Liberty was established in 1874 by Arthur Lasenby Liberty, selling ornaments and objet d’art from the East. By the end of the 19th century it was hugely fashionable and influential, collaborating with the foremost designers of the day, particularly of the Art and Crafts and Art Nouveau styles. In Italy Art Nouveau is known as ‘Stile Liberty’.
The store was frequented by artists and aesthetes – Oscar Wilde declared:
“Liberty is the chosen resort of the artistic shopper.”
Over the years Liberty has worked with contemporary designers and artists including William Morris, Gabriel Dante Rossetti, Vivienne Westwood and Yves Saint Laurent. The mock-tudor building, from the 1920’s, used the timber of two ships, and is still a beautiful space.
I have always loved the Liberty Cafe – my favorite place for a posh cuppa – so was looking forward to my tea. My heart sank however to find that it has had a re-furbish.
As I remember it, the old cafe was original and unique; fresh, elegant and a bit arty. It is now off-the-peg ‘retro’; Union Jack bunting; ‘vintage’ (new) bistro chairs; whimsical line drawings of dogs; ironic neon flying ducks; mis-matched crockery (this works with junk-shop finds, as at the wonderful Drink, Shop and Do, but misses the point a bit with new stuff).
I hope the old red and white zig-zags chairs (link to pic below), are at least enjoying a second life in one of the retro cafes that Liberty is trying to emulate.
Having said that, Liberty Cafe is still a lovely place, and if you didn’t see the old cafe, you won’t miss anything.
I had a very good pot of Darjeeling. I loved the black willow pattern saucer and the service is especially professional and welcoming.
I would recommend Liberty Cafe, but maybe not quite special enough to charge £3.50 for a pot of tea; and I doubt it would be half fabulous enough for Mr Wilde.
To cheer myself up, I went to look at teapots – but the crockery department has changed too – and I’m not sure the ‘artistic shopper’ would approve.
You can see the old Liberty Cafe here.
|Price of a Cuppa :||£3.50|
|Leaf or Bag :||Leaf|
|Crockery :||Mis-matched pottery|
|Kitty says:||Excellent place for a cuppa (if you have no memory of how it was)|
|Address:||Regent Street, London W1B 5AH|
More places for tea near Liberty Cafe, Regent Street