Tea House Theatre

The Tea House Theatre on the edge of Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, resplendent in the sunshine.The Tea House Theatre is, as the name suggests, an old theatre (actually, it’s not, it’s an old pub) which serves tea (actually, it does; one out of two’s not bad). It’s somewhere I’ve been going, on-and-off, for the last year, and have always meant to write up for the Coffee Spot. I’ve just never had the excuse. Until now, that is.

During a recent visit by the esteemed Bristol Café Watcher to the fair city of London, I remembered one of Café Watcher’s rare faults: a penchant for drinking tea. I therefore decided upon the Tea House Theatre as the final destination of a day spent wandering around London in the sunshine. When it comes to tea, it doesn’t get better than this, with numerous (I ran out of fingers and toes while counting) loose-leaf tea offerings.

However, probably the most relevant thing about the Tea House Theatre, given that this is the Coffee Spot, is that it DOESN’T SERVE COFFEE! That’s right: after dallying with the “other stuff” in Cardiff, I’ve finally gone the whole hog and written about a place that only does tea. And superb cake. And food. But not coffee.

It’s lovely by the way.

September 2015: I’m delighted that the Tea House Theatre was short-listed for this year’s Lunch Business Awards Best Tea Experience.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • The Tea House Theatre, next to Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, as approached from Waterloo.
  • As seen from the Pleasure Gardens side.
  • The small outdoor seating area to the right.
  • The front in more detail: I loved the wheelbarrows!
  • Stepping inside, a panoramic view from the central double-doors.
  • One of the two-person tables by the windows. This is immediately to your right...
  • ... and next to another set of double-doors in the right-hand (Pleasure Gardens) corner.
  • To your left as you come in, another two two-person tables.
  • Next to these two tables is the first set of three armchairs.
  • I loved a lot of the little details, such as these three-tiered cake stands.
  • Another view of the three armchairs. What's that written on the wall?
  • I'm not sure I'd go that far! Coffee, maybe, but not tea! And he forgot the cake!
  • The three armchairs, again, this time in close-up.
  • There's a neat typewriter on the desk behind the chairs.
  • On the other side of the room, clustered about a (working?) fireplace are more armchairs.
  • The fireplace in detail.
  • Obligatory light-fitting (this one hangs from the centre of the ceiling).
  • The Tea House Theatre's biggest fan!
  • Where are we again?
  • Some of the many tables, seen from the front.
  • A panoramic view from the back.
  • One of the larger tables at the back.
  • The view from my table. I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with 'c'...
  • One of the best features is how the cakes share the tables with you...
  • ... calling out your name...
  • ... 'eat me, eat me' they say.
  • So the cakes don't get lonely towards the end of the day, they sometimes share a stand.
  • There was an awful lot of cake...
  • ... and a table dedicated to preserves.
  • I think I've found where the tea is kept!
  • My (huge) slice of honey & walnut cake. The butter cream was superb, but not too sweet.
  • Cafe Watcher's gluten-free chocolate brownie. Very rich & chocolaty. And HUGE!
  • Cafe Watcher also had tea. It's the little imperfections that make people so appealing.
  • From a previous visit with my friend Laura. No coffee? No problem: hot chocolate please!
  • My cake in detail.
  • Laura had tea. Note the little things: sugar tongs, a container to hold the strainer. Nice.
  • Laura and I cast our eyes over the nearby cakes...
  • And to prove it's not all sweet things, my vegetarian breakfast from last year with Keith.
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On the edge of Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, a few minutes’ walk from Vauxhall Station, I first discovered the Tea House Theatre courtesy of my friend Keith. We met there last summer, where I had an excellent vegetarian breakfast before watching England take on the Aussies at The Oval (note to coffee lovers: the coffee at The Oval is nowhere near as good as that at Lord’s). I was struck then by both how lovely the Tea House Theatre was and how there wasn’t any coffee…

The Tea House Theatre’s hard to miss, a detached, three-storey building with a handsome blue extension to the front which cuts a striking figure. To the right, there’s an outdoor seating area, which is very pleasant in the summer, given the absence of traffic on the nearby roads. Stepping inside, you are rewarded with a fabulous interior, rather like an overgrown lounge. In summer, with the sun streaming in through the windows, it’s a bright, airy space, while in winter, it’s warm, cosy and welcoming.

Two-person tables line the windows, ideal for people watching. Then comes a large, open space, where you can admire the wooden floorboards and numerous expansive rugs. Beyond this is an eclectic mix of tables, ranging in size from two- to eight-people. All are handsome, wooden affairs, with equally handsome chairs, and while the majority are rectangular, a couple are round for good measure. Best of all, tucked away in a corner to your left, is a set of three uber-comfortable armchairs, while to your right, around an old fireplace, is another set of three.

Right at the back is a small till/serving area where all the tea is kept, but you don’t really need to go there since the Tea House Theatre offers full table service. In an innovative feature, rather than keeping the cakes segregated from the customers on a table, trolley or behind a glass screen, they are allowed to mingle, each of the larger tables hosting a cake or two. Naturally, to preserve their modesty, each has its own (transparent) cake-cover.

A reasonable question, given my profound dislike of tea, is why I like the Tea House Theatre so much? Well, firstly, I admire places that do tea well. One of the first Coffee Spots was the aptly-named To A Tea and I’d always intended to write about Tea Rooms as well as coffee shops. Secondly, it’s a lovely place, with a wonderful, friendly, relaxed atmosphere; I just love the interior. Thirdly, the cakes really are quite something, while the food is pretty decent too. Anywhere with such a great cake selection (which come and sit on the tables with you) is always going to have my vote!

I asked Harry, the owner, as nice a man as you could ever want to meet, about the lack of coffee and he was quite upfront about it. He’d had coffee in the early days, but he found the aroma could be quite overpowering, particularly with the more delicate teas. Back then, he only did filter coffee and some customers were quite rude about the lack of espresso-with-milk drinks. In the end, he decided it was more trouble than it was worth, so out went the coffee. Our loss, coffee drinkers, our loss: it never pays to be rude.

139 VAUXHALL WALK • LONDON • SE11 5HL
www.teahousetheatre.co.uk +44 (0) 207 207 4585
Monday 08:00 – 20:00 Roaster N/A
Tuesday 08:00 – 20:00 Seating Tables, Armchairs, Tables (outside)
Wednesday 10:00 – 20:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake!
Thursday 08:00 – 20:00 Service Table
Friday 08:00 – 20:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 08:00 – 20:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 11:00 – 20:00 Power No
Chain No Visits 1st February, 3rd August 2014

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