From the Good Cuppa Guide by Jonathan Routh (1966) in the ‘Tea in the City’ section. Jonathan Routh (1928-2008) was a hoaxer and practical joker, most famous as the presenter of ITV’s Candid Camera. Previous to this he had successfully invented a fictitious 18th Century poet, gaining him a mention in the TLS. As well as his guide to tea shops in London he produced the Good Loo Guide (1968); the New York version was called the Good John Guide. He was also a prolific, and eccentric, painter – Queen Victoria was depicted trying to lose weight using a hula-hoop. Some of his paintings occasionally turn up in auction..
The Leadenhall Tea Room and Billiards Salon
(Licensed for Billiards and Tobacco)
21 Lime Street
This vast subterranean arena which hasn’t changed one iota since 1880 is one of the weirdest sights in England. In it are maybe two hundred men drinking fivepenny cups of tea – which is all that’s served for their refreshment – watching another fifty on the billiard tables. It seemed only right that, in purchasing my cup, I should have received change for my 6d with an Edwardian penny. I felt, too, that at last I’d stumbled across what that ‘Something’ is that people who are ‘Something in the City’ do. As I say, it’s weird; and it goes on from 10 in the morning to 9 at night. Just the click of cue on ball and spoon on cup. An absolute must for those who like to take their tea in surroundings that are different.
The Court Tea Rooms (‘For Gentlemen Only’)
95 Gracechurch Street
A bastion which the suffragettes overlooked, this is again in a basement, but it has more of a dying exclusive club atmosphere about it, and the most vigorous and sporting activity indulged in is the turning of the pages of Country Life or The Director (supplied at all tables) and the cracking of hard-boiled eggs. Dark-suited persons recline or sit on the edges of faded sofas and order Double-soups and Chocolate Cakes ‘with a round of brown bread and butter to follow’ and make no demur if a fish-cake or hard-boiled egg turns up instead. Reservations are made, and taken by customers nearest to the phone. Waitresses politely enquire “Is Mr Trotter’s Glass of Milk ready” or confide “Mr Humphrey didn’t finish his Bovril today.” One customer I saw spike his own bill, place a round in the cash-box and take his own change. It’s a lovely place. Tea comes by the pot at 1s3d and it closes at 3.00pm.
Fish House Hill (just below the Monument)
I didn’t have the pleasure to meet the chef here, but his Baked Beans on Toast are the work of an artist, timed to the minute. A superb accompaniment to this dish, personally selected by the proprietor from his extensive range of beverages, was a non-vintage ‘Zing’ – a full-bodied friuty and slightly petillant tase. Tea to finish, 4d.
[ H.B. for which much thanks.]