Soho’s secret tea room

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October 30, 2013 by indiecafes2013

The dining room upstairs at the Coach & Horses pub on Greek Street is the perfect place a quiet chat over afternoon tea or a pre-theatre nosh up.

Tea Room at the Coach & Horses

This is all the more surprising  because the Coach & Horses reputation is anything but genteel. Its former landlord, Norman, revelled in the reputation of London’s rudest and the bar is synonymous with the late Jeffrey Bernard, the Spectator‘s alcoholic columnist. Private Eye holds fortnightly lunches here.

In reality Norman and his foul mouth left in 2006, leaving only Michael Heath’s ” Regulars” cartoons, and posters for Keith Waterhouse’s play, Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell, to evoke the boisterous past. But it still has the look and atmosphere of a proper Soho local, that make it one of the friendliest places for a pint after work. But that’s not what this blog is about.

A Soho ViewSlip behind the bar, up the red linoleum stairs and you’re in a different, slower world. The restaurant and tea room is louche Bohemia light – in a good way. The decor evokes an indeterminate past which if the music is any guide is intended to be sort of 1940s. Tea is served with sandwiches (crust off) and cakes on one of those three tier serving plates. If you go there for dinner – the Coach & Horses claims to be London’s first vegetarian pub – you will find the dining room lit to one notch above candle strength.

And the sense of having stumbled upon a secret is reinforced by the fact that you have to go through the bar to get upstairs – and only after the staff have phoned to see if there is space.

The fact that the current dinner menu includes ravioli made from finely sliced beetroot rather than pasta probably puts the Coach & Horses evening fare outside the scope of Cafes That Are Not Franchises – so it would be inappropriate to rave about the tofush and chips (tofu wrapped in sea weed and coated in batter) or the home made pasta and pies. Suffice to say that if you are vegetarian, dining with a vegetarian, or just agnostic on the necessity of flesh with every meal then you will probably like it.

A word of warning. There’s more than one Coach and Horses within striking distance of London’s West End theatres so there’s always a risk when you arrange to meet someone – but there’s only one Norman’s

Oh and bring a towel. There are toilets in the bar, but if you go one floor further up you will find a bathroom complete with shower cubicle.

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