Living Tea to Tea

We arrived here in London two days earlier than previously planned, and stayed those days in a tiny hotel room in Southwark.

Turns out we like Southwark.

Day one Lady Devotea was not overly well, and after we had settled in, I went in search of a chemist to procure some cold remedies. I also had on my agenda sorting out our mobile phones.

Turns out Monday was what we call a public holiday, but they call a Bank Holiday here. As though banks are something special.

So, everything was shut. No chemist, no mobile phone.

By dinner time, the irrepressible Lady D had rallied and we went in search of sustenance. We found Vapiano, a place that works a little differently. Each diner gets this swipe card and whatever you go up and order is registered against it. Great idea.

Apart from a small but important whinge – their Caesar Salad (a) has no egg and (b) therefore is not a Caesar Salad and (c) the staff member I quizzed about it was witless and lacking in service skills – the food was excellent. Lady D had the Insalata Nizzi – a salad with an egg on it. I ordered a small salad and we shared – which means I mainly devoured – a superb pizza with just a brilliant crust, light and salty tomato sauce and a few bits of salami.

AND LO! There was loose leaf tea, and all was good.

The tea and coffee attendant was Polish, and even though she couldn’t understand “the Darjeeling, the Second Flush Blatt” she just asked me to get it off the shelf myself. They had about 9 options from memory.

The tea was good, though I believe I removed the infuser basket a little late, as I had gone in search of the gents and found it to be about three tube stops away via nine rooms, three halls, a flight of stairs and a mock Victorian dressing room.

It was a really nice place, well done, but a little impersonal, as contrasted to Cafe Diana, which I’ll mention in my next post.

We returned and I slept nine hours, which is two night’s sleep.  A little catching up after all that lazing about in Menorca, which can be so tiring, Darling.

The next day dawned and once again I celebrated my good fortune to be carrying seven teas, so that I did not need to even leave the hotel room to enjoy first class tea.

After spending the morning doing what we needed to do – yes, Boots and Vodaphone – we wound up at TEA – that’s the place who made us the best cup of tea in all of England in 2007. We sat there looking at St Pauls, Lady D ordered a Darjeeling Second Flush and I went the Bohea Souchong. Both were pre-steeped and served in a pot – the Darjeeling a tad oversteeped, the Bohea was a tad simplistic for my tastes. It must be said the guy serving there was quite abrupt.

So, sitting outside and sipping, I managed to get our phones working. Two seconds later there is a beep to say I’ve got an email. Unbelievably, it’s from TEA, asking for confirmation of the London Meetup this Friday. I ask after the manager with Mr Surly, and  once he’s finished failing to understand a lovely Chinese lady who wants a cup of tea, I am able to confirm in person with the manager, who is named – I kid you not – Camellia.

Then, it’s time. Time for a big moment. We are off to meet Mr Nicholas Jolly.

Nick Jolly is a celebrated artist and writer who often goes by the name Vic Darkwood, and ever since being introduced by @thetearooms (Erik Kennedy) , we have had a great twitter friendship. But these things don’t always translate in real life, and so there is always some trepidation.

Having helped a local enjoy a quick game of “Send the tourist in completely the wrong direction”, we spot a tallish, wax’d-moustach’d figure loitering with a nonchalant air outside a tube station, and introductions are made; and Vic becomes Nick, Lady Devotea becomes Anne and I settle for Robert.

First stop is an incredible pub for lunch- the Blackfriars.The most elegant Deco/Nouveau place I’ve ever been in, superb food and drinks, and a great way to start. An excellent welcome to England.From there our afternoon entailed visiting the site where the Fleet empties into the Thames, Southwark Cathedral (amazing), various prison walls (amazing), a touching, quite homemade tribute to the prostitutes licensed by the Bishop of Southwark (not recently, but amazing), an 18th century operating theatre (amazing), the site of the original Globe (amazing) half a dozen interesting sites and a not inconsiderable number of pubs, all carefully chosen for their decor and ambiance, including The George, supposedly the oldest pub in London.

It was a fascinating day and we finished up marveling at Nick’s work in his studio.

A great end to a fascinating day. Not one place we saw today had been stickered on our map. It was a full-on bonus with the best tour guide you could imagine.

Who else would take you to a sign saying “Commit No Nuisance” so that you can, in fact, commit nuisance?

After saying our goodbyes, we purchased some apples and returned to our hotel – thanks to Nick, we now knew why it was called ‘The Southwark Rose’ and basically collapsed like puppets with the strings cut.

The next day was to bring some interesting adventures and some tea – this time with Princess Diana – but with the kettle whistling away, I’ll save that for next time.



Robert Godden

Certified Tea Nutter. Blender. Author of "The Infusiast" and Tea "Stories"

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3 thoughts on “Living Tea to Tea

  1. That sounds like a grand day out, especially with a native guide to show you the best watering holes.
    Bank Holidays are so called because banks used to be open only 10-3 Mon-Fri and there were no ATMs. These were extra days off for them. So the bankers (learnt any rhyming slang yet?) were onto a cushy number even then.

  2. I knew I recognized the “swipe card” process. I visited a Vapiano Restaurant when I was in Reston, Va. which I mentioned in my post.
    Had no idea there was one in the U.K. as well. I thought the swipe process was fun.
    Enjoying all your posts Sir. Looking forward to the meet-up. Keep us in the loop.

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