“Hello and welcome to the Tea and Tattle tearoom and Arthur Probsthain bookseller! Our story starts over 100 years ago when our bookshop was founded. Since then four generations of our family have been helping our customers to find an amazing selection of books, and more recently art and music. In June 2010, we decided that we wanted to offer our lovely customers something more and so, the Tea and Tattle tea room opened its doors.” (T&T website)
Last Thursday was my online book group’s Christmas ‘meet’ in London. I wrote here about our get-together after 7 years existence in 2011 and this year we have completed eleven years of online book (and much else besides) chat.
The window display to tempt you inside
In the past we’ve met up several times at The London Review of Books Cake Shop (which we’ve re-christened The London Review of Cakes) a year round favourite of ours, at Drink, Shop Do near King’s Cross Station and at the Geffrye Museum. Last year to celebrate our tenth anniversary we took Afternoon Tea at The Wallace Collection.
I can’t quite remember how or when it happened but one day earlier this year I was walking past the British Museum and picked up a flyer outside Arthur Probsthain Oriental & African Bookseller. The flyer was advertising the tea shop, called Tea & Tattle, recently established in the basement of the shop. Further investigation revealed a small tea room serving homemade cakes, scones and sandwiches at very affordable prices so I reserved seating for 10 people (roughly the usual turn-out) for 11.30 on 3 December.
“Here at the Tea and Tattle it is not only civilised and tasteful but very moderately priced too.”
There is a good choice of teas. My fresh leaf Darjeeling tea, already strained, was served in a Tea and Tattle bone china teapot was perfect. We sipped our teas from a mix of vintage porcelain tea cups. There’s a pleasing selection of freshly made sandwiches with an interesting mix of ingredients for example: Ham with Horseradish Mustard, Mayonnaise and Tomato; Parma Ham, Rocket and Red Onion Marmalade; Crab and Avocado with Mayonnaise and Lemon; and my choice Smoked Salmon, Creme Fraiche with Cucumber and Lemon. Service from the staff was cheerful, prompt and efficient, especially noticeable as there was a large party of publishers to serve in the other room, and considering the noise that both groups created. Although there was an occasional lull when the food appeared!
Our table prepared for us in one of the two quirky rooms
Our Christmas meetings follow a traditional pattern established over the years. We bring book swops which are piled up on the table. We try to resist until the last person has arrived (although someone was very much delayed on Western Region trains this year and only arrived just before it was time to leave) and then we dip for a number and take turns choosing a book; reversing the numbers for the second round … after that it’s a free-for-all. Any remaining books (about four this year) were taken round the corner afterwards and donated to the local Oxfam Bookshop on Bloomsbury Street. We also bring a wrapped new, or very nearly new, book as a Secret Santa gift which is put in a bag on arrival and, again, when everyone has arrived, we pass the bag round and dip in for our Christmas present to take home. Along with the tea and cake these are our ideas of fun!
At 2pm our pre-ordered cars arrived to take some of us across London to The Selvedge Christmas Fair at Chelsea Town Hall. London was heaving with traffic and we were amazed at the circuitous routes that our drivers took to get us to the Fair as quickly as they could (and at a very reasonable price!). We knew there would be a stall selling Persephone Books but also enjoyed inspecting all the wonderful and colourful craft and related displays.
All Persephone Books at £10
It was soon 4.30 and we were all ready to go our separate ways. The day had flown by and, exhausted and clutching our ‘new to us’ books and crafts, we made our ways home to various locations across London and beyond.
Thank you, Santa!