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.
So, last Wednesday (a week ago today), I popped along to Four Corners on London’s Lower Marsh, ostensibly to celebrate its first birthday, which, naturally enough, was the day before. Let’s face it, celebrating first birthdays is commonplace, but who celebrates first and one day birthdays, eh? No-one, that’s who, and it’s about time that changed!
Being serious for a moment, while it was in my mind that Four Corners was one and one day old, the real reason for my visit was to catch up with my friend and fellow coffee-blogger, Kate (aka A Southern Belle in London) before she disappeared to the Americas for the summer. Four Corners was a convenient place to meet and I was keen to see what had changed since my first visit there last summer.
As it turned out, the answer was not a lot, Four Corners being much as I remember it from August last year. So much for this being an update! In fact, the major change I noticed was the absence of the roadworks directly out front, which plagued For Corners for the first few months of its life. Other than that, it was the same wonderful place!
As regular readers may have worked out, my contract didn’t get extended at the start of June, so consequently I haven’t been heading up to Paddington every Wednesday. This in turn means that I’ve been missing my weekly trips to Beany Green. I’m therefore very grateful to the good folks at Beany Green HQ (aka Daisy Green) who have opened a new branch on the South Bank just for me! Since it’s just a few minutes’ walk from Waterloo, I can now get my Beany Green/The Roasting Party fix whenever I come into London. How cool is that?
Tucked in beside the east stairway of the Hungerford Bridge and almost on top of the Look Mum No Hands Pop-up, Bean Green’s container looks like another pop-up operation, but don’t be fooled. I’ve been told that the new branch has a multi-year lease and will be here come rain or shine, fair weather or foul (ie a typical week of a British summer!).
If you’re familiar with Beany Green in Paddington, then this is like a miniature version, with all the same elements that make my ex-regular haunt such a wonderful place, including the mad (in a good way) staff.
You know it’s summer when the Look Mum No Hands! pop-up appears under Hungerford Bridge on London’s South Bank. So, on the second sunny Sunday in June, I took the train up to Waterloo, headed north to the river and then, eschewing my normal route, popped down under the bridge where Look Mum No Hands! is in its second year of operation.
Last year’s set-up was fairly impressive, but this year it’s been expanded, with a larger, more permanent seating area and a bigger caravan. This houses the espresso machine (which was in a separate trailer last time) and an array of craft beers, as well as soft drinks. There’s also cake, crisps, bananas and, new this year, the option of a ploughman’s platter.
Although I’ve termed Look Mum No Hands! a pop-up, that does it something of an injustice. With the expanded seating area and the fact it’s under the bridge, it has a pretty permanent feel to it. On all but the coldest days, treating it as a sit-down café is a viable (and, on a sunny day, a lovely) option. One downside is that the coffee is only served in takeaway cups, but you can’t have everything!
Despite the explosion of great places around the country, good Coffee Spots at railway stations are something of a rarity, so while on my way to visit (the now defunct) Bambino Coffee in Crystal Palace, I was delighted to chance upon Brown & Green. It’s a lovely little place, tucked into the corner of the equally lovely ticket hall, built back in the days when railway stations were architectural statements in themselves.
Brown & Green plays a couple of important roles. First of all, it’s a place to grab coffee on your way to catch the train. While the coffee won’t have third-wave purists purring with delight, it’s a distinct notch up from the average station fare. Secondly, it’s a (self-styled) coffee-and-brunch neighbourhood café which just happens to be located in a railway station. It’s in this capacity that I visited Brown & Green.
The brunch menu isn’t extensive, but it’s pretty decent and I was impressed. A word of warning though: just be aware that if you are coming for lunch/brunch, the kitchen closes at 14.30 (a perfectly respectable time if you ask me) after which there is only a limited food menu available.
London’s Lower Marsh is not the most appealing part of the capital. Even the name doesn’t conjure up particularly positive images. Lying behind Waterloo and not particularly on the way to anywhere, I’ve only recently become aware of it, despite Waterloo being my gateway to London for the past 15+ years. However, there it is and, in recent years, it has started to shed its poor image, becoming home to the likes of the Scooter Cafe [coming soon to the Coffee Spot, although I’ve been saying that for a year now!] and now, just across the road, to Four Corners Cafe.
Four Corners is, if you’ll excuse the pun, going places. Taking inspiration from the phrase “four corners of the world”, it’s a travel-themed Cafe, decorated with maps of the world and dotted with globes. Continuing the travel theme, its neat loyalty card is in the form of a miniature passport.
Not that this counts for much if the coffee is poor, but thankfully it’s not. As well as a decent coffee menu, powered by London Roasters, Ozone, Four Corners offers loose-leaf tea from Yumchaa and a small range of toasted sandwiches and pastries to die for (according to fellow coffee-blogger, Kate, aka A Southern Belle in London) from a bakers just around the corner.
In another new venture for the Saturday Supplement, I present the first ever Saturday Short. Saturday Shorts are Coffee Spots in their own right, but for which I can’t justify a full write-up.
This first Saturday Short comes courtesy of Look Mum No Hands!, something of a legend on the London coffee scene, if only for its interesting name (it’s up there with Bristol’s Didn’t You Do Well in those stakes). I’ve long wanted to try it out, but have never had the time/reason/excuse.
So, imagine my surprise and delight when, on a whim, I decided to walk across the Hungerford Bridge (which connects Waterloo and Charing Cross Stations) on the Parliament rather than the St Paul’s side. Cutting across to the other side of the bridge I spotted an interesting-looking coffee stall nestling under the bridge itself… And the rest, as they say, is history…
Originally, this was going to be a post about the Real Food Market at the South Bank Centre, London. It was going to feature, among others, the Bean About Town coffee cart, but then I got to talking with Claire, the wonderful French lady who runs the cart, and slowly the focus changed… When she produced an exquisite single espresso, poured into a proper, china cup, I was sold.
Standing by a Citroën H van in all weathers might not be everybody’s idea of the perfect coffee spot. It certainly doesn’t tick the laptop friendly box. But when it comes to sheer coffee passion, then you’re going to have to go a long way to beat Claire and her Bean About Town coffee cart. And she makes damn good coffee too. Being outside and exposed to the elements might provide some with reason to compromise, but not Claire. If you are around the South Bank on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, then pay her a visit and you won’t be disappointed.
June 2017: Bean About Town’s owner sold up at the end of 2016, but the Citroën H van and Claire are still going strong, operating as For the Good of the People Coffee.