La Fleur

Royal Hill, SE10

I have often walked down this street before
But the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before…

What a delight. I have been meaning to try La Fleur properly for ages – it just looked so lovely from the outside. But I always seemed to have just had a cup of tea (funny that – must be the proxmity of Royal Teas and Buenos Aires) and the most I have got around to was buying plants.

Walking past a few days ago, though, I just couldn’t resist the Christmas display (all white branches and clear sparkles against the pale sagey-green of the paintwork, with wonderful winter flowers – cyclamen, narcissus, holly and ivy) and just had to go in. I’m sure there are more tables and chairs in there since the last time I was there – I could have sworn there were only a couple of tables before. There are now at least four – though of course the tiny space itself hasn’t increased, and the jungle of ferns, palms and even a baby olive tree, its grey-silver leaves looking fabulous against the tasteful cream walls. Also looking great are the ‘gardening tools’ and coloured wellies hung as decoration in the few gaps left by the greenery.

The tables are suitably rustic – French style, which considering the French voices at the till while I was there (aha – those Holmesian deduction skills again) is hardly surprising. The service is incredibly friendly. I was hardly ordering a feast – a coffee and a tea – but the attention to detail to getting my order exactly to my taste was impressive. It’s amazing how much difference really good service makes – I just knew I was going to enjoy it when it arrived.

They do simple snacks too, and I fancied a cake, even though I knew I shouldn’t have one. My willpower is low at the best of times but even I was able to resist that day. Why? Because I can’t resist cakes if I see them, but I can resist description. They didn’t have sweeties on display so I had to ask about them. By the time they’d told me what cakes they had, I had regrouped and was able to say “no thank you I don’t really feel like it.” Almost convincingly. A bunch of antique glass cake stands on the dresser filled with exquisite dainties and covered with cloches would have made a sale out of me without a sweat.

But hey. I love this place and the experience, just with the beverages, was great.

I wanted to test the loos (as I always do) and was directed into the most beautiful, minute, private back yard imaginable. In it were a few more tables, nestling among yet more fernery – utterly delightful (though far too cold and wet at the moment, natch…) The loo (once I found it amongst all that greenery) was splendid – clean and bright.

They’re doing some rather charming Christmas decorations at the moment, which glitter and glimmer darkly in the shop, sparklies mixing with berries – very tasteful. And as for that dresser – there may not be any cakes on glass stands but they do have boxes of posh chocolates in holly-print boxes – very pretty.

The Phantom says check it out – possibly my fave place for afternoon tea – so far. I t could even become a Phantom favourite Haunt…

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