from fellow teaholics xx

Scones in Another City: A Glorious Glutton’s Guide to Café Culture in Prague (part 2)

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Hello again, folks. We here at SITC (a.k.a. me, your intrepid guide and gastro-nerd) are continuing our exploration of the Czech capital one Makový koláček at a time. For the next couple of posts we will be focusing on Prague’s thriving café culture, exploring some of the most popular and delightful spots in which to marvel at Marlenka and bask in the perfect brew. Bottoms up! ☕

*****

Café Louvre (Národní 22)

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Possibly my favourite café in Prague, any establishment that can boast a clientele that included Einstein and leaves pencils and paper on the tables for diners to record their thoughts is alright by me (and by thoughts I mean profound ideas that shape literature and inspire nations, not games of Hangman or doodles of man bits and mammaries). Yes, it’s noisy and the first thing you encounter on ascending the stairs is a gift shop, but there is a jovial atmosphere and the food is plentiful and of good quality. It also helps that the waiters don’t all look like they wish you’d flush yourself down the nearest toilet rather than talk to them. For the Czech Republic that is high praise indeed

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Chicken in Peppercorn Sauce with home-made Spätzle 219 czk – A perfectly cooked breast of chicken with a pasta/noodle/dumpling/gnocchi ball, just in case you were planning to climb Everest and needed to stock up on a month’s worth of carbs

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Large Beef Goulash with Carlsbad Dumplings 229 czk – Tender chunks of beef marinating in a thick beef broth. The combination of the dumplings and the broth is magnificent. Without doubt my favourite meal to eat whilst in Prague. One day I hope to demolish all of those dumplings as currently my record stands at four and a half before hitting a starch wall. Some dreams just can’t be realised

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Apple Strudel 79 czk – An adequate dessert lacking the currants and cinnamon to make it truly memorable

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Mini Dessert Plate 149 czk – Tastes just as good as it looks

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Fresh Orange Juice with Strawberries 71 czk – One glass is never enough. The kiwi and banana option is also wonderful

Cafe at the Museuem of Alchemists & Magicians (Jánský vršek 8)

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Just across the courtyard from the Museum of Crackpots Alchemists, this is as close as you’re likely to come to finding a real-life replica of the potions classroom from Hogwarts

Kaldi (Vyšehradská 429/37)

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A lovely slice of spinach quiche and the kind of smooth, milky Cappuccino that could turn a dedicated teaholic over to the dark side

Leli’s Cupcakes (Vyšehradská 1446/53)

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Fruit tea 45 czk – Offering a lovely collection of reasonably priced cupcakes, I’m afraid I was only able to sigh and gaze longingly through the glass as there simply wasn’t enough room in my stomach for more treats. The café also has a great selection of toys for your munchkins to play with, making this that most frightening of places for the lone epicurean to visit: a family friendly hang-out (shudder)

Globe Bookstore & Café (Pštrossova 1925/6)

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Mexican Coffee with Kahlua 85 czk – The first English language bookshop established in Prague in 1993, you can overfill your hand luggage with Umberto Eco books (if you’re in Prague and decide to purchase Eco’s ‘The Prague Cemetery’ to suit your location be warned that almost none of it actually takes place in Prague. Instead, treat yourself to ‘Me, Myself and Prague’ by Rachael Weiss. All the Prague you can shake a Trdelník at. You’re welcome), use their free wi-fi, play a board game (they have ‘Countdown’, though no ten-foot clock or Suzie Dent in Dictionary Corner, so good luck with that), charge your various electrical devices and kick back in the characterful if draughty café for a cocktail or liqueur coffee. How good is the coffee with Kahlúa? I didn’t even bother to sip it to make it last longer. I downed it within two minutes and immediately ordered another

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Hot Pear Juice 49 czk / Stuffed Rolls 38 czk per portion – Favoured by bohemians and students trying to make a pint of beer last an entire semester, this cosy nook just off the tourist trail is warm and inviting with rustic interiors and a lovely ambience. I recommend a small salami roll to nibble on and a mug of piping hot pear juice (or two mugs. Or three, even. We’re on tour, folks! Do you think Keith Richards counts how many drinks he’s had when the Stones are wheeled out on tour? ‘Course not. You don’t get to looking like an empty walnut shell through moderation. Line ’em up and glug ’em down!)

Cafe Ebel (Řetězová 9)

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Ginger Tea & Chocolates 115 czk – Despite appearances I haven’t been served a cup of hot water. The ginger is hidden inside the pot. A cramped, rather echoey place with a number of marks and cracks defacing the mismatched crockery, Cafe Ebel is too cold and lacking in atmosphere for my taste, but the collection of cakes look nice and the pistachio truffles are a real treat

Pauseteria (U Radnice 11/4)

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English Breakfast Tea 89 czk – A trendy coffee shop just off Old Town Square, it is best to order a fruit tea or a drink that doesn’t come with too many different components. Waiting nearly ten minutes for a jug of milk when there are three baristas kicking their heels before closing time makes me want to claim back the 5 czk I left as a tip when they forgot to give me my change  

Kavarna Lucerna (Vodickova 36)

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Green Tea with Citron Tart 109 ckz – With views overlooking a man riding an upside down horse (a statue, obviously. In real life his bottom would be shoved against the horse’s… well, let’s not linger on that image too long), this classy café forms part of the glorious Kino cinema and is adorned with monochrome photos of Czech actors and actresses I’ve never heard of. The perfect place for caking-loving cinephile teaholics everywhere

Rainbow’s End Café & Art Garden (Mostecká 14)

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Ham & Cheese Quesadilla 119 czk / Caramel Walnut Pie 99 czk – Located just down from the Charles Bridge, this easy-to-miss gem is a hidden oasis right in the heart of the city. Wander down the enclosed alleyway and you are greeted by a gorgeous courtyard and lured in with the promise of cakes and tea and soupy substances. I opted for a lovely Quesadilla oozing gooey melted cheese (though a blob of guacamole would have elevated this from good to knockout status) and a mighty fine slice of caramel walnut pie, a dessert so good that I came back for seconds a few days later. A wonderful, wonderful place

That’s all for this week, folks. Be sure to pop back soon for more Prague food porn as we continue to devour our way across the capital. Till next time xx

All prices/information correct as of October 2019

Feel free to share stories, views and tips in the comments section below. Always fun to hear from fellow teaholics xx

Scones in Another City: A Glorious Glutton’s Guide to Prague (part 1)

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Dobrý den folks. Scones in the City is back on tour. Yes, the news that no one was waiting for (though stats indicate I’m developing a cult following in Albania. As you also took Norman Wisdom to your bosom you clearly have unusual tastes), we are visiting the Czech capital for more food adventures as I continue to gormandise the globe in my own erratic, befuddled fashion. To keep things moving at a nice pace (we have two weeks of foodie business to take care of and my attention span is only so long) we will be heavy on the visuals and a little lighter on the text, so expect a plethora of pithy reviews and all the food porn you can lust over. All prices are given in Czech Crowns so if you feel the need to calculate in Dollars, Pounds, Belarusian Rubles etc. you can give Google something to do that doesn’t involve typing in half heard song lyrics from car ads hoping it’ll tell you the name of the band singing it (it’s First Aid Kit, by the way. It’s always First Aid Kit). Welcome to Prague, folks. May the Kulajda flow like water and the Trdelníks be tossed into a skip. Užívat si! 🍭

*****

Sova (Balbínova 392/4)

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Pumpkin Soup with Mushrooms and Feta: 80 czk – Warm and creamy with a pleasant kick of crumbly feta

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Beef Tartar 180 czk – Delicious ground beef with herbs and inedible toasted shrapnel

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Turkey Fillet with Apple-Celery Mousse: 255 czk – A Christmas dinner in October! Well-cooked but bland meat served with rock-hard carrots, peas and sweet potato puree, which as we all know is the work of the devil. Not bad as such. Just not very interesting

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Dark Beer Ice Cream with Buckwheat Mousse 115 czk – Presented as though hoping to win a prize at a science fair this concoction is… well, lets be kind and say it has a unique taste. Maybe if I knew, understood or liked beer this would hold greater appeal, but watching the ice cream melt into a bitter alcoholic sludge did not make for a fun culinary experience. Oh well, two good dishes out of four isn’t bad

Perníkový panáček (Malá Strana)

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A cute cookie shop with imaginatively designed biscuits and the most amazing aroma as products are freshly baked on the premises. I just wished that the gingerbread men actually tasted like gingerbread and not like… well, like not very much, really. Visually arresting but lacking in taste and flavour

Chilli Point (Havelská 8)

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Crème Brûlée with Naga Jolokia Chillies 180 czk – Served with marinated apples, ginger ice cream, blackberries and lemon grass, this lovely dessert comes courtesy of Chilli Point, a restaurant devoted to putting chillies into food where chillies aren’t usually required. As I could happily eat chillies all day until they burnt a hole through my intestines this was a treat, though the presence of the Naga Jolokia chillies wasn’t as fiery as I had hoped for. Still, a beautiful creation

Café Savoy (Vítězná 124/5)

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Savoy Fruit Dumplings 258 czk – I know what you’re thinking. ‘Ahhhhhhhh, ‘ickle cute fruit dumplings. I bet they are delicious’. This was what I thought when they were brought to the table, and admittedly they do look enticing, but do not be fooled! These are balls of concentrated foulness. The fruit is bitter, the dumplings themselves are rubbery and the curds and cottage cheese are unpleasant to the extreme. I honestly have no idea if this was meant to be a savoury dish or a dessert. It exists in some culinary netherworld where it succeeds in fulfilling neither criteria. In short, bloody horrible. In the interest of fairness however I should point out that the green tea I used to swish around my mouth was lovely and the wooden interior of the cafe is stunning. They just need to sack the chef who spewed this out of the serving hatch

Petrin Hill

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A glass of green tea overlooking Prague Castle. When it became acceptable to serve boiling hot beverages in drinking vessels without handles I’m not sure. Maybe they just ran out of cups

Cafe Re:public (Petřínské sady 633)

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Hot Wine 79 czk / Green Tea with Honey 69 czk – I have to be honest here, folks; after a couple of glasses of mulled wine I’ve completely lost the ability to think, write or create an impartial review on this place without giggling (it took me three minutes to spell ‘impartial’, for heaven’s sake. My brain is clearly turning into a wine-sodden mulch) The cafe itself is located at the top of Petrin Hill, just behind the mini Eiffel Tower/radio mast/ugly pylon tourists inexplicably flock to (I paid to go in so I’m allowed to say that it is the type of afterthought knock-off Lidi would create if it was to move away from crap tinned ravioli and branch out into crap construction). The cafe is lively and the views are nice but it is the hot wine that is so… so… er, I just need to sit down a moment till the floor stops rippling. Every’fing all lovely an’ lovely Prague an’ great wine and feelin’ sleepy now…

Café Club Míšeňská (Misenska 71/3)

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Grog (hot water with rum) 65 czk – Want to know the best way to not feel bad after drinking alcohol? Keep drinking! I do love Lotus biscuits. Wouldn’t touch them if I kept a box at home but it is always nice to feel that you’re getting something for free

Apple Museum Cafe (Husova 21)

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Tea 59 czk – If anyone thought the idea of a underpants museum in Brussels was pointless, the idea of a museum devoted to Apple must rank as the most depressing. Pants, after all, are funny. Even the word ‘pants’ is funny. The idea of pants worn by famous Belgians stuck on a wall is funnier still. There is nothing funny about Apple. A museum about Steve Job’s journey from a selfish titamaboob into a rich selfish titamaboob is frankly off-putting by dint of its very existence (unless the admission fee goes towards backdated child support to the daughter he denied fathering. If so, keep that display case of Apple Pippin’s in good order). Anyway, I couldn’t be bothered to visit the musuem but I did drop by the cafe to soak up the non-existent atmosphere and to sit awkwardly in the grim courtyard at the back. The tea – perhaps unsurprisingly – is terrible, and because they’ve clearly put thought into the ethical nature of the products sold (lots of vegan smoothies on the menu, a strange selling point as all smoothies are vegan in essence. It’s very hard to find one with a hint of black pudding, that’s for sure) they don’t burden you with a cardboard sleeve so you can hold your take away cup properly. I imagine if I’d asked they would have claimed it was to cut down on waste and reduce carbon footprints. I would suggest that cutting off the electrical supply and closing the place forever would help the planet enormously

Four Seasons Hotel (Veleslavínova 1098/2a)

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Assorted Cookies & Macaroons 120 czk / Lemon Verbena Tea 175 czk – The technical name for this tea is the “Life and Beauty” herbal infusion. Considering this is about £6.50 in English money I would expect everlasting life, flawless beauty and all the miniature pots of honey I could squirrel away in my tote bag. The biscuits aren’t worth the money but the lounge is comfortable and there is free Wi-fi, so you can sit in clinical splendour to update FB and listen to English pensioner’s bemoan the large influx of tourists as though they themselves haven’t just floated in on a Viking River Cruise

Dancing House (Jiráskovo nám 1981/6)

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This is beer. I had to buy it so I could get onto the viewing platform at the top of the Dancing House. I should have brought a smoothie. That’s as enthusiastic as this review is going to get

Be sure to pop back soon when there will be more posts from the city of a hundred fake cannabis shops. Till next time, folks xx

All prices/information correct as of October 2019

Feel free to share stories, views and tips in the comments section below. Always fun to hear from fellow teaholics xx

Oh, You Little Teas! Fatboy’s Diner review – Trinity Buoy Wharf

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Fatboy’s Diner

Trinity Buoy Wharf
64 Orchard Place
E14 0JW
Tel: 07950 943402
https://www.fatboysdiner.co.uk
Maple Mess Pancakes: £7.50*
Passion Storm Smoothie: £3.50*

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Today’s post comes from Fatboy’s Diner at Trinity Buoy Wharf. For those not in the know – and I wasn’t – this area was once home to London’s shipbuilders, the ghosts of which linger in the area undergoing regeneration so that noble trades can be replaced by smug Espresso joints, galleries specialising in bits of metal in the shape of a duck and apartments that only those involved in drug trafficking can possibly afford. Initially I found the area rather depressing, as though frivolity had replaced the hard work and world-conquering technology on which an empire had once flourished. Then I remembered that our decline came long before hipsters and babyccinos, and at least we were no longer marching into countries demanding tiffin and all their natural resources, so that brief burst of patriotism lasted as long as it took to read the dessert menu. Just as well really. This is, after all, a food blog, not a Jeremy Paxman documentary analysing why Britain has only produced Ed Sheeran and Reggae Reggae Sauce in the last twenty years.

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And so I head to Fatboy’s, eager for old school Americana of the Norman Rockwell / American Graffiti variety, nostalgic for a culture I wasn’t born into, have no links to and which I suspect only ever existed in episodes of Happy Days. Firstly, I need to point out that Fatboy’s isn’t exactly the easiest place to get to. This has less to do with its location as it is to do with Google Maps instructing me down a dual carriageway nowhere near my destination once I hit Canning Town. But I persevered, and despite some initial misgivings (squashed food on the floor; menus flying around whenever a gust of wind came through the door; Del Shannon stuck awkwardly between TLC and Duran Duran on a genre-confused playlist etc.) I really liked it.

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Brought over from Georgetown, Massachusetts, the trailer is exactly what the mind conjures when picturing a typical American diner, complete with ripped leather stools, tiled booths and the sizzle of bangers and burgers frying on a griddle. I sat at the counter so I could watch all the hot buns and beef action and take pictures of pancake batter bubbling and blistering into existence (a word of caution for vegetarians: all the food is prepared on a single griddle given a cursory scrape with a spatula, so if you think fruity pancakes are a good alternative to the multitude of meat on the menu, the chances are they will have been partially coated in beef fat and bacon grease before they reach you).

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I opted for a mug of builders tea and the “Maple Mess” pancakes, complete with maple syrup, crispy streaky bacon and…er, whipped cream. If it seems like a weird combination you can always opted for ice cream instead, but somehow the idea of hot smoky bacon and freezing cold ice cream doesn’t hold much appeal, no matter what Heston Blumenthal might say to the contrary. The pancakes – roughly the size of four small side plates – are fluffy, light and utterly perfect, while the combination of bacon, syrup and cream works surprisingly well.

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If I have one complaint it is that one tiny container of maple syrup simply isn’t enough for the job at hand. In all my experience with pancakes (and the quest for the perfect stack has been trundling on for more years then my waist cares to remember) you rarely get the 2 litre jug of syrup required to drench the things adequately, and when you’re reduced to pouring little puddles onto the side of the plate so it isn’t instantly absorbed into the pancakes you lose most of the taste and a lot of the fun. Fortunately I am incredibly cheeky and not overly concerned with the state of my teeth, so it wasn’t long before I was pestering the waiter for extra containers and dousing the plate in a sea of syrup. For balance I also ordered a “Passion Storm” smoothie, loaded with papaya, pineapple, peaches and other healthy things beginning with ‘P’ to keep the alliterative rhythm flowing. All in all, a fun place with good food and a great atmosphere. And now, time for a song: Sunday, Monday, happy days; Tuesday, Wednesday, happy days…

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*Prices/information correct as of 19.10.19

Feel free to share stories, views and tips in the comments section below. Always fun to hear from fellow teaholics xx

Oh, You Little Teas! Peggy Porschen review – Belgravia

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Peggy Porschen

116 Ebury Street
Belgravia
SW1W 9QQ
Tel: 020 7730 1316
http://www.peggyporschen.com
Blackberry Crumble Cupcake: £5.95*
Hot Chocolate: £4.75*
Green Tea: £3.50*

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Welcome to Peggy Porschen, the girly cake cavern in the heart of Belgravia. According to Vanity Fair (and vanity is displayed here more than the cakes are) Peggy P knocks out the best cupcakes in the history of anything ever. Quite a claim. Tell me, Vanity Fair scrivners: have you ever made a batch of Tom and Jerry fairycakes with edible character wafers and chocolate chips brought from the bakery aisle in Tesco? No? Well, I have, and once you add a cherry and a squirt of Jif lemon we’re talking some seriously sensational sweets.

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Anyway, I’m here to try a cupcake in my role as blogger/critic/glutton/cake connoisseur and nothing is going to stop me, even the creeping sensation that I have walked into a posing, preening, selfie-seeking melee of overly made-up women decked out in their Sunday best posing with a cake as though sponge and frosting is a sign of having made your mark in the world. Eating cake is not a sign that you are a success that others should seek to emulate. Eating cake is a sign that you like cake. Or it should be. Looking at those seated outside as I queued for a table I didn’t see that much eating going on. Instead I saw people using their phone; and people taking selfies; and people taking group selfies; and people asking the waiting staff to take photos of them; and people taking pictures of the doorway and the decorative toadstools adorning the walls and the cups and the teapots and what their Chanel sunglasses would look like placed on a plate next to their vegan chocolate slice (answer: ridiculous). The cakes themselves could be made of plasticine and rubber sealant. The taste doesn’t seem to be a priority (there is a lot of cake left behind whenever guests leave a table, something that would normally ring alarm bells but which doesn’t surprise me in this context). What matters is being seen to be here, whether you actually like cake or not. I would suggest that sunglasses woman, pouty woman posing in the doorway and surgically-enhanced woman painting her oddly inflated lips couldn’t give two shiny shillings about sponge density or soggy cake bottoms. The desserts look nice, the place is popular with social media influencers and that’s about the end of it. This strikes me as strange, as whilst the cakes do indeed look pretty they don’t necessarily stand out in terms of their decoration. For example, Percy Ingles bakery on Bethnal Green road sells iced fingers with lapis blue icing. Now, I’m not saying that they are better than the cakes available in Peggy Porschen because I’m not a idiot and they actually look revolting, but they stand out on the basis that most cakes aren’t usually blue, yet these oddities aren’t cropping up on Time Out’s top ten places to eat cakes that resemble a science experiment gone wrong.

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So, Peggy Porschen is a posuers paradise. We get it, but what is the place like when it isn’t filled with women in ball gowns too scared of cellulite to risk doing anything as foolish as actually eat? Well, it is a pastel pink paradise designed to enchant the little girl hidden beneath the Lancôme and lashes of big girls everywhere (I don’t mean to imply that men won’t get anything out of the experience but the atmosphere is definitely geared towards a more feminine clientele). And what do the cakes taste like, I hear you moan. Well, I’ll tell you. They taste… well, lovely. Yes, it would be easy to dismiss Peggy Porschen as a creation of social media sheep following a long established flock, but the truth is that the cupcake I had – a moist sponge filled with blackberries and jam and decorated with lightly flavoured cream cheese – was delightful. It isn’t the best I’ve ever tasted – the idea of it being the best in the world as espoused by Vanity Fair is the kind of hyperbole that few people actually take seriously, anymore than people would believe a quote on a poster that declared a new Will Ferrell film to be the funniest comedy of the year – but it is genuinely delicious and is made with great care and attention. The same can be said of the hot chocolate (if I’m not boucing off the walls with the most severe sugar rush after this I will consider the trip to have been a failure), beautiful to look at and perfectly rich and creamy. Again, it isn’t the best I’ve ever tasted but it is lovely and I couldn’t help but giggle childishly when it arrived surrounded by a heap of mini marshmallows.

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A special mention must also be given for their superb Chinese Yunnan green tea, a subtle, slightly smoky blend that finished off the experience just as Sinatra crooned about waking up in a city that never sleeps. As he had already sung about longing to stray forty minutes earlier I suspect that there is a cassette tape somewhere that needs to be turned over to side B, but as complaints go this is pretty non-existent. The desserts are lovely, the cafe is charming and the service is spot on. Just be sure to duck under the table whenever someone brings out a smartphone. You WILL end up as the ghost at the feast in their next Instagram post, and no one wants to be the strange grimacing head that can’t be cropped during resizing 🧁

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*Prices/information correct as of 13.10.19

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Oh, You Little Teas! Eggbreak review – Notting Hill

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Eggbreak

30 Uxbridge Street
Kensington
W8 7TA
Tel: 020 3535 8300
http://www.eggbreak.com
Turkish Eggs £12.00*
Crabcake with Proached Eggs £15.00*
Nutella French Toast £12.00*

20191012_155352~3A short post today from Eggbreak in the heart of Notting Hill (they say Kensington, I say Notting Hill. Tomato, tomahto). As the name suggests this is a cafe devoted to the humble egg and all its incarnations. It’s crowded, the bathrooms are roughly the size of the cupboard Harry Potter slept in under the Dursley’s staircase and you can expect a fair old wait for a table at the weekends (pre-booking is not an option, but at least you know that those smugly snaffling muffins in the warm probably suffered a similar fate before you), but the eggs are pretty darn good, especially when served atop crunchy golden crabcakes or poached besides a toastie oozing hot butter and melted cheese. I can also highly recommend the Nutella French toast with mascarpone and cornflakes, a treat so delicious that it almost made me forget the Christmas I spent fielding complaints about personalised Nutella jars that failed to reach there rightful owner with the correct sticker on the front (What do you mean our store has destroyed your Christmas? It cost £3.99, mate. You’re actually telling me that your Christmas was “devastated” because a jar of £3.99 chocolate spread didn’t arrive with some dope’s name stuck over the official label? You can’t be that stupid. No one could be that stupid and still get up each morning to put their pants on, you vacuous, insipid…)

Oh, er, apologies about that, folks. Seems I drifted off there for a moment. Awkward. Very… very akward. Er, any-eee-way, Eggbreak. Very…er, very good (author shuffles sheepishly away to scream into a cushion for a while…) 🍳

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*Prices/information correct as of 12.10.19

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Oh, You Little Teas! TWG Tea review – Leicester Square

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TWG Tea

48 Leicester Square
WC2H 7LT
Tel: 020 3972 0202
https://twgtea.com
Tarte Tatin: £7.00*
Passion Fruit Tea: £7.00*

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It was the use of the word ‘unctous’ that first caught my attention. Unctous is a term that doesn’t belong on a menu. Neither does ’emulsion’, ‘ethereal’ or ‘artisanal’ when used to describe a muffin. There are too many words (yep, I know. Pot, meet kettle) and none of those words make sense in this context. No one wants an unctous dessert. Unctous is a ugly word suggestive of ooze and slime and something vaguely medical that desperately needs to be lanced. Yet I am an intrepid foodie and am reaching a point where the more bizarre something sounds the more eager I am to try it. So Tarte Tatin with “unctous” caramel coulis I shall have, along with an oleaginous batch of blueberries, a smarmy smattering of strawberries and a Pecksniffian scoop of ice cream, accompanied by a pot of pretentious twaddle tea, if you’d be so kind (I took the liberty of photographing a particularly funny byline from the menu as exhibit A. If someone told me that they were responsible for a pudding created by “ethereal desires” I’d assume that they had just wanked into a pie).

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When the money runs out I think ‘Ethereal Desires’ will be my stripper name

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If you can get over the ridiculous wording, barn-like atmosphere, eye watering prices (I could snorkle in tea for a month with what a single pot here costs, and this was the least expensive option on the menu), a draft that envelopes your nether regions in an arctic wind and the sense that you were branded a naive tourist twonk the second you walked up the staircase, there is some fun to be had. The apple tart with ice cream (let’s call a spade a spade, shall we? Though if TWG had it’s way they would probably call a spade ‘an integral gardening implement plunging the emotional appetency of the mulch’) is really rather lovely. Basically it’s a splat of stewed apple slapped onto a biscuit base and encased in a dome of gelatinous, apple-flavoured gunk, and if that doesn’t sound as poetic as it appears on the menu then at least everyone knows what all those words mean when strung together to form a sentence (maybe they meant to write gelatinous but a dodgy autocorrect changed it to unctous by mistake, a bit like when my autocorrect writes ‘melon farmer’ when I want to write… er, well, nevermind) There is a scoop of tea-infused ice cream that works well with the apple and a smattering of berries and cream that looks and tastes very nice. In fact, for £7.00 I would say you actually do get your money’s worth, if stewed apples, digestive biscuits and jelly is your thing. The tea comes in a deceptively large teapot that they clearly don’t fill with enough water, thus providing tiny cups to fool you into thinking you’re consuming more than you really are, the music alternates wildly from ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head’ to the main aria from Madame Butterfly (think Glenn Close flicking the lights off and on in Fatal Attraction. You know, jolly, sing-along fun) and there is a code you need to ask for so that you can use the bathroom, because there is nothing classier than alerting the waiters to the fact that you need to evacuate your bowels imminently. I’m leaving now so I can go outside for a warm. Till next time, folks 🍏

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*Prices/information correct as of 06.10.19

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Oh, You Little Teas! – Melange Chocolate Shop & Café review – Peckham

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Melange Chocolate Shop & Café

2 Maxted Road
Peckham
SE15 4LL
Tel: 07722 650711
Milky hot chocolate with whipped cream: £3.50*

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I have made a pilgrimage to Peckham to pay a visit to Melange, a tiny chocolate shop/Café where the air is thick with the scent of cocoa and babies screech and squawk in that way they have that resembles knitting needles being stabbed repeatedly through your eardrums. There are babies everywhere. Babies in papooses; babies in buggies; babies in moses baskets; all poised to set off a ear-splitting shriek that will prompt the others to join in like a batch of defective Furbies from the 90’s. Clearly this is a family-oriented place, but as I have braved traffic jams, torrential rain and sodden shoes to get here I won’t let a little thing like deafness and a Miss Trunchbull-like aversion to other people’s progeny stop me from enjoying myself. And enjoy myself I do. It is a lovely place; a cosy nook hidden away from the madness of the high street that is warm and welcoming and utterly charming. From the gorgeous aroma of chocolate that hits you the moment you approach the entrance to the homely sitting area at the back, Melange feels like the kind of place Vianne Rocher would have opened if Joanne Harris had chosen to set Chocolat in South London rather than Lansquenet-sous-Tannes. I opt for a cup of milky hot chocolate with whipped cream, a smooth and malty creation that avoids the usual chocolate pitfalls of being either sickly sweet beyond belief or far too bitter to be palatable. I am in my element, and seeing the dedication that has gone into the store and into each cup of creamy chocolate is a delight. The free samples of chocolate over by the counter don’t let the side down either. A lovely way to spend a lazy Sunday. Happy weekend, teaholics ☕

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*Prices/information correct as of 29.09.19

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Oh, You Little Teas! – Basement Sate Dessert Restaurant review – Soho

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Basement Sate

8 Broadwick St
Soho
W1F 8HN
Tel: 02072873412
http://www.basementsate.com Peaches & Cream £7*

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Right, let’s start by getting the negatives out of the way. There are quite a few so bare with me, and as I’m leaving out the lack of Wi-Fi and the cacophony created by the barman brandishing a cocktail shaker that sounds as though it is filled with rocks and ball bearings that’s saying quite a lot. Firstly – and perhaps most distressingly – there is NO tea. Or coffee. Or hot chocolate. Or any drink that requires the use of a kettle (do they have a kettle in the staff area? They must do. Can I go in there, please? I promise I won’t ransack your Hobnobs). That for me is a very big negative, as my blood runs green with the amount of Twinnings, TeaPigs and Tetleys I sup on a hourly basis. What if I’m cold? Or a member of a latter-day temperance movement? Or a recovering alcoholic shoved off the wagon by a lack of hot water and tea bags? Hipster trendy twonks don’t think that Yorkshire tea is like sooooo yesterday, man, do they? (I don’t know how hipsters talk but I imagine it’s a cross between someone strung out on pot at Woodstock and someone stressing to a friend that their Nespresso pods haven’t been delivered on time) So, no hot beverages: big negative. Second negative, the options for soft drinks are… well, does anyone ever crave ginger beer or a tall glass of strawberry juice to such an extent that they represent the highlights of the soft drinks section of a menu? So, non-alcoholic drinks are a bit thin on the ground. Thirdly, it’s dark. Too-dark-to-read-the-menu dark. So dark that you have to use the light on your phone in order to read the thing, immediately ruining the candlelit atmosphere. We are talking dark. Right, so so far, so disgruntled. Then my dessert – Peaches and Cream – arrives, and I know that my skills as a amature photographer are going to be challenged. Try as I might, whether with flash on, flash off, candles in the background, candles in the foreground, candles to the left of them, candles to the right of them (rode the six hundred. Sorry, couldn’t help myself) every picture from every angle looks like it was taken down an abandoned mineshaft or… well, in a basement. To make matters worse, Diana Ross is singing about coming out as part of the disco soundtrack. Well, my bloody pictures won’t be coming out, Di, but thanks for not harping on about it!

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Normally in times of stress (yep, this is what I consider stressful. Sad, isn’t it?) I would kick back with a nice cup of tea, read for a few minutes and listen to something soothing on my Ipod, Sid Vicious murdering ‘My Way’, for instance, or ‘Vindaloo’ by Fat Les, but all of these options are currently unavailable, so I find myself in the strange position of trying to enjoy a beautiful looking dessert almost out of spite. ‘You better be good!’ I threaten telepathically, stabbing into what appears to be a peach but which is actually a ball of cream dusted orange to impersonate a peach. I am actually angry with a pudding! The adoption of the food blogger/Instragram mindset has clearly addled my brain. I can’t enjoy it because others won’t be able to see me enjoying it, and the post won’t work because the pictures will be naff and no one really wants to read this toss as a substitute for the fabulous pics I’m struggling to take. Then I realise something. It isn’t that I’m not enjoying it because I can’t capture it for posterity. I’m not enjoying it because the dessert consists of balls and dollops and splats of buttercream, and buttercream has always been the first thing I scrape of fairy cakes because the taste does nothing for me and I believe it to be the work of the devil (along with HP sauce and sweet potato mash). Thankfully there is a nice scattering of nuts and biscuits and a delicious scoop of peach sorbet to raise the spirits, but overall my feeling towards this particular experience can be expressed with one emoji: 🤨

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However, once I got over my aversion to any disco music that isn’t Bony M and got used to viewing the world through Stevie Wonder’s eyes, I recognised that Basement Sate is actually a pretty cool place to be. I like the low key exterior; the speakeasy vibe; the gentleman’s club furnishings. It’s a sit back and chill place; a bar that encourages lively chats and conversations, something that will come in handy when you’re coming back from the toilet as you’ll need to follow the braying voice of a companion in order to stumble blindly back to your table. I also like the presentation of the desserts as they are clearly made by creative people who want to impress with their innovative menu. The problem is that there isn’t much substance behind the creativity and taste is taking a backseat to the desire to make a blob of sickly cream look like a peach or a tree or a Orbital Sander. So, overall – and suffering the withdrawal symptoms from going a whole hour without a brew – the only comment that really does my feelings justice is a big, resounding meh. On the bright side, once I stumbled back up to street level and my eyes adjusted to natural light I found that my pictures weren’t such a car crash after all. Behold fake fruit in all its murky glory 🍑

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Feel free to share stories, views and tips in the comments section below. Always fun to hear from fellow teaholics xx

Oh, You Little Teas! – SAID Dal 1923 review– Soho

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SAID Dal 1923

41 Broadwick St
Soho
W1F 9QL
Tel: 02074371584
https://said.it/en/

Strawberries with choice of Chocolate: £9.00*

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Today we are paying a visit to SAID in Soho because… well, because I saw someone else had been and despite my protestations to the contrary it turns out that I am heavily influenced by hype. It wasn’t the reviews so much as the pictures; a vast collection of food porn ranging from chocolate-covered donuts to chocolate-covered waffles to cups of steaming hot chocolate sitting in pools of chocolate with more chocolate oozing downs the sides in a chocolatey flood of chocolatey goodness. To cut a long story short, there’s a lot of chocolate. And there’s a lot of people covered in chocolate. Namely me. I’ve got chocolate down my dress, under my fingernails, around my mouth and all over the table. Strawberries may be an aphrodisiac but not when juice and chocolate is dribbling down your chin and coating the tip of your nose (another reason I don’t share pictures of myself whilst eating, as all too often I look like I’ve fallen head first into a trough).

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I opted for milk chocolate-covered strawberries (dark and white chocolate options also available) as I hoped that the decadence of the chocolate would be offset by the healthiness of the strawberries and this is the best way of getting me to eat fruit voluntarily. At £9.00 for 11 strawberries I’m not going to pretend that this is even remotely reasonable, and the only comfort I could derive from the price was the hope that a bag of Godiva chocolate strawberries would probably cost more if I was ever inclined towards such things (I rarely am. My budget generally runs more to Jaffa Cakes and that’s perfectly fine with me). You are paying for an experience and the Instagram-friendly posts that such places inspire. I am sure the owners are aware of this, and that with such exposure comes an army of other snap-happy chocolate enthusiasts eager to capture a chocolate puddle congeal into a hardened chocolate splat before their zoom lenses, and as such the prices will go up and the need to keep tables turning over quickly will increase and others like myself will be left with a vaguely discontented feeling of having been sold a costly, not-as-unique-as-it-once-was photo op rather than a proper dining experience. This may be true (from my perspective at least. I’m sure others would argue differently but they aren’t here and even if they were it isn’t a debate worth having in the first place), but this doesn’t take away from the fact that the strawberries are lovely, the blackcurrant tea is refreshing, and the cafe itself is comfortable and really rather charming. It just isn’t the sort of place you can imagine ever needing to re-visit once you’ve taken your pictures and garnered the likes you’d hoped for on social media. London is full of places like this, and although I love exploring them and sampling what they have to offer, right now I do have the hallow feeling of being out £12 for something I didn’t know I wanted until someone I didn’t know in the blogosphere said it was amazing and not to be missed. It’s nice, it’s different, but can I honestly recommend that you should head here for anything other than novelty value and a blog post the way I did? Hmmm…🍓

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*Prices/information correct as of 15.09.19

Feel free to share stories, views and tips in the comments section below. Always fun to hear from fellow teaholics xx