Very vintage with only the faintest hint of kitsch, Soho’s Secret Tearoom brings a great atmosphere, excellent cakes and some very nice cups of tea to Soho.
Located above the famous Coach and Horses on Greek Street, Soho’s Secret Tearoom is relatively true to its word, with the entrance taking you through the bar, up some creaky old stairs and into a room that still plays host to Private Eye’s long boozy lunches. But don’t let that put you off. It’s a little room that’s full of charm and character, and just about the antithesis of the contrived faux-vintage you’re likely to encounter further East. It’s full of doilies, Victorian gilt mirrors, chintz, creaking floorboards and cake stands, ensuring everything feels nicely authentic. There’s plenty of light streaming in through large windows, the staff are dressed quite the dapper or flapper part and the only things likely to prevent you from getting completely swept up in the charm of it all are the frightening pictures of Ian Hislop grinning down from up on high. Avert thine eyes, children.
The fact that it’s not in Hackney means that Soho’s Secret Tearoom can be pleasantly inclusive, so don’t feel like you need to don a headscarf and brogues to fit in. The fact that it is in Soho, however, means you can expect to see a pretty diverse clientele, so look for ladies lunching after a matinee, media types getting in on the act and tourists seeking out one of those slices of Great Britain that only really exist in their preconceptions. There’s a suitably pleasant atmosphere though, with the general hubbub of happy conversation interspersed by the sounds of swing from the original gramophone tucked away in the corner.
Very well priced and with everything homemade, the bits and bobs to eat at Soho’s Secret Tearoom are worth the trip alone. From a round of sandwiches (crusts off, of course) at just £2.95 for six little quarters of either cucumber, egg and cress or smoked salmon and cream cheese, to incredibly good, warm scones (£3.50) served with homemade jams and clotted cream, everything is impressive, not least for the friendly prices. The sponges and fruitcakes (from £2.95) look the part too, with a definite hint of the W.I. about them, whilst the cupcakes come from an independent bakery down the road, so look that little bit prettier, just as cupcakes should.
Sixteen different teas are available, all served from the pot and by the leaf, so get ready for the possibly novel act of pouring through a strainer – teabags are so uncouth, don’t you know. There is a reason why leaves are used though, primarily for the fact that they taste far superior. You can enjoy a veritable exploration into the world of tea, from the surprisingly sweet English Breakfast (no need for milk), the strangely enjoyable Gen Mai Cha (filled out and flavoured with toasted rice), the delicate and refreshing Ying Zhen (made from leaves picked at dawn on just two days of the year) and the calming, sweet chamomile (all the way from Egypt), to the peppermint (far superior to the comparatively tasteless bag) and the very strange, very smoky China Lapsang Osprey (with leaves smoked over wood chippings). You’ll leave wanting to sample all those you didn’t get round to trying.
The Last Word
Excellent teas, an authentic atmosphere and some very indulgent bites to eat make this place certainly worth heading to. Thank god it’s not very secret at all.