Afternoon Tea | August 2, 2016 | Lifestyle
Our 7 favourite places for coffee, cake and the arts
A spot of culture – whether the theatre, a museum, a gallery or a visitor centre – is one of life’s relaxed joys. But let’s be honest, the accompanying trip to the café for tea and cake runs a close second.
But what are the very best tea and arts partnerships? We’ve picked out a few of our favourites – and suggested cafés we love that are gratifyingly close to our favourite cultural venues.
The V&A and the V&A Café
Image source: V&A
Saatchi & Saatchi’s 80s campaign cheekily billed the V&A as ‘an ace caff, with quite a nice museum attached’. A bit of adman puffery but you can see what they were driving at.
The V&A’s original refreshment rooms, the Morris, Gamble and Poynter Rooms formed the first museum restaurant in the world. The design and craftsmanship may not be cutting edge today but they’re just as jaw-dropping.
The Wallace Collection and The Langham
The Wallace sometimes loses out to London’s big-name art hitters but its Great Gallery has been described as ‘the greatest picture gallery in Europe’. Housed in a historic townhouse, this collection of paintings, porcelain, furniture, gold boxes and armour is a genuine treasure trove.
Continue the luxe theme with a stroll to The Langham for the Wedgwood afternoon tea, presided over by Bake Off Creme de la Creme judge Cherish Finden. It’s served in the dazzling Palm Court, where the tradition of afternoon tea was born 150 years ago.
The pastries are inspired by Wedgwood collections, including Butterfly Bloom, a shortbread tower with salted caramel, and Wedgwood Wild Strawberry, a strawberry and pistachio cream macaroon.
The Young Vic Theatre and The Cut
Image source: The Young Vic
If you’re in need of a jolt of youthful and experimental creative energy, head for The Cut, the Young Vic’s restaurant and bar. All the hipster favourites are here, from a mini pulled pork burger to a coffee offering so pretty it’s got its own Instagram account.
Lunch followed by a matinee of experimental theatre should be all you need to peel off your layers of cynicism and see the world through the eyes of the young rebels who congregate here. If not, you need another coffee.
Chatsworth and The Flying Childers
By complete contrast, Chatsworth is an escape from modern life altogether. Wander the house and grounds soaking up the history and pretending you’re a Mitford sister – or an aristocratic debutante at the very least.
A proper afternoon tea is a must in the circumstances. Visit the newly-opened Flying Childers tea room for another Wedgwood spread (more details here), with a distinctive local flavour. You can even take home the tableware – the duchess of Devonshire selected romantic Butterfly Bloom, striking Cuckoo and sophisticated Daisy Tea Story to serve the tea and they’re available to buy online or in the Chatsworth shop.
Butterfly Bloom collection
The Geffrye Museum and the Geffrye Museum Cafe
Image source: Geffrye Museum
There was a time when this Shoreditch museum of the home was a bit of an East London outpost for culture fans. Today, of course, hipster London has caught up and the Geffrye is more talked-about than ever.
Wander through London’s past, with rooms and gardens reflecting the changing tastes in society and behaviour. The gardens are amazing too – especially in such an urban setting.
Although there are plenty of nearby watering-holes, the in-house cafe is an airy space with an appropriately on-trend menu. We favour the all-day breakfast, whether the East End hash or its vegetarian cousin.
National Gallery and Haymarket Hotel
Image source: Haymarket Hotel
The riches of the National Gallery are well-known and it’s a huge tourist attraction – which is why we suggest nipping round the corner to the Haymarket Hotel when you’ve finished looking at the Turners and Van Goghs.
The gallery’s own cafes and restaurant are excellent but with one of our favourite hotels so close by, we prefer to duck out of Trafalgar Square and enjoy the quieter attractions of the Haymarket.
It’s part of the Firmdale stable, which also includes Ham Yard and the Charlotte Street Hotel, so naturally it bears the quirky design stamp of co-owner Kit Kemp.
Afternoon tea is served on Kit’s own design for Wedgwood, the Mythical Creatures collection, featuring primitive, folkloric characters.
World of Wedgwood
Well we had to include this one, didn’t we? We’re exceptionally proud of our sleek new visitor centre, which includes a factory tour, where you can watch the Wedgwood artisans making products using traditional techniques honed over 250 years.
There’s also a museum bringing to life the history of ceramics – including the Wedgwood Collection, one of the most important industrial collections in the world.
And of course, tea has always been entwined with our DNA. As the tea drinking trend exploded in the 18th century, Josiah Wedgwood spotted an opportunity to create teaware collections. So we’ve put a beautiful tea room at the heart of our visitor centre, with more than 50 of our finest teas to choose from, a menu of delicious sweet and savoury dishes – all served on the finest Wedgwood china.