A couple of days ago I met up with my friend Dario from Luxembourg near St Pancras/King’s Cross Station. Dario used to be in my class in secondary school and he now studies at the presitgious Humboldt-Universität in Berlin. However, this year he is an ERASMUS student at University College London, which is great because we get to meet up frequently, just like in the good, old days.
We planned on getting a Reader Pass at the British Library, which proved to be more complicated than we had initially thought. After some consideration, I decided to postpone getting that pass. After all the unnecessary and annoying hassle, I suspect the reader pass to be some kind of modern-day Excalibur. I expect it to be granting me magical, unfathomable powers like automatically getting a first in all my essays as soon as I enter the British Library reading room. More about that at a later date, though.
Frustrated and miserable, I suggested Dario to go to a tea room somewhere in Soho. We took the Northern Line to Tottenham Court Road and walked all the way to Maison Bertaux, which is located on Greek Street, near the affluent Shaftesbury Avenue. It wasn’t the first time I had gone to that place, however, I get lost every time I try to find it. Crazy. I suppose I am not very good with orientation but I have to admit that I love getting lost in London. You always get to discover something you haven’t seen yet.
After checking our maps like two confused tourists, we finally found the inconspicuous tea room. We were a bit early for afternoon tea as we were the only two customers on the first floor. I ordered a mint tea and a delicious-looking cream-filled éclair. Dario went for a traditional English Breakfast tea, which the staff referred to as ‘normal’ or ‘ordinary’ tea, funnily enough. The waiter was charming and endearing, to say the least. He pronounced éclair in the correct French way, which made me assume he was French. When he said Merci instead of Thank You, my assumptions were confirmed. I quite liked that because it adds to their French style. The tea was served in simple white China. My mint tea was perfect. It was absolutely delicious and I truly indulged in every little sip of it. The éclair was just as good and I felt satisfied and fulfilled. I had instantly forgotten about my British library frustrations.
Taken by Laetitia “Lee” Kaiser
The decor at Maison Bertaux is authentic. It isn’t a tacky, posh tea room. It functions as a tea room and a gallery at the same time. There are various contemporary paintings on the walls, which are on sale. The actual walls are covered in mindless comments and doodles from previous customers (and even more famous people like Noel Fielding). Colourful flowers ornate the tables. The toilet is extremely old and needs to be refurbished badly, yet it adds to Maison Bertaux’s typical Soho charm. The music in the background was inconspicuous but as far as I remember it was old Jazz music.
Taken by Laetitia “Lee” Kaiser.
Price-wise it is rather expensive but I don’t expect West End tea rooms to be cheap. My dear friend Dario came up for my tea and eclair since I had forgotten to withdraw cash from an ATM but I’ll make sure to return the favour soon enough. I know I will be returning to Maison Bertaux. Some might find the prices outrageous but I think the tea is worth the money because it is the best tea I’ve had in London so far. The decor is wonky and charming and fits nicely into Soho. I feel completely at ease whenever I’m there, which I can’t claim for every place I’ve been to so far. It gets a thumbs-up from me.