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Favourite tea shop

Maison Bertaux, Soho

Maison Bertaux is my favourite tea shop in the whole wide world. I was introduced to it whilst at drama school, by Barry Shannon, an actor I was seeing at the time. In fact he must be credited for my growing interest in afternoon tea, as he often took me out for 'a cup of splosh and a wadge'. Oo-er.

Bertaux's a is family-run, very French patisserie, shabby and bohemian with a fringe theatre upstairs. It is frequented by arty types and all manner of freaks. Sometimes it's a bit too popular and you have to fight for a table, or share. The salon de thé is on two floors and there are lots of tables crammed in to the small space. There are also a few tables on the pavement. A large front window houses the fine and delicious handmade patisserie — and it is Gateaux rather than Cake. If you're hungry go for the extravagant St Honore Gateaux or a Mille Feuille or cheesecake. Lighter options are in the shape of eclairs, raspberry tarts, Paris Brest or a pastry. Tea is loose leaf, with a jug of HW. There is a choice of coffee, hot chocolate or cold drinks. Savouries are put firmly is their place (practically non-existent. Ha!) there are some savoury croissants, and that's it. The decor is minimal, occasional art for sale, fairy lights and peeling paint. A real mixture of furniture too. It's like stepping back in time to the Pigalle area of Paris, there are no menus, you must order as you arrive and then sit down, or suffer the wrath of Johan. The staff have started to recognise me. That's a sure sign that I'm spending too much time in there.

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