If you follow me on Facebook and Twitter, you may have seen the tea adventure pictures I posted earlier in August during my trip across the pond to London and Paris. The purpose of our trip (in addition to celebrating a great friend’s 40th birthday) was to walk around both stunning cities in search of amazing food and lovely tea experiences. And we threw in some museum visits here and there for good measure. This is what we did for two fabulous weeks. I am recording a few of my favorite spots from our adventures in this blog post. Mainly to remember where I’d like to return on our next visit, but also to use as a guide for other tea lovers who might venture to these gorgeous cities in search of great food and a decent cuppa.
The Albion: For a lovely pub lunch in an adorable neighborhood-y part of Islington. I’m sure I could have ended my meal with tea, but I chose instead to have a second pint of English ale alongside my roast lamb, Yorkshire pudding and very sticky toffee dessert.
Ottolenghi: The display of mouthwatering pastries and market-fresh salads is as stunning in person as it is in their cookbooks. We visited the location in Islington, where you can sit down and eat a meal or order items to take away. Sadly, we had just eaten our pub lunch, so we loaded up on baked goodies to take back to the hotel for “breakfast”.
Allpress: Hipster coffee shop and specialty coffee roaster in the middle of the hipster, artist neighborhood of Shoreditch. They do a great breakfast, a lovely long black (like an Americano) and the best fresh mint tea.
Rochelle Canteen: A quaint, daytime-only café situated in the schoolyard of an old Victorian boys’ school in Shoreditch. They serve beautifully fresh English-style fare from a catering kitchen in a converted bike shed. You have to know where you’re going; there’s no sign, only a buzzer on a door in the wall surrounding the old school yard.
Leila’s Shop: Also in Shoreditch (we stuck to East London for most of this trip), this is the kind of place I would want to own. It’s like visiting someone’s rustic country home kitchen and sitting down to watch them work while you nibble on your morning eggs and toast. The tiny market next to the café looks like a cross between a general store and an apothecary, with fresh produce, fancy nibbles and jars of spices, chocolate and other treats.
Dishoom: This Bombay-style Indian café in Shoreditch is all about the Chai. Chai drinks, Chai desserts, Chai cocktails…you name it. It was very fun to explore the Chai-infused menu. Their Indian food was delicious as well.
Borough Market: My favorite place in London, perhaps my favorite place anywhere. This is the ultimate food market with exotic meats (including kangaroo!), loads of local cheese, fresh bread around every bend, crocks of olives and one of my favorite treats, handmade Turkish delight.
Rose Bakery: An English-style scratch bakery and café in the middle of Le Marais in Paris, with gorgeous baked goods that you watch the kitchen crew prepare as you sit and enjoy your meal. They have a lovely tea menu (including fresh mint and fresh ginger teas) and even some goodies made with tea, like green tea cake with raspberries.
Le Square Gardette: A comfortable, quaint bistro-style restaurant that prepares traditional French cuisine with a modern flare. The place itself feels like you’re visiting a French grandmother’s home in the country…walls of bookshelves stacked with the “classics”, a few mismatched couches, a lounging kitty cat, randomly hung art, knickknacks scattered about and several stuffed deer heads on the walls to watch over you. The servers slide a single chalkboard menu around to each table and talk you through your choices for the 36 euro prix fixe menu. When in doubt, go with the boeuf.
Café Charlot: This super traditional Paris café serves the best Parisian breakfast – croissant, soft boiled eggs, toast with butter and jam, fresh squeezed orange juice and a coffee or tea…all for 11 euro.
The Georges Restaurant at Centre Pompidou: Probably the most expensive museum café in Paris, but totally worth it. It’s at the top of the Pompidou and boasts the best rooftop view of the entire city. And the food was actually really good. The best part (next to the view, of course) is that they bring you a bucket of ice for your water! Almost unheard of in Paris, it was a very welcome break from the scorching summer heat we experienced most of the trip. We spent a couple of hours here lounging, sipping tea, staring at the Eiffel tower and asking for ice water refills.
Mariage Freres: If you adore tea, you must put this place on your list. It’s probably the most expensive tea in Paris, but it is so worth the experience. Don’t miss the tea museum upstairs if you really want to geek out over tea history. And splurge on sitting down to tea in the tearoom to experience sublime service, exquisite tea and a chance to spend time perusing the enormous tea menu. Then take your time shopping apothecary-style at the tea counter, where tea sommeliers will help you select a tea you never knew was missing from your life. (They have several locations in Paris, but we went to the one in Le Marais, which is, I believe, the original.)
Happy cooking and sipping! (And traveling and eating!)
P.S. I never would have discovered most of the fabulous London and Paris food experiences I talk about here without the expert guidance of my favorite foodie friend, Allison. Thank you, Allison, for making sure we are always well fed, no matter where in the world we travel together.