Stas Leonidou is a man with a mission: to create Lyons Corner Houses for the 21st century. To A Tea is in plush new premises on Farringdon Street, on a corner with a cut-through to the new multi office-blocked Fleet Square behind. White glossy brick tiles are much in evidence below a matt blacked-out lofty ceiling, and contemporary prints line the walls. The range of teas extends from the usual English Breakfast and Earl Grey to the more exotic Dragon Well and White Peony and the process of making them is impeccable: three boilers set at 85, 95 and 98 degrees, for white tea, green tea, black and fruit teas respectively.
The charming staff in this Rolls-Royce of tearooms make each serving by infusing the tea in a filter above an open teapot for precisely 1.5 minutes; pressure is then applied and the filtered golden liquid dispensed into the pot. Despite all this attention to detail, the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, with no disapproval if you want to add milk and sugar.
It’s a perfect place to get out of the office with a laptop (free wi-fi). There are homemade cakes and scones all day, and sandwiches, salads and soup at lunchtime. These are all well made but not spectacular, and this is where a trick is being missed: a huge opportunity and space aplenty to develop a more exciting lunch menu. The premises are stunning but for the moment lack the hustle and bustle of a Joe Lyons caff. However, Stas has a vision and his head screwed on, and I’m sure all will come right. His tea offering meanwhile is sensational, and well worth the detour, to drink on the premises and to take home. I’m drinking the liquorice tea now as I type this; it has little blue flowers in it and star anise. You’d never have found that in a Lyons Corner House.
To a Tea, 14 Farrington Street, London EC4 4AB. Tel: 0207 248 3498
Opening hours: 6.30am – 6.30pm Mon-Fri