Tuesday, 31 May 2011

A review of Lee Rosy’s

17 Broad Street, Nottingham, NG1 3AJ

Seeing as I recently wrote about Yumchaa tea (my new London loose leaf tea supplier), I thought I’d better get around to writing about Nottingham tea shop Lee Rosy’s given my infatuation with loose leaf tea can be whittled back to a chance encounter with this outlet back in my uni days (which ended all of a year ago).

I have previously written about my quest to find decent cafes in Nottingham on returning from studying in Melbourne and Lee Rosy’s was a happy output of this period of exploration. Conveniently located opposite one of Nottingham’s independent cinemas, this little tea shop hits the spot whether you’re after afternoon tea or pre-cinema snacks and is open until 10pm most days of the week.

Apple cake: http://flic.kr/p/5bVdAp
Primarily serving loose leaf teas of various assortments, you can have a sniff of the blends on offer before placing your order for a mug or a pot and perusing the decadent display of cakes. Carrot and apple cake are amongst my favourites of Lee Rosy’s sweet treats, but they also do hearty sarnies earlier in the day if you get there early enough – once they’re gone, they’re gone. Other snacks include hummus and pitta, toast, or crumpets.

Once you’ve made your selection it’s time to fight your way to a table as this tiny tea shop is often overrun by trendy types from Nottingham Trent University, or wannabe trendy types from Nottinham Uni who actually study politics... Tables are at a premium and you often have to loiter for a while before finding a seat, but the atmosphere is great and most people are happy to share their personal space if you ask nicely.

One of the great things about Lee Rosy’s is that the walls are adorned with a forever changing display of local art so that one day you may come in to find an array of stag’s heads, and the next, a series of light boxes. As well as keeping you on your toes, the wall space is a great forum to show off Nottingham’s talent and means there’s always something new whenever you visit.

You can buy Lee Rosy’s amazing home-blends of loose leaf tea on the premises or from this website. My favourites are their berry teas.

You can also find them on Facebook.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

A review of The Gallery Cafe

St. Margaret's House, 21 Old Ford Road, Bethnal Green, London, E2 9PL

The Gallery Cafe happens to be located around the corner from Bethnal Green station and the Childhood Museum, which means it’s also on the way to my sister’s flat. Having walked past it many a time and noted that it’s usually busy at most times of day, I was confident that there must be a good reason for this. I wasn’t wrong.

Finally getting around to stopping off for an afternoon coffee, I wasn’t intending to supplement my caffeine hit with a snack. However, their vegetarian and vegan menu was so tempting that I couldn’t help but order a little taster – all in the name of research of course.

We had iced lattes as it was a rather balmy afternoon, and sat outside underneath the cheery multicoloured bunting sunning ourselves in the late afternoon heat. The clientele seemed mixed with some trendy east-London types perched next to ‘ladies that lunch’ and mums with excitable children just collected from school.

The fact that the cafe is part of St. Maragaret's House - a charity organisation which rents space for community organisations and charities at affordable prices - helped take the edge off my guilt for ordering a snack between meals as I knew my cash was helping to support worthwhile work in the community. And as soon as our delicious Mezze Plate of olives, falafel, haloumi, sundried tomatoes, humus and toasted tortilla wrap turned up I forgot any residue of guilt straight away.

The coffee was delicious and the food tasty, generous and expertly put together. Two of us shared the mezze plate and couldn’t finish despite willing our stomachs to accommodate the last morsels of grilled haloumi and humus.

As well as being a great cafe to stop and eat, drink and generally be merry, the Gallery Cafe hosts a range of music and other events and is open seven days a week. So, if you come along in the evening there’s bound to be some kind of entertainment on offer.

St Margaret’s House also recently opened the Create Place a few units down Old Ford Road. A space designed to bring local artists, craft enthusiasts, designers, makers and complete beginners together under one roof to share ideas, learn, teach and be inspired to create, the Create Place is a welcome addition to their portfolio of social enterprises. They have all sorts of classes on every week as well as drop-in sessions – check them out here.

You can find out more about St Margret’s House on their website. The Gallery Cafe is also on Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

A review of Yumchaa

 45 Berwick Street, London, W1F 8SF

I first came across Yumchaa’s tea at Brick Lane’s Sunday Upmarket. Having sorely missed my previous tea supplier in Nottingham since moving back down South, I was elated to find those familiar brown paper bags of fragrant blends in my local neighbourhood. Having had a good sniff of the varieties on offer I went for their ‘very very berry’ blend and was impressed no end when I got it home to find there were whole dehydrated blackberries in there alongside rooibos and rhubarb amongst other delicious ingredients.

Being of an inquisitive nature, I thought I’d look up the website on the front of my innocuous looking tea and was rather pleased to discover that not only does Yumchaa do tea, they do tea rooms! Reading their back story I was pleasantly surprised to find a sense of authentic entrepreneurialism as it seems this small company grew from selling their blends on market stalls throughout London (which they still do, evidently) to a tea shop in Camden, to now having three premises.

Seeing as I was in the area, I decided to drop in on their Soho shop to see if their cafes live up to their tea. I must say that ‘dropping in’ on a Saturday afternoon is one of harsher ways to judge a cafe as it is usually peak time. But what better way to put somewhere through its paces?

Arriving just as an influx of yummy mummies and their curly haired cherubs had descended, I couldn’t have picked a better moment to see how Yumchaa Soho handled the heat. And, although they seemed to have a trainee on the till (which seemed rather ill-advised), they service was attentive and faster than I would have expected.

Given the unusually high temperatures for this time of year, I was relieved to find that they served iced teas and coffees. Having sampled their tea blends at home, I opted for an iced latte which went down a treat though my partner had an iced Americano which was odd to say the least and something we won’t be ordering again in a hurry.

We didn’t stop to eat but I did have a good look at the choice of fresh bagels, sandwiches and wraps in the fridge which all looked delicious and seemed to go down well with the other punters. The mozzarella, tomato and basil bagel would have been my personal choice – it looked scrummy! They also had a good variety of cakes and muffins on offer which, had it been a little cooler, would have gone down well I’m sure.

One of my favourite things about Yumchaa is that even in the cafe space the emphasis is still on the tea. The shelves are bedecked with packets of their blends for sale and the counter top adorned with tiny milk jugs filled with teas for you to smell before making your selection. A nice touch I thought.

In the otherwise chain-saturated environment of Oxford Street, Yumchaa Soho offers a welcome retreat not too far off the beaten track and is somewhere I’d certainly try again for mid-shop refreshments.