London: Tea in Bloomsbury with Jane Austen

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Jessica Bailey's picture
Jessica Bailey
August 22, 2016
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The streets of Bloomsbury are enough to hold attention; the pretty merit of leafy squares and secret streets abound. To find myself in such an important literary district was vexing. And all care of Mr Russell. Russell Square was his land, near his own Bedford House, from where he saw what we see now, including blue plaques and quaint bookshops. I decided to document the best tea and cake in the suburb as an exercise in familiarity.


Fleet River Bakery and Rooms
Frequented by the working, fashionable class.

After a brief sojourn through Bloomsbury Square, enjoying all the life displayed there, pretty as a picture—I found the motif repeated in the Fleet River Bakery’s rooms, the walls adorned with large pictures of Londoners in their charming London fashions. This venue sported a hodge-podge of bemusing antiques from different eras: wooden chairs at glass tables for simplicity. An obliging space, the semicircular windows allow a lot of light and air in—conducive to rest as it is to work.

"I held both my skirts and the line up with my careful traverse both down and up the steps—now I know how cook feels!"

The tea had to wait before I settled in the other room.  I held both my skirts and the line up with my careful traverse both down and up the steps—now I know how cook feels! The odyssey was worth it however, for the pot of Assam tea  was perfect for washing down the brownie I ordered. A reviving place to stop at after a taxing journey.

Visit: 71 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3JF | 0207 691 1457 |  Tea for one: £5-7


London Review of Books Cake Shop
A library of fancies to satisfy the mind and the stomach.

With the Grecian Profile of the British Museum overshadowing it, I found yet another example of the most oft favoured and yet pleasing phenomenon in Bloomsbury: that of a bookshop containing a cake shop!

Evidently the LRB has quite the pedigree; there’s much variation in stock—like at the attached café, in both sweet and savoury fare, and tea selection—a delight to behold. I however, ordered a cup of Darjeeling tea , and armed with the provided teapot and set, sat facing the pleasant ivy traversed landscape of the back garden. Communal seating was encouraged and reading was nay expected. Allowing me to quit a rainy afternoon with the provisions of a book and a hot beverage were the most imminently desired aspects of my visit.

Visit: 14 Bury Place, London WC1A 2JL | 0207 269 9045 | Tea for one: £6-8


Bloomsbury Coffee House
Hotel Convenience of Tea and Cake, in earnest.

You could nearly miss this lower-level coffee house if not for the ornate sign and plant-covered windows. Based below the St Athan’s Hotel, it serves as a breakfast room for the occupants upstairs, but there is enough room in this charming coffee house as the venue extends to both your left and right.

"The venue put me in mind of home, with the machinations of family life all around."

I duly ordered a pot of English breakfast tea and was served ably by the bright and attentive staff. Impressive given it was early Sunday morning. The venue itself put me in mind of home, with the machinations of family life all around: yawning for some and roaring to life for others. There are sweet decorative touches all around—pots of butter and sugar adorning every table. It made me miss my own breakfast table terribly.

Visit: 20 Tavistock Place, London WC1H 9RE | 0207 837 2877 | Tea for one: £4-6; afternoon tea: 17.50£ each


Dillon’s Coffee
Coffee rush for the studious.

It pained me to pass the stacks unbrowsed, but soon I found myself in the strangest tea shop I had ever seen. Here was all grey, if it was not for the large windows. However, there was every hint of warmth with nods to a commune, and the sounds of laughter and conversation politic flowing freely.

Soon I was faced with delicious quandary: what can only be described as ‘Le Grande Croissant’ and other sweet treats. I was most enthralled by the idea of a pint of tea, costing two pounds, and was amazed when it appeared in front of me. I ordered toast and jam and the young and sprightly staff brought it to me presently. Truly the place to set up academic work in stylish surroundings and book fodder.

Visit: Waterstones, 82 Gower Street, London WC1E 6EQ | 0207 636 1577 | Tea for one: £5-7


Patisserie Deux Amis
Fatigué? Reste, dans luxe. Oasis.

Comfortable and welcoming, a lot is made of the finer details here: plants twining around the arch that separates the shop from the tearoom; the beautiful French window that lets in just enough light. There is the idea of some music, though no players to be seen, but still, the delightful strains of Mr Handel were playing out softly when I visited, making it as idyllic a tearoom one could imagine.

I ordered a pot of English breakfast tea with milk from the soya bean, and shaking my head at advances being made in the field of dairy produce , by and by my table was soon filled with the pleasing apparatus of afternoon tea. My bakewell tart—a forkful looked like a many-layered concoction—tickled the taste buds masterfully, and I saw the whiteness of my plate too soon. Recommended for a quiet Saturday afternoon.

Visit: 63 Judd Street, London WC1H 9QT | 0207 383 7029 | Tea for one: £6-8

Photo credit: Jessica Bailey

Expert tips

  • The British Museum and British Library are nearby.
  • Euston and Kings Cross St Pancras train stations are by and by.
  • Literary Royalty dripping off every Square like blue plaqued, rare jewels.
  • Quite a bouquet of bookshops all about.
  • Many fine al fresco eateries and alehouses.