Saturday, 21 May 2011

Retro themed cafe in Selfridges.

Well kind of, because it is more a space, or a concession but quite a fun one. For some time now there has been a cafe in the lower ground floor of Selfridges. At the bottom of the escalators and surrounded by chi chi home wares it is not a bad place to grab a cuppa and people watch. Because of this it has always been good when you are on a solo shopping spree. Staring at things and people is good when you are alone.

Menu example.

I sometimes despair of big old department stores. They homogenise deco/victorian/edwardian interiors under acres of graphic board and false ceilings. They become overcrowded with bits and bobs until they resemble souks. Thats why I like John Lewis' on Oxford Street, for it's clarity and feeling of space. Selfridges is a beautiful building and in parts we get to see this, in others not. It is nice that they have therefore themed their new cafe in line with the store's heritage. And a rather risque one at that. 

Cafe area.

It has been called Dolly's after the Dolly Sisters, Hungarian tandem dancers who were mistresses of the stores ebullient founder Harry Gordon Selfridge in 1918: both of them. It was scandalous then and would be scandalous now. It is a shame they don't theme a dessert, a menage a trois of choux buns perhaps. To match the racy image the floor is tiled black and white, the waitresses wear smart black and white nippy type outfits (the manager said they try to encourage their staff to look 'period') and the table settings boast vintage silver sugar bowls and (nice touch) heavy fabric napkins. To be frank thats about it but there is not a lot you can do in an escalator stair well. 

But it is quite a nice stairwell.
The menu is more 'English' than it used to be, or perhaps I am imagining it but basically consists of tea, coffee and cakes although they also serve alcohol. I did notice that they do a full afternoon tea with essential cake stand. The cakes did look very nice. I had a latte, not very English, but decent enough coffee and a nice texture. The whole point of a latte is that foamy unctuousness, I find capucinno froth watery and vapid. It did not cost much more than a Starbucks coffee. I think institutions like Selfridges that make an effort to capitalise more on their heritage and individuality are wise. So if you are in the area and fancy elevenses (which includes a large slice of cake in my book) it is a good option.

When Starbusks gives me proper cutlery I might go..

Minn x


Jemima said...

Thank you for sharing this, it looks worth a trip. Dollys is a fab name, great little story behind it too. I also really like John Lewis - the front hall of Selfridges looks spectacular if you can move in it, but some of the upper floors are very dark. I think there used to be a garden on the roof of Selfridges where they served tea. Completely agree elevenses must include some scrummy cake!

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