Earl Grey was Prime Minister of the British Isles from 1830-34. Famous for having a type of tea named after him, he lived at number 13 Carlton House Terrace.
Next door, at number 12, the Institute of Contemporary Arts has a lovely café, that serves a good cup of tea all these years later.
The ICA was formed in the 1940’s by Surrealist Roland Penrose and anarchist Herbert Read as a meeting place for artists and intellectuals. It has been in the Mall since the sixties.
Today, there is an art house cinema, gallery space, and art bookshop. They stock an impressive range of art theory books with zippy titles such as ‘Towards Speculative Realism’ and ‘Art and Subjecthood: The Return of the Human Figure in Semiocapitalism’. Not all as dry as it sounds – they do some great arty cards, magazines, DVDs, and, naturally, you can buy a postcard of Nietzsche.
The ICA café is on two floors. The upper mezzanine level has a large skylight with windows overlooking the Mall and St James Park. Painted throughout in bright art gallery white, it is a light and pleasant space to enjoy a cuppa.
There are a range of teas including English Breakfast, Chamomile and Mint (don’t think they had Earl Grey – maybe the anarchists not keen).
Be sure to specify if you would like leaf tea; there are Kilner jars of leaf behind the bar, so was surprised when my green tea was made with a tea bag and served in a mug (with no way offered to dispose of bag..grr).
I had a walk around St James park, till time for another cuppa so I could try the leaf. I was pleased to return, as my pot of English breakfast tea was excellent.
The ICA cafe is run by Peyton and Byrne, who run a few gallery cafes in London, with outlets at Wellcome Cafe and the Royal Academy, among others. They do a good job, managing to create a different menu and style for each venue.
Just a couple of minutes walk from Trafalgar square, the ICA café is a welcome and civilised haven.
|Price of a Cuppa :||£2.50 pot/£1.80 bag|
|Leaf or Bag :||Both. Ask for a pot if you want leaf|
|Crockery :||Lovely shiny metal teapot. White china cup and saucer|
|Music :||Can’t remember, so if there was it was in background|
|Service :||I wasn’t told about different teas, but very pleasant staff|
Good choice of all-day sandwiches, cakes. Lunch and dinner.
Sample menu: Food menu (PDF)
|Kitty says:||Great space, good to know as often quiet oasis in central location.
Open till 11pm.
|Address:|| Institute of Contemporary Arts
When I visited they were setting up Bloomberg New Contemporaries:‘works by the most promising artists coming out of UK art schools from a range of over 1,200 submissions.
27 November 2012 – 13 January 2013.
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