After all the rich food we’ve been having, a simple cup of tea and a piece of homemade cake is perfect. As you know, I love any opportunity to check out vintage shops and I have wanted to take a look at these two for some time. So, just before Christmas; armed with my Christmas gift money, I took a look at what two vintage store cafes had to offer.
Lassco began life as a door stripping company and gradually expanded its architectural salvage business, until they filled a wonderful old church in Shorditch in East London. That was where I first discovered it. I was doing up an old house and this was the perfect place to find victorian fireplaces, original 19th century door handles and reclaimed wood flooring. Lassco has now expanded into several sites, but the one I went to find was just outside Oxford.
Amidst an array of enormous chandeliers, museum display cases and fabulous statement fireplaces, is a cosy cafe. Perfect for coffee, lunch or a simple tea. Instead of the usual smell of dust and damp, there was a wonderful aroma of home cooking. The sweetness of onions and fresh-made soups with the underlying sharpness and spices of mulled wine. Off cuts of slate announce the various choices on the menu. These are spread randomly around the two very different eating areas.
A small space furnished with moraccain style mosaic tables and simple wooden chairs in front of a gargantuan fireplace with a roaring log fire. Or a plainer area, cordoned off the main shop space, by a Cornish Georgian dresser and a five foot by ten foot carved stone freize. No less impressive for it’s being repro. Beside my table in this cordoned off area, was a bright, polished copper, wood burning stove. Warm and cozy, amidst wonderful chandeliers and stained glass windows. The voices of the chefs could be heard discussing the lunch menu, scallops, pasta and the best way to prepare pastry. A light banter that added authentic flavour to the cafe.
Before sitting down to a cup of Earl Grey tea and a slice of ginger cake with cream cheese icing. I explored the outdoor items on offer. If you’ve ever had thoughts of building your own palace, but not been sure where to start, perhaps this turret topper would be a good place. This is where you go if you want to buy a stunning entrance for your home. Not just the doors but the masonry that goes with it. An onion shaped gazebo, a pair of wood and steel doors from Nat West Bank or perhaps a filigree header to go above your gates. This is the place to buy a statement or just a good piece of cake in fun surroundings.
Home And Colonial
My next cup of tea is in the Attic Cafe in Home and Colonial in Berkhamstead Hertfordshire. With a thirteenth century church and a nineteenth century Gothic Town Hall, Berkhamstead has plenty of history. Amongst these buildings is Home And Colonial. A four story collective of antique and vintage dealers. The owners vet the items for sale, ensuring there’s a consistent quality and sense of style about the products. On the top floor is The Attic Cafe.
Working my way up from the lower ground floor and being rewarded with Tea seemed the obvious thing to do. Anyway I couldn’t wait to see all the gems on offer. There are victorian pieces of furniture, some re-upholstered in contemporary fabrics or teamed with 70s textile cushions.
A pile of vintage material, including Liberty prints and haberdashery items, compete for space with 20s, 30s and 50s, dresses. The staircase is stacked edge to edge with pictures – watercolours, oils and prints.
As I move from floor to floor I find Ercol furniture, midwinter china and Danish 70s cutlery. Interspersed in all of this is period jewellery and some modern pieces that compliment the vintage stock on show. Tea towels, measuring cups and antiqued painted items.
I head on upwards drawn to the aroma of baking cakes and fresh brewed tea. Unlike a garret, this is a space flooded with light from the three huge sash windows that give a view across the rooftops of the historic town. There’s a very definite vintage feel to the tea rooms pretty china and the use of old furniture, with a sixties and seventies style. Uniformity is achieved by sanding each of the tables to the same shade.
Artisan and antique miniature stained glass panels vie for space in the windows, casting glass tinted colours across the room. To one side is a scrubbed pine dresser, topped with cakes on glass topped stands. There’s constant coming and going with lively service. The menu is varied, with cakes such as lemon and coconut sponge, chocolate fudge cake and cream teas served all day. Alongside a selection of salads and cooked dishes, including lamb burgers with tzatziki and vegetarian quiches.
In addition to my piece of cake I ordered something I haven’t had in a long time- an Ice Cream Soda. A Coke Float spilling over the edge of the diner glass in an explosion of creamy bubbles can still make me smile.
Home and Colonial
134 High Street
Hertfordshire HP4 3AT
01442 877 007