The Perfect Cuppa by Victoria Rennoldson
Victoria’s Perfect Cuppas:
A real local Londoner’s guide to the perfect cup of tea in St. John’s Wood
A perfect cup of tea, prepared the English way: it’s actually quite a hard thing to find, especially if you’re new to living in the area! So I thought I’d share with you my real Londoner’s tips about where to enjoy a very English tradition, starting with St John’s Wood.
First of all, what is a perfect cuppa? It means “The perfect cup of English tea”, which the English drink in a certain way. Traditionalists would argue this has to be the finest loose leaf tea bought from Fortnum & Mason (a famous London grocery store in Piccadilly) brewed in a tea pot. Then poured into a cup with saucer, but only once the milk has gone in first.
But the reality of English tea today is very different. I would argue for everyday choose good quality tea bags (my recommendation is Twinnings or Yorkshire Tea “English Breakfast”) combined with boiling water (this “stimulates” the tea and brings out the flavour). My preference: milk in last so I know it’s exactly the right, strong brown colour (known as “builder’s” in England). And probably served in my favourite “Victoria” mug.
And if I’m out and about locally, where would I go? Surprisingly, a good cuppa locally in St. John’s Wood is hard to buy. Coffee seems to have become much more popular these days and I also prefer to go to local, smaller cafés. You can find Starbucks anywhere in London, but you’re not going to have a local experience.
So, here are my top recommendations:
1) Gail’s, Circus Road
Technically this is a bakery, but wow, what a delight for the senses! Gail’s is a true local business, starting with its 1st artisan bakery in nearby Hampstead 10 years ago and has grown into a huge favourite for Londoners everywhere. These guys seriously love their bread and I challenge you to resist the temptation of buying a loaf. Feast your eyes on the array of savoury and sweet delights, and let’s not forget the tea; a gorgeous place to enjoy a cuppa. Just make sure you get there early to get a seat: their St John’s Wood branch is fairly small.
2) Maison Blanc, St John’s Wood High Street
A traditional English cuppa in a French patisserie and bakery? Well yes, actually. They do a fairly decent cup of tea, as well as a very tempting range of beautiful, delicate sweet treats. My personal favourites are the fairy-tale pastel macarons, or if I’m feeling super indulgent, a chocolate éclair. Enjoy the best of what multi-cultural London has to offer with a slice of Paris, right here in St John’s Wood.
3) Chocolarr, Boundary Road
So now we need to head to Abbey Road, and discover, in my view, the best side of this area. Explore the shops, restaurants and cafés along Blenheim Terrace, famous Abbey Road and finally Boundary Road. Chocolarr on Boundary Road is small, unpretentious but totally warm, welcoming and does a satisfying cuppa. It’s where the locals like to go and is very child-friendly with toys and books to keep your kids entertained.
4) Hart & Lova, Belsize Road
And this is a wild card, but worth sharing my top café of choice locally. Technically, this is in South Hampstead (the next area north from St John’s Wood), but walk the extra mile as Hart & Lova is a true gem. Walk up from Abbey Road and turn left onto Belsize Road, and almost at the end of the road is Hart & Lova. Here you can enjoy one of their “simply love baking” treats in their homely kitchen-style café. Andrea and the team work magic to bring bread, savoury and sweet temptations to life. Even Harvey Nichols, the Knightsbridge department store, has discovered their secret; they now also stock Hart & Lova baked goods.
Victoria Rennoldson of Perfect Cuppa English was born and has always lived in London; she currently lives in West Hampstead with her family. She offers English language, culture and orientation programmes including walking tours to get to know the local area.
For more information, do contact her via the following: